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This is our second novel read by this author. Several years ago we read "The Shack". I found the books to be very similar. Young has a great talent for taking difficult theological concepts and translating them into a relatable metaphor. Great as that is, I feel like after reading two books by this author, I've read all of him that I need to read. Both books have their deeply philosophical moments. I found Crossroads to be much more entertaining than The Shack. Crossroads spends many pages with a comatose patient inhabiting one of several actively living bodies. This obviously provides for some humor as well as allowing for more insight into those characters. At the same time, I think he treads rather dangerously by having the character inhabit an autistic boy and an alzheimer's patient.
On a scale of 1 - 5:
Sex - Even something as simple as kissing is problematic for several of these characters so anything beyond that is out of the question
Religion - There are face to face conversations with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Many challenging theological principals are explained from new angles. One character goes to church regularly and, at one point, is admonished by the pastor. An elder in the church comes to her defense and puts the pastor in his place.
Gruesome - there are minor mentions of blood in relation to a medically induced accident
Suspense - I was curious to see how a few things would play out in the end but it was nothing that kept me awake at night wondering
Morality - All the characters seem very conscientious from the beginning with the exception of the one who has the religious conversion. By the end he is behaving very conscientiously as well.
I listened to a lot of this on audio. Usually when I hear an audio book I only listen when my child is asleep or not in the car. With this book I felt comfortable listening when his 9 year old ears were awake in the back seat. He even enjoyed some of it and laughed along with Cabby early in Chapter 9. I wouldn't say it is the greatest family story ever told - but if you don't mind your children contemplating death then it is a nice story.
The character of Cabby has Down's Syndrome and is based on a real-life son of the author's friends named Nathan. The afterword tells us this as well as how Nathan died. It also relates that the idea of the camera under the bed actually occurred.
Tony's trust list had Mother Teresa, his parents and God on it. Who would be on your "trust" list?
When you first met Jack the Irishman who did you think he represented? And the "safe" stranger? Who did you think the little girl named "Hope" represented?
Discuss the difference between "real" and "true". (p. 44-45)
What would your landscape look like? (p. 60-61)
Discuss: "And even though death is a monstrous evil, human beings have imagined it into something much more powerful than it deserves, than it actually is, as if light were casting death's shadows in horrific proportions onto the backdrop of your existence and now you are terrified by even the shadow of death." (p. 66)
"The truth is," he continued, "death has only been a shadow of those things. What you call death is indeed a separation of sorts, but not anything like you imagine it. You have focused yourself and defined your existence with reference to the fear of that singular last-breath even rather than recognizing death's ubiquitous presence all around you - in your words, your touch, your choices, your sorrows, your unbelief, your lies, your judgment, your unforgiveness, your prejudices, your power-seeking, your betrayals, your hiding. The 'event' of death is only one small expression of that presence , but you have made that expression everything, not realizing that you swim in death's ocean every single day. / Tony, you were not designed for death, but neither was death intended for this universe. Inherent in the event of death is a promise, a baptism in this ocean that rescues, not drowns. Human beings uncreated life and brought that un-life into your experience, so out of respect for you, we wove it from the beginning into the larger tapestry. You now experience this underlying tension between life and death every day until you are released through the event of death, but you were designed to deal with its encroachment in community, inside relationship, not in self-centered isolation like your little place here." (p. 67)
How did you feel about Tony inhabiting people? Did you feel differently about him inhabiting Cabbie as compared to Maggie? What about Clarence's mother?
"God wasn't supposed to give you more than you could handle, but she felt at the last-straw point of the load. Did God include the baggage that she herself had added to the weight of what she was supposed to handle? Did God take into account what others brought and dumped on her?" (p. 96) Does He?
Discuss the difference between "spirit" and "soul". (p. 113 - 114)
Was it rational that Tony didn't want Maggie to use the restroom? What would he have seen?
On page 125. Maggie wore a comely dress. On page 128 she made an adjustment to her dress. But then she had to undo the necessities and on page 130 she had to unbutton her personals. If she truly had a dress on maybe it would have been less of an ordeal for Tony.
What was your favorite pre-chapter quote?
What was your favorite metaphor?
The password to Tony's secret temple was "Gabriel" (his son's name). What would the password be to your secret temple?
Did it bother you that the pie went from flour and butter on the spoon to coming out of the oven? Did enough time even pass to bake a pie?
How did Mrs. Walker know Tony's name? How did you feel about that experience?
Reread the poem that is Chapter 18 and discuss.
Discuss: (p. 271) Maggie said, "One never knows if anything's a good idea. You just make a choice and go with the flow and see what happens. You only get one day's worth of grace, so why not spend it extravagantly."
Who did you think Tony would heal? Do you think he made a good choice?
Did you guess what was in the "TWIMC" envelope? What do you think TWIMC stands for? (p. 273)
What did you think was in the blue box from the safe?
Were you surprised Tony did not offer a less wrinkled photo to Jake?
Review the King James Version of 1 Corinthians 14:34. Was Paul being sarcastic? Consider also the next verse since Clarence pointed out that it begins with "What?". (p. 169)
The afterword explains that Nathan's mom went "exploring through Nathan's personal items that are in storage". (p. 287) Nathan died "a couple of years ago" (from when the afterword was written) - so has this mom built a temple as Tony did with Gabriel?
If you are a drinking group - serve Scotch, Tony drank a lot of it in the early chapters.
Meet in an ice cream parlor, like Farrell's. (p. 14)
Meet in a coffee shop like Barista. (p.51)
Serve McMinnville Cream and Mango Tango donuts and jelly donuts.
Serve "heavenly" food like Angel Food cake. Or since Maggie thought she had a demon in her - serve Devil's Food cake.
Serve stew and flat bread like the Holy Spirit / Indian woman made. (p. 81)
Serve floats since Cabby was thankful for people who made root beer and ice cream. (p. 109)
Serve mushroom and peas noodle soup. (p. 108)
Serve chicken, bean and cheese burritos like Cabby's breakfast. (beginning Ch. 9 / p. 118)
Serve baked chicken - deboned, mashed potatoes and carrots. (p. 123)
Serve hot tea and lemon drops with sugar-coated rims (p. 140) like Maggie and Molly drank after the demon incident.
Serve cantaloupe because Cabby knocked over a bunch of them when they met Maggie. (p. 147)
Serve apple pie a la mode (Ch. 16). Or have everyone bake something and take the treats as a group to the cancer ward in a hospital. Or do a service project to help cats. Or hold a bake sale and give the money to cats.