Book Review: Saint Ben

saint-ben-book-coverHave you ever had a craving? Maybe it was for something sweet or salty – or both! It seems the craving represents an empty spot, a void, a vacuum that must be filled. I find that if I try to fill this vacuum with something other than what I want, I’m just not satisfied. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience.

I love to read and often crave the time to sit quietly with a good book, a cup of tea, and the company of my cat (who likes to snuggle up on whatever I’m reading!) Recently a friend introduced me to a novel by John Fischer that more than satisfied that craving, and I would like to preview it in hopes you, too, might enjoy it and be inspired.

The book is entitled Saint Ben. Published in 1993 (Bethany House Publishers), it is by no means new, but its themes of friendship, faith, and yearning for God are timeless. Saint Ben is the story of two boys who are bright “preacher’s kids” with a passion for model cars, science experiments, and understanding the world and its mysteries. Take, for instance, the vacuum. Not the vacuum cleaner (though that does figure prominently into one of their adventures), but the thing “nature abhors” to quote Aristotle – a space that must be filled. Jonathan and Ben fill empty places in their lives with a rich friendship, and as their kinship grows, so do their perceptions of others and their understanding of how things work. There is a parallel between Ben’s effort to understand the vacuum through experiments with the vacuum tube, and his search to find God. He enlists Jonathan to help him develop imaginative, creative, and often uproarious approaches to “augmenting” Ben’s father’s Sunday sermons with many startling outcomes – especially to Ben’s unsuspecting father! But also to Ben whose worldview is changed along with the attitudes of his congregation and community.

saint-ben-book-reviewBoth entertaining and thought-provoking, Saint Ben will have you laughing but leave you with something to chew on. In his Author’s Note, John Fischer attributes to Blaise Pascal the basis of his book and quotes: What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object – in other words, by God himself.

So, the next time you have a craving, consider what vacuum you are trying to fill. Perhaps it is the God vacuum referenced in Saint Ben. If it is for a good read, I wholeheartedly recommend this one. My friend, who has read Saint Ben more than once, summed it up when she shared, “My own perceptions about God and this life have definitely been impacted by the material I have chosen to read. Some books really draw me closer to Christ and make me think about my own faith walk. This is such a book”.