Takeaway: There is real value in working through ideas with friends.
I picked this up yesterday with some promotional credits from Audible.com. I have wanted to read it for a while, but I have just never gotten around to it. I am reminded how silly publishers are about pricing with this book. Immediately after purchasing this on audiobook, I received an email from ereaderiq saying that the kindle version dropped in price, to $8.99. Such silliness. The paperback is $5.20 and has physical paper, which while marginal in cost to print (probably about $0.80), it has actual cost. And the audiobook required paying a reader and the production costs, but still I purchased the audiobook (it was on sale) for less than the kindle book too. It is not Amazon’s fault that the price is so high. This price is established by the publisher.
All that being said, I am very glad I picked up the audio and now I am seriously considering picking up the kindle to re-read immediately. This is a very intimate book. Lewis was writing letters to a friend, not for publication. (When I wrote this I did not realize this was a fictional book that Lewis wrote. and not actually compiled letters.) They talk about visiting one another and Malcolm’s son’s (George) health problems. Lewis says that he will not need a bed made up on the first floor this next visit because he is able to go up the stairs, although slowly. What I am most biblically reminded of is II Timothy and the intimacy of the comments at the end.
These are letters, not theological treatises, so they are not tightly focused or systematic. But they were written in an age when letters were carefully prepared. At the beginning Lewis says he is glad that they can write letters with a pre-chosen topic because it is so much easier to communicate that way. I understand what he is saying. Over the past six months I have been slowly reading a couple of books with some college friends. We are separated by many miles, and are all fairly busy, but we email thoughts back and forth and excuse to communicate leads to other communication in ways that just do not happen without the excuse.
This follows nicely on Christopher Wright’s The God I Don’t Understand, not because of topic but because of a willingness to consider. Lewis is not writing a book here, he is talking with a friend and working through ideas in his head. He clearly says at times that something he said earlier was wrong, or not thought through enough. And at other times he pushes back even when Malcolm (or Malcolm’s wife who was reading the letters and commenting as well) disagrees. It is part of a natural conversation: talk, listen, consider, respond.
Because of the natural flow and the practical conversational flow, I think this is one of the better books on prayer I have read. He is not concerned about being misunderstood or presenting a particular face, he is saying what he thinks and trying to work through something he clearly does not fully understand.
It is short (about 134 pages in print) and does not include Malcolm’s responses (but that does not really detract, you have a clear idea of what Malcolm has said). If you have a couple hours, I would pick this up. It is refreshing in a way that highly packaged, pre-screen, theologically tight modern books often are not. I have always liked Lewis’ fiction books. And allegorical theology books (The Great Divorce and Screwtape Letters.) But I have never read much of his more straight forward theology (Mere Christianity, Problem of Pain, etc). I have tried but never gotten through them. Maybe I am getting old enough to understand and appreciate them now.
Note: I have since found out that this is a fictional set of letters that was published posthumously.
Related Bookwi.se Reviews
- Magician’s Nephew by CS Lewis (Narnia)
- Till We Have Faces…A Myth Retold by CS Lewis
- Surprised by Love: The Life of Joy Davidman by Lyle Dorsett (Lewis’ wife’s biography)
- A Praying Life by Paul Miller
- Prayer by Richard Foster
- The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis
- The Silver Chair by CS Lewis
- CS Lewis: A Life by Alister McGrath