17/03/2018

The Forever Feast (by Paul Brand)


I was introduced to the works of the late Paul Brand by the popular American Christian writer Philip Yancey. Dr Brand was a pioneer in studying leprosy in the middle of last century. He had made many notes about his work, and the metaphors of the physical body when thinking about the spiritual life. It took Yancey to turn these ponderings into books, the best known of which are in the excellent volume ‘In his Image’.

So I was delighted when I discovered, in the Amazon marketplace, another book by Paul Brand, ‘The Forever Feast’. I’ve been reading it over the past couple of weeks and have found it educational, thought-provoking and inspiring.

The theme of the book, as with Brand’s other books, is analogies between our physical and spiritual bodies. But the main focus in this one is related to food, and our digestive system. The book begins with the description of a meal - not a gourmet or expensive one, but a special, memorable meal that the author counts as his favourite gastronomic memory.

He talks about the importance of thankfulness, and of taking time over meals. He explains the importance of hunger, and of tropical diseases where hunger disappears. He examines the ways that fruit grow, dropping their seeds to ensure the future of the species. He looks at the way our bodies digest food, from the intial ingestion by mouth through to the final selection of nutrients for our cells, and the elimination of waste.

But this is not a biology text book. It’s written in an almost chatty style, making it accessible to anyone with even a vague interest in the topics. Anecdotes are interspersed with the science, and everything is based firmly in the author’s medical and nutritional knowledge and his many years of experience in both Europe and Asia, working with a great variety of patients and medical technology. Yet it’s never condescending. The book feels almost like a genial discussion between friends after a good meal.

There’s also quite a spiritual punch in each chapter. Brand moves easily from talking about our physical bodies and needs to our spiritual ones. He talks more than once about the incredible, detailed ways in which our bodies were designed. And he looks at spiritual food, with an excellent discussion, in the last couple of chapters, on the origins of the Communion or Eucharist service.

There is so much to ponder in this book that I read it just a few pages at a time. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the Christian life, and/or the human digestive system. I was never remotely interested in biology at school, but have learned and absorbed a great deal from Paul Brand’s books, including this one.

The only faintly negative thing I can think of is that there are rather incongruous line drawings scattered throughout the book. They’re evidently intended to illustrate facets of the book, but are in the style of 1980s teenage fiction, and each one disrupted the flow of the book a little bit. But perhaps they’re not present in other editions of this book.

Very highly recommended. Not currently in print, unfortunately.

Review by copyright 2018 Sue's Book Reviews

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