Summary from Goodreads:

It begins with Peter, a devoted man of faith, as he is called to the mission of a lifetime, one that takes him galaxies away from his wife, Bea. Peter becomes immersed in the mysteries of an astonishing new environment, overseen by an enigmatic corporation known only as USIC.   His work introduces him to a seemingly friendly native population struggling with a dangerous illness and hungry for Peter’s teachings—his Bible is their “book of strange new things.” But Peter is rattled when Bea’s letters from home become increasingly desperate: typhoons and earthquakes are devastating whole countries, and governments are crumbling.  Bea’s faith, once the guiding light of their lives, begins to falter.</span>

Suddenly, a separation measured by an otherworldly distance, and defined both by one newly discovered world and another in a state of collapse, is threatened by an ever-widening gulf that is much less quantifiable.  While Peter is reconciling the needs of his congregation with the desires of his strange employer, Bea is struggling for survival.  Their trials lay bare a profound meditation on faith, love tested beyond endurance, and our responsibility to those closest to us.

My Thoughts:

If it were not for the book club, I wouldn’t have known about this book or about this author. The Book of Strange New Things was the book club’s group read for January and I am only glad that this book started my new reading year.

I didn’t know what to expect. What I only knew was it was supposed to be science fiction because that was the assigned genre for the month and even though it’s not really my favorite genre, I have great respect on the moderator and his book choices so I knew that this would be an interesting, if not brilliant read.

To make the long story short, I was really impressed with the book. It exceeded what low expectations I had at the beginning and blew my mind away. I loved everything about it from the chapter titles to the characters that make up the Oasan language to the dreary depictions of Oasis and Earth. I also even learned to love those parts that seemed to baffle and confuse me. I also loved how the story ended for reasons that I couldn’t elaborate because I might end up spoiling the entire reading experience. This was my first time to read “literary science fiction”, as I came to know how the book is also described, and it was a different reading experience for me.

Considering that the story was told in the first person, it wasn’t hard for me to get into the mind of Peter. I easily felt his hesitations and apprehensions in his new ministry and deeply ached with him in his longing to be with his wife again. Even though I only got to know how Bea felt through the letters she sent to Peter, I understood her feelings of loneliness and helplessness. Long distance relationships take much work, I should know because I once was in one, but I can only imagine how it is when the distance that separates is not islands or continents but space.

After reading the book, I immediately looked up the author and the background for which he wrote this book and my appreciation for his writing grew even more. Michel Faber writes with poignant clarity and evokes a deep emotional ache within me. I know I am being repetitive but I will say this again: I really loved The Book of Strange New Things. I loved the strangeness of it, the heartfelt longings and struggles of the characters, the alien feelings. I loved that it wasn’t too preachy despite the main character being a minister although I also loved those parts where Peter “preached”.

Certainly, I cannot thoroughly describe why I loved this book. My limited capacity with words cannot give justice to my feelings. I just know that I do. And that, for me, is already enough.


My Rating: 5/5 stars.

The Filipino Group Book for January 2016.

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