The Book of Joby
By: Mark J. Ferrari
Lucifer and the Creator have entered, yet again, into a wager they’ve made many times before, but this time, the existence of creation itself is balanced on the outcome. Born in California during the twilight years of a weary millennium, nine-year-old Joby Peterson dreams of blazing like a bonfire against the gathering darkness of his times, like a knight of the Round Table. Instead, he is subjected to a life of crippling self-doubt and relentless mediocrity inflicted by an enemy he did nothing to earn and cannot begin to comprehend.
Though imperiled themselves, the angels are forbidden to intervene. Left to struggle with their own loyalties and the question of obedience, they watch Lucifer work virtually unhindered to turn Joby’s heart of gold into ash and stone while God sits by, seemingly unconcerned.
And so when he is grown to manhood, Joby’s once luminous love of life seems altogether lost, and Lucifer’s victory assured. What hope remains lies hidden in the beauty, warmth, and innocence of a forgotten seaside village whose odd inhabitants seem to defy the modern world’s most inflexible assumptions, and in the hearts of Joby’s long lost youthful love and her emotionally wounded son. But the ravenous forces of destruction that follow Joby into this concealed paradise plan to use these same things to bring him and his world to ruin.
As the final struggle unfolds, one question occupies every mind in heaven and in hell. Which will prove stronger, love or rage?
This book had been sitting on my shelf for quite a long while; I had been meaning to get to it but you know how it is, other books push and shove for priority so yeah, I hadn’t gotten around to it until recently. I was fascinated by the idea of drawing from the Book of Job and retelling it with a dash of fantasy (not to mention it’s not very often you come across a fantasy story that spans one volume). Contains some spoilers ahead!
I was initially quite surprised at home much time is covered in this book; The Book of Joby pretty much spans from the time Joby is a child until his early thirties. The reader follows Joby as he faces the many trials that come out of God and Lucifer’s bet as Lucifer throws obstacle after obstacle to test Joby’s mettle (so to speak). They may seem like everyday, things kids go through, sort of issues but every obstacle contains that moral issue, the dilemma of how to go about doing the right thing but at the same time how do other people perceive the issue at hand. I thought the author did a wonderful job in presenting this, especially in the early part of the novel when Joby is still a child. Joby’s approach is innocent, childlike and straightforward and yet it’s wonderful and inspiring in the way that he tries to do what is right.
I personally thought the first part of the novel was the strongest. Again, maybe it’s because his outlook on life is steadfast, optimistic and aspiring to do what is right. Things seemed simpler then. At the same time, the story was more compelling. The story fell into a lull in certain moments in parts two and three, especially as more characters are introduced. Joby remained, for me, the most interesting so sometimes the scenes involving other inhabitants of Taubolt were not as intriguing. Perhaps another reason why I was not as into the latter half of the novel is because Joby’s descent seemed awfully familiar as we grow older; we lose that sort of innocent, straightfoward perspective about life, we lose our faith in dreams and nobler aspirations, things disappoint us. One can’t help but feel for Joby because his struggle is really human.
Additionally, the fantastical elements of the story starts playing a major role in the latter half of the novel. It was a pleasant surprise to see the link between the bet and Arthurian legends but by the time it started playing an active role in the story, I found it wasn’t as compelling as the earlier segments of the novel when it focused on Joby just trying to do the right thing. Nonetheless it was interesting to see how that thread played out both in Joby’s personal story and the greater story arc.
Aside from the first part, I greatly enjoyed the segments involving God talking to his angels or dealing with Lucifer because God pwns every single time =)
On a more personal note, I have to mention the following quote because it is my favourite from the book and perhaps the most poignant quote I’ve come across in a while:
“You see? God waited until anyone could see it was far too late to help His Son at all. Then God helped him anyways. That is hope, even for the hopeless.” Father Crombie nodded at the crucifix. “That’s why we keep this horrible statue hanging there, Joby. God’s Son lived for everyone, but He died so that the hopeless would know it’s never too late for God to help them.” – p. 80
It’s a beautiful quote that, as a Catholic, I feel speaks volumes. The whole scene was lovely in the way that Joby was asking questions related to his dream and mixed in with Arthurian legends and Father Crombie’s interpretation from his own experiences and beliefs. There’s a bit of a misunderstanding but beneath that there is great understanding. Plus, it solidified the kind Father Crombie as one of my favourite characters in the book ^_~
The Book of Joby was a wonderful and inspiring read (and all in one volume!). Regardless of your own convictions, the book fundamentally touches on the human struggle of doing what is right that I think everyone can relate to. It also creatively uses elements from the Book of Job along with Arthurian legend to create an intriguing character journey for Joby. I highly recommend this novel if you’re looking for something unique to read in the fantasy genre.