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Book Review: “A Subversive Gospel: Flannery O’Connor and the Reimagining of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth” by Michael Bruner

I love fiction, though I typically stick to science fiction, fantasy, and some mystery/thriller when I read fiction. I haven’t gotten as much into what is most typically called “literary fiction” but I had heard of Flannery O’Connor and knew one of my English teachers in high school was a big fan. When I saw this book about O’Connor and how her fiction showed the Christian Faith, I was extremely interested. Having read the book, I rushed off to pick up a collection of O’Connor’s short fiction. That should probably tell you whether I thought this book was worth reading or not.

Bruner’s look at O’Connor’s fiction is both semi-biographical and applicable. He traces O’Connor’s writings through her descriptions of herself and what she was thinking at the time. He shows how she integrated her faith into her writing, often in somewhat subversive ways. O’Connor dealt with the tough questions of the times–questions like race and pain that never go away–through the lens of fiction. O’Connor was writing in a southern and often racist context and showed how she dealt with this problem from a Christian perspective. Sometimes this took the form of showing evil for what it is–mindless and wrongheaded. Other times this meant showing a character in a positive light who might not be a traditional protagonist

Alongside these issues, Bruner also examines the influences on O’Connor’s writings and sheds particular light on the impact of Baron von Hugel. The latter’s writings were also infused with Catholic faith and perhaps inspired some of the directions O’Connor took with her own fiction.

If there’s one strike in the book it is that it was, at times, difficult to follow the flow due to my own unfamiliarity with O’Connor’s writings. The book was surely written with those who have at least some familiarity with O’Connor’s work in mind, so this is but a minor complaint, but readers who go in blind to O’Connor’s body of work should be aware of the possibility for some confusion here.

Bruner’s A Subversive Gospel is an enlightening work that will send readers to O’Connor’s work with new lenses. Or, if they, like me, haven’t encountered her works before, it may send them to the library to explore this intriguing character in greater depth. Recommended.

The Good

+Insights into O’Connor’s life as a writer

The Bad

-At times somewhat obscure for those without intimate awareness of O’Connor’s body of work

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

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Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

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