Tuesday, May 11, 2010


A month or so ago, someone recommended that I read TILL WE HAVE FACES by C.S. Lewis. TILL WE HAVE FACES is Lewis' 1956 adaptation of the myth, Cupid and Psyche. The main character in this book, Orual, is the daughter of a king. She has two younger sisters, Redival and Psyche. Orual and Redival's mother passes away, the king remarries, then the girls' stepmother dies while giving birth to Psyche, and Orual ends up raising her younger sisters. Orual is very intelligent, but battles the demons many of us face every day- she believes herself to be extremely unattractive, she doubts herself, and she questions and regrets her decisions and life choices. Psyche, her youngest sister, is almost an exact opposite-- very, very beautiful, both in mind and spirit.

When Psyche is a teenager, the gods become angry at the land of Glome and demand the sacrifice of Psyche. The god Cupid intervenes and Psyche's life is spared, but Psyche must spend her life in a faraway castle as Cupid's bride. Orual discovers that her younger sister is still alive, and she attempts to reclaim her. Psyche however, is happy in her new role, and does not want to leave. Orual's efforts upset the gods, and she spends her entire life reliving and regretting her decisions.

This was a hard read for me. Fantasy is not my favorite genre.I didn't like Orual very much. I wanted to be like Psyche, who was good and pure and beautiful, but sometimes, a lot of times, maybe most of the time, I found myself identifying more with Orual.

The ideas in FACES were big and metaphorical and hard to wrap my head around. And as much as I hate to admit it, usually I don't read books with themes about the nature of humans vs. the nature of the holy, healthy love vs. destructive love, and the journey of life, at this time in the school year. It was one of those books that disturbed me so much I wanted to put it away and forget about it.

At the same time, it's a book that has stayed with me. I keep coming back to the ideas again and again. TILL WE HAVE FACES causes me to see myself and my life journey and my relationships and other people through a whole different lens. I want to read the book again this summer. I want my book club to read it, because I need to talk about it. I want everyone I know to read it.

Here are a few quotes I keep going back to. I'm not posting them because I like or dislike them, but rather because I keep going back to them. :

Don't you think the things people are most ashamed of are the things they can't help? (111)

You don't think-
not possibly-
not as a mere hundredth chance
that there might be things
that are real
though we can't see them?

Child to say
the very thing you really mean,
the whole of it,
nothing more or less
or other than what you really mean
that's the whole art and joy of words. 294

"Psyche had no more dangerous enemies than us.
And in that far distant day when the gods become wholly beautiful,
or we at last are shown how beautiful they always were,
this will happen more and more.
For mortals, as you said,
will become more and more jealous.
And mother and wife and child and friend
will all be in a league
to keep a soul from being united
with the Divine Nature.
" p. 304

"I know now Lord, why you utter no answer.
You are yourself the answer.
Before your face, other questions die away.
What other answer would suffice? (308)


Kyle said...

Great another book to add to my growing stack. It is almost over. We will have time for coffee and chats.

Mary Lee said...

Wow. Nothing's more powerful than a book that comes to you and speaks to you right when you need it most.

And there's something to be said for reading hard books during the school year -- nothing like putting ourselves in our children's shoes...