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Book Review: A Severe Mercy

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While I was reading A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken, my initial thought about what I would write in a review was, “If you want to cry your eyes out, read this book.”  Because I totally bawled.

We won’t discuss whether or not my emotional state was affected by pain medications I was taking at the time.

Vanauken’s A Severe Mercy is a heartwrenching story of a man and a woman, completely in love, of whom God demands a great sacrifice: her life.

And yet it is so much more.  It’s about self-described pagans coming to know Christ.  It’s about intellectual people coming together to discuss theology, faith, and life.  It’s about the mercy that God has on us, and realizing that what can feel like a sacrifice on our part is in reality mercy on his.

In the front of the copy I was reading was a blurb from The Washington Post, which had said, “No brief review can do justice to the human depth of Vanauken’s book.”  I agree, and feel at a loss to adequately describe this work.  This book will make you think about relationships with people and with God in new ways.  It’s a heavy book, not something you can read quickly or lightly.  It’s a book worth taking time with.

Fans of C. S. Lewis will especially appreciate his letters to Vanauken, and will probably get a kick out of Lewis’s references to getting high.  That’s totally not the important part of the book, but it was quite amusing to me.

Score: 10/10


About Karen Koch

I like the old-fashioned lifestyle. All this new-fangled stuff baffles me sometimes. I cherish living out in the country, raising chickens and rabbits, planting fruit trees, and enjoying a slow life filled with beautiful words and ideas. I don't always achieve a slow life. I teach middle school English and manage a little burgeoning farm with my husband, and somewhere in the midst of that, I try to find time for writing, running, knitting, reading, and playing the ukulele. And sometimes, I actually succeed.

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