The Emmaus Readers
Stories matter. Sometimes it's a story that can best tell the truth.
When an eclectic group of nine friends--fiction-readers and professors at Calvin College in Michigan--came together weekly to wrestle with great contemporary novels, they were surprised to discover how much spiritual meat they found. Together, the self-described Emmaus Readers read P.D. James, Ron Hansen, Ian McEwan, Yann Martel, Oscar Hijuelos, Frederick Buechner, and several others, across a variety of genres: historical fiction, fantasy, graphic novels, science fiction, and mystery.
Each novel is given a thorough synopsis, biographical information about the author, a substantive overview of the issues to be discussed and discovered, detailed discussion questions, and recommendations of other great novels of similar importance. Designed for reading groups, book clubs, librarians, and any individual reader who simply loves novels that explore spiritual issues relevant to daily life, The Emmaus Readers offers to help you listen for God in contemporary fiction.
The Emmaus Readers includes experts from the English, Spanish, French, Sociology and Library Science departments at Calvin College. Editors Susan M. Felch and Gary D. Schmidt and are both professors of English. Schmidt is the author of critical books such as A Passionate Usefulness: The Life and Literary Labors of Hannah Adams, and novels for middle grade readers such as Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, a Newbery Honor Book. Felch has written on sixteenth-century women authors including Elizabeth I and Anne Lock, and is co-editor, with Schmidt, of a series of "spiritual biographies" of the seasons of the year. They both live near Grand Rapids, MI.
It's rare for an edited anthology to be consistently good, let alone exceptional, but this unassuming collection of essays on 12 novels with religious themes offers rich satisfaction. The essayists--all Calvin College professors and staff members--formed a group called "the Emmaus readers" in 2006 to better understand the role of faith in creating and interpreting fiction. The novels include overtly religious books, like Mr. Ives' Christmas and Mariette in Ecstasy, as well as less predictable choices, like Life of Pi and the graphic novel Road to Perdition. Each chapter offers a plot synopsis, an analysis, questions for discussion and suggestions for further reading. Readers will be introduced to some novels for the first time, and will attain deeper understandings of others they already love. Fans of Peace Like a River, for example, will delight in exploring the biblical and literary allusions of Leif Enger's Midwestern masterpiece, and many who neglected P.D. James's Children of Men will expand their understanding of her story's projected dystopia. Perhaps the Emmaus readers can pen a sequel taking on novels by the likes of Graham Greene, Chaim Potok, Gail Godwin or Vinita Hampton Wright. (May)
-- Publishers Weekly, May 2008