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Monday, January 25, 2010

The Book of the Shepherd

The Book of the Shepherd by Joann Davis came in the mail the other day. This is the first book I have received from Harper Collins / HarperStudio to review for I have been looking forward to it. I was surprised by the initial appearance of the book. It was smaller than I imagined. It was printed on rough edged paper, with simple illustrations. Add the illustrated dust jacket and it had the appearance of an antiquarian book. It all fits with the back story that Joann had found this book in the muddle of papers and other effects of a eccentric professor who left a note the day he died about having it translated from the original Middle English/Dutch in which it was written.

It did have the feel of such a book from a far off time and land. It is a land where cruelty is law, It is the story of Joshua, a shepherd, and his companions David, an abused, discarded boy and Elizabeth, a former slave girl as they seek a "new way". This "new way" we find out was practiced by an outlaw group of monks who sought to make kindness and forgiveness a way of life. As their way is banished they hide their secret law, the "law of substitution", in a secret and dangerous cave.

As the trio travel we learn of their own stories and the stories of those they meet along the way. Others have sought this "new way" in the past, but have never returned. Guided by dreams, a grandfather's map, and what they learn from kind people along the way they get to the cave. It takes the gifts that each provide to acquire the secret.
I enjoyed reading it. It is a simple parable. It held few few surprises, but engaged the heart. The Book of the Shepherd inspires you to believe that small communities of people practicing kindness could produce great changes in the larger community. And that one can make the difference. This is one reason why I like this book. I believe this to be true.

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