There is no way I can really ‘review’ a book about a father’s lament for his son’s death in a rock climbing accident. This is one of those classic books that people give someone that has just experience a death.
Americans in general and I think Evangelicals in particular do not grieve and lament well. Part of what Wolterstorff talks about how the bad advice or bad theological wisdom that people give to grieving people, like, ‘they are in a better place now’ or ‘God called them back home.’ I very much appreciated Wolterstorff calling BS on that type of false piety. Death is an evil that in part Christ’s coming is here to overcome.
I do not think that we can really prepare for the future tragedies in our life. But I do think that we should read about and listen to grief. Whether it is the lament over the death of a spouse like CS Lewis’ A Grief Observed, or the death of a child like Lament for a Son or the combination of multiple griefs in Still by Lauren Winner, grief is particular but has some elements that are shared.
As Soong-Chan Rah rightly notes in the book Prophetic Lament, Lamentation is part of how Christianity has rightly fought back against gnostic and other dis-embodied distortions. Jesus wept real tears. Paul was in actual physical chains. Real people around us get sick and die or are in accidents or have other tragedies that befall them.
Like each of the books on lament I have read, I have very reluctantly picked this up. But like each book of lament I read, I am reminded of its importance, even if we do not enjoy the reality of lament. It is much more fun to read happy books, and watch tidy happy movies and listen to music that is ‘safe for the whole family.’ And there is a place for that. But it cannot be our whole diet.
Lament for a Son is short (less than 2 hours in audiobook, about 100 pages in print or kindle.) I still could not take it all at once, but it is worth picking up.