Sunday, April 13, 2014
Review: Tobit's Dog
I read Michael Nicholas Richard’s book Tobit’s Dog in a single sitting. And then I picked up the bible, and read the Book of Tobit. The dog is only mentioned twice in the Bible, but he becomes a key character in Richard’s book. I guess that’s why it’s called fiction --- and maybe why I liked it so much.
Tobit, a black man, lives in the South during the years prior to World War II. There are good men there, and bad, and Tobit’s life, like the life the Tobit in the Bible, becomes one of suffering. He loses a good position; he’s arrested for cutting down a young boy hanging for three days in a tree, and he goes blind. He has many trials. But Tobit is most fortunate in that he has his wife, Anna, and his loyal son, Tobias, to care for him as things just seem to get worse and worse.
A long-lost cousin, Ace, suddenly appears on the scene, and Tobit is reminded of other long-unseen relatives, including one who he had given a sum of money to many years ago --- money he certainly could now use. Ace says he’d be happy to look up the relative (because he’d planned on traveling that way anyway), and he offers to take Tobias along with him for the journey --- and Tobit’s dog, Okra, decides to tag along too. And they begin their interesting adventure, seemingly watched over by God, as many trials happen along the way, and yet each turns out well in the end. And they do find the long-lost relative, the very successful Jubal, and his wife ---- AND, his daughter.
And there are bad guys in the story (who come to bad ends), and bad guys who change their ways, and the daughter who marries ---- well, I don’t want to spoil the story for you. And, yes, there are miracles. Oh yes, there are miracles. But what I found most remarkable about this book is that the miracles seem so in the natural flow of the story. I’ve read many a “Catholic novel” and been bored: either they preach doctrine for pages on end in ways that no normal person would, or they mellow doctrines so much that almost anything goes because, after all, “Jesus is Love.” But this novel doesn’t come across that way, either preachy or peachy. This comes across as if it might have happened. The characters speak in ways you can readily imagine them speaking, and they laugh at jokes you could imagine yourself laughing at, and they hug one another at times you could imagine hugging them too. And you can see God’s hand working so calmly among the all characters --- including Tobit and his family. The story so easily reminds you that God is an intimate part of their lives, and ours.
This is a good book for anyone, and will be on my Christmas giving list. Teens will love this book because it moves along quickly, and has turns of events you could not foresee. The old and religious will love this book for it does make you stop and ponder, especially if you follow it by reading the book in the Bible, as I did. It’s not preachy, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make you stop and think now and again.
Near the end of the book, Tobias muses about his father:
“Tobit had told him that nobody hated or feared doubt, however, so much as an atheist. He said they were so repulsed by the reality of doubt that they constructed for themselves, a small, materialistic reality that even their own philosophies and laws were proof against. No one is so deluded as someone who has no doubt, Tobit often asserted. He scoffed at their pretending that reality could be perfectly measured and tested.”
This brought me back to my own recent musings on atheism in our culture, and in reading Tobias’ words, I found could not have put some of my thoughts better. This book resonated with me, and while it had sat on my shelf for a while, I read it at just the right time. No one is so deluded as someone who has no doubt.
I hope you buy this one and read it --- on a nice warm summer’s day, sitting in the shade of a big ol’ tree, and seeing God all around you.