God and Fiction – A Second Look at Tuck

Yes, the CSFF Blog Tour featuring Tuck by Stephen Lawhead (Thomas Nelson) is over. But in visiting other participating blogs, I saw others address the issue of the spiritual in this story.

In my first look at Tuck, with God in mind, I commented that I felt as if Mr. Lawhead allowed God to be a part of the story as the characters experienced Him. In the end, though, when I did my review, I felt as if the spirituality was thin. And now I think I understand why.

But first, let me mention that other bloggers disagree. For instance, Rachel Starr Thomson felt the story was particularly strong in showing the power of prayer. Robert Treskillard, on the other hand, felt the story did a great job calling attention to sin and the coming judgment, thus serving as a seed-planting story (as opposed to one that also shows the growth and harvest 😉 ). John Otte was just happy that a variety of faith traditions cropped up in the story. One other blogger, I don’t recall who just now, thought the story did a good job showing the pursuit of peace winning out.

Why, with God clearly showing up and with the presence of these spiritual themes, did I feel as if the story was thin and not deep? It has to do with the struggle, the internal conflict of the characters. Since this third volume of the King Raven Trilogy was told primarily from Friar Tuck’s point of view, his untarnished faith came through.

Bran, on the other hand, who endured the burden of leadership with dwindling followers and the disappointment of broken promises and unmet expectations, apparently did struggle. But because the story was about him and not his, readers can only look on and see the outworkings of whatever spiritual issues Bran dealt with. Some bloggers found him arrogant, others found him dark and brooding, but no one said he was sympathetic.

I thought he was. I mean, if I underwent the betrayal he experienced, if I’d invested as much time and put myself at such risk as he did for his northern cousins, then had to walk away empty handed, well, I think I would be a bit brooding too. Yet he came around. When Tuck wanted to pursue peace, Bran came to the point of choosing to do what was right.

But what struggle did he go through to arrive at that place?

From the reader’s vantage point, it was nothing but Angharad’s counsel that put him onto the right path. It seemed easy and quick. Not something I think most of us can identify with. Wouldn’t it be great if we came to the truth and made right decisions with just a word of reminder?

But for most of us, a crisis in our world generates something of a crisis in our souls as well, and with Tuck telling the story, we just didn’t see that struggle in Bran, that crisis in his story. Thus, I came away feeling the theme was thin.

4 Comments

  1. What you say is really true … Tuck didn’t go through the same angst as Bran.

    The advice I’ve read is to always pick the character who has the most at stake. With that in mind, the book would have been better from Bran’s perspective.

    However, I can understand Stephen wanting to use different characters for each book, and I guess if you have to choose, then Tuck is the best one for book 3.

    Still, we miss a lot not being in his mind. But Lawhead could have at least shown his anguish in other ways … give him kind of a “garden of Gesthemene” experience or something.

    Thanks for tackling this, and for putting the tour together!

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  2. I agree, it probably is a matter of P.O.V. And I also agree that Bran was sympathetic. To be betrayed by William, to be betrayed by his kinsman (the other king, I forget his name), and to … well, I won’t say what else. Spoilers and all. Anyway, to go through everything that Bran went through, and then still come to the final decision that he did shows remarkable integrity. While it might have been better for us to see his decision making process from his P.O.V., I thought that this was a great book.

    And to be honest, given the way the central conflict was resolved, the story couldn’t have been told from anyone else’s point of view besides Tuck’s.

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  3. Insightfully said, Becky. I agree. And yet, I was awfully glad Tuck was the central figure in this story.

    This really does illustrate the power of POV, though! Two very different stories happened at once in this book, but we really only saw one of them — Tuck’s. Bran’s we could see only from its outer workings. Fascinating how all this works :).

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  4. Insightful comments. Thanks.

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