I have finally found some paranormal romance that I like! Well, that’s not entirely true. This week’s book is about the paranormal and does contain romance, though. I will concede only one thing to Twilight and its successors in the paranormal romance genre, and I will admit to two: they’re getting girls to read, and they can lead to them reading actual classics like Pride and Prejudice because apparently Bella likes them. Ultimately, I hope that books like Twilight will lead to more substantial reading. Indeed, as Goodreads reviews suggest, at least one reader was duped into reading The Screwtape Letters by its premise (she thought it would be “sexy in a dark fun kind of way”), but found herself edified by the experience. Great literature always has the power to transform.
So, dear readers, are you intrigued by the premise of The Screwtape Letters? Screwtape, a senior administrative demon in Hell, writes a series of letters giving advice to his nephew, Wormwood. Wormwood has received his first assignment: to tempt a young British man, the Patient, into damning himself to Hell. Screwtape has plenty of experience, criticism, and bold admissions about the true state of affairs between good and evil. Screwtape tries to keep young Wormwood from failure, but we all know what happens when evil goes head to head with the source of all goodness.
Several weeks ago, I acknowledged on my blog that this was pretty high on the list of Books I Can’t Believe I Haven’t Read. I was delighted to cross this off, and now I know why it turns up on everyone’s lists of great Christian literature. I hesitate to call it fiction, because the details are just so that this could be almost anyone’s daily life. The Patient becomes a Christian, starts going to church and praying, makes some new non-Christian friends, and falls in love. All the while, Wormwood is waiting in the wings to direct him to do the wrong things, and the advice of Uncle Screwtape gives him just the right tactics.
The standout characteristic of this book is that it reflects our human lives so well. Each chapter contains a separate lesson on how to live the Christian live (under the guise of things Screwtape says must be avoided at all costs). It was disconcerting to read references to God as “the Enemy,” but the distinction of Satan being called “Our Father Below” brought back my comfort. Throughout the letters, we are reminded that the tempters do not send people to Hell. They trick souls into avoiding good just enough that they send themselves there.
Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
The easiest way to get into big sins is to commit a little sin, but then to convince yourself that it’s not that important. After one little sin, it’s easier to repeat that one, since it doesn’t matter, right? And once you’ve done the little ones enough, the big ones don’t seem so bad—because the little ones basically add up to a big one, anyway, and those were okay, right? Wrong. Tiny steps toward evil are still evil. I was reminded of that when I stood in line for confession this past Saturday. The day when we stop letting little temptations bother us is the day our final descent begins. So take Screwtape’s advice to heart—and then do the opposite!
This review was written as part of the Tiber River Reviewer Program. I received a free copy of the book in exchange for this honest review of it. For more reviews of Catholic books, visit Tiber River. To purchase Catholic products of all kinds (not just books), visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.