” We live this life by a kind of conspiracy of grace: the common assumption, or pretense, that human existence is ‘good’ or ‘matters’ or has ‘meaning,’ a glaze of charm or humor by which we conceal from one another and perhaps even ourselves the suspicion that it does not, and our conviction in times of trouble that it is overpriced—something to be endured rather than enjoyed. ” (Ch.14, p.215)
The Blood of the Lamb is the story of Don Wanderhope, a widower whose twelve-year-old daughter, a bright and engaging girl named Carol, dies of leukemia. But this story begins when he was a young boy reared in a Dutch immigrant family. He was reared in Calvinism and through education, reading, sexual awakening and terrible luck. He becomes a buffed, shell-shocked man who is quietly resigned to the tragicomedy of life.
The world, as has been noted, is full of a number of things, and while they may not suffice to keep us happy as kings, the troubles in which they mainly abound are diverse enough for one to distract us from the other. (Ch.8, p.112)
This book is heavy and provocative. It is a furious tract about the impossibility of religious faith written by a man who desperately wants to believe. It is poignant depiction of a life full of misfortune; but it’s also, in places, howlingly funny. The reading is a frenzy of grief and age by a comedian who, for all his horrific suffering, never lost his eye for the grotesqueries and incongruities of human existence.
I believe that man must learn to live without those consolations called religious, which his own intelligence must by now have told him belong to the childhood of the race. (Ch.12, p.166)
After escaping rigid Calvinism of home, he moves to Connecticut to live in secularism. Yet a Job-like string of calamities stalks him: his brother dies, his girlfriend, whom he meets at a tuberculosis sanitarium, dies, his father goes mad, his wife, who is twice infidel to him, commits suicide. His life is paved with heartbreak, and the worst is yet to come. The light of his life is about to be snuffed out. He is through ups and downs, between hope and distress, as his daughter is subjected to many drugs and treatment. It’s the memory of his daughter that saves him from a hopeless scope of life. Wanderhope concludes that man’s search for meaning is doomed to disappointment. But if human life means nothing, it doesn’t follow that it is without truth. This book is definitely one of the most eviscerating reads in years.
246 pp. Penguin. Paper. [Read|Skim|Toss] [Buy|Borrow]