I've now read The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier three times--three times in thirteen months. My second review. My first review.
It's one of those rare novels where you want to read it again almost as soon as you've turned the last page. That isn't horribly unusual in a good picture book--especially if you're young or young at heart. But not many novels have that again-again impulse.
The Night Gardener is also a book to be savored. The characters. The descriptions and imagery. The narration and dialogue. The oh-so-suspenseful plot. The atmospheric setting. Every element of this novel is to be savored. Great novels only improve upon rereading. And The Night Gardener is more than great, in my opinion.
So one thing stood out for me the third time around. And it's one of the reasons why I chose to review the book on this blog instead of on Becky's Book Reviews. What did I notice? Well, there comes a point in the novel where Kip and Molly are safe and secure. They've escaped 'The Night Gardener' and are free from the sourwoods and the estate with its horrible secrets. You might assume that that was enough--that that was 'the end' but it's not. Now that they've come to the truth and broken free, they feel compelled--and at great risk I might add--to go straight back to where they came from and warn others of the danger. As Kip tells Molly, "there's a whole family at that house that needs saving" and "those folks are in trouble…Someone needs to go back to warn 'em before it's too late. And we're all they got." The symbolism of the whole novel is undeniable--in my opinion--but it's especially compelling here. And it's a message that definitely needs reinforcement today.
Should Christians be content and complacent knowing that they are safe and secure and delivered from sin and death and let the world around them go on as before unaware of the danger? Shouldn't the very fact that we're delivered lead us to want to spread the good news, the urgent news of the gospel?! Are we taking the good news for granted? Are we assuming that all people everywhere know the gospel and what Christianity is all about already without us having to do anything ever? Now salvation itself is a work of God from start to finish, but, God uses people like you and me to share the gospel, to proclaim the good news, to explain why the good news is, in fact, GOOD news. And that explanation should lead us to some very bad news first. Sin. It's not a popular subject. It's not a people-pleasing subject. People with "itching ears" really don't want to hear about sin. But as John MacArthur said, "There are 1,189 chapters in the Bible. Only four of them don't involve a fallen world: the first two and the last two--before the fall and after the creation of the new heaven and new earth. The rest is a chronicle of the tragedy of sin."
We live in a fallen world. From birth to death we're surrounded by sinners--fellow sinners--for we too are sinners. There is only one person--Jesus Christ--both human and divine--that was sinless. All the rest of us--no matter who we are--need Jesus, desperately need Jesus if we're to be reconciled to God. Sin is deceptive. There are plenty of times, we don't want to be rescued or delivered from sin. In fact, it's the last thing we want. But sometimes what we want and what we need are very different things. And we're not always best at knowing what's best for us.
The Night Gardener is a great book because it makes you think--really think--about truth and lies, and life and death and what really matters.
Here's one more quote I want to share with you.
The woman gave a cryptic smile. "I'm not sure your sister would appreciate me frightening you.""I ain't afraid," Kip said. "Well, I am afraid…but I'm not afraid of being afraid. If that makes sense. True is still true, even if it's bad. That means I want to hear it.""That's a rare thing, in a boy or a man, she said. "Your sister raised you up right." (105)
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible