Takeaway: A book everyone should read to remind us that suffering is not a reality show or an abstract discussion.
I have never read any of Elie Wiesel‘s books. I have known of him and basically known that he was a Nobel Peace Prize winner and writer, but not a lot more. I ran across his first book Night, when looking for audiobooks on Overdrive. (Overdrive is a library system that allows you to check out ebooks or audiobooks over the internet just like your regular library books.)
I ran across it months ago and kept putting it off. I knew it was about the holocaust and I just did not want to read a depressing story. Finally, I decided to just go ahead and start it. I was transfixed. I listened in less than 24 hour period.
Night is written in the voice of a 15/16 year old and so often thought of as a young adult book. But it has been masterfully written (and equally masterfully narrated.) I have thought frequently about why I was never asked to read this as a high school or college student. I would strongly recommend that it be part of a high school or college curriculum.
As I listened to Night, I kept reflecting on two books. One, Hunger Games, where a teen girl is sent to fight to the death as entertainment. There were horrible parts about that book. But it was a story, Night was about the real story of thousands of boys and girls sent to their deaths in concentration camps. That is not to complain about Hunger Games, it was a good book with powerful things to say about how we approach entertainment, free will, love and other themes. But seen in contract to the real horror of Night, it seems almost too tame.
The second book I kept thinking about was Rob Bell‘s Love Wins. I haven’t read Bell’s book and I very well may not read it at all. Wiesel recounts a very real hell on earth. And some of the blogging and comments that I have read on Bell’s book make me realize that regardless of where you come down on the book, very few people have a concept of hell that really understand what suffering is all about. We argue and discuss the need for a concept of hell from the comfort of our computers but have not paid attention to the real hell that people commit and endure every day on earth. I know the concepts are not the same. I know that because there is hell on earth does not minimize the reality of hell as a future/current place of torment. But it does seem that many Christians care far more about the idea of hell than the reality of the suffering that is ongoing in this world or the reality of the suffering that many will endure in an actual hell.
If you need a reminder of suffering (and I think we all probably do if we are reading this from the comfort of our American lives) then I think we need to pick up books like Night to remind us, both of the potential for evil and suffering in this life and the eternal consequences of the same.