The Final Boundary (by Adrian Plass)

In re-reading some of the books by Adrian Plass, one of my favourite Christian writers, I’ve just finished a collection of short stories which I first read back in 2000.

‘The Final Boundary’ is the title of one of the stories, a reflection on cricket and life with Jesus written from the perspective of someone terminally ill in hospital. It might sound like a rather morbid and strange setting for a story, but it works surprisingly well and is quite moving.

The introduction explains that these stories are all modern parables. They’re not necessarily easy to understand, and should not be picked to pieces, or taken as direct analogies of anything. Adrian Plass tells us that a parable is ‘a story that entertains at the front door while the truth slips in through a side window’. I thought that an excellent description, and it’s worth bearing in mind while reading the stories themselves.

Some of the early stories are decidedly strange, and they’re all very different from each other, although quite a few have somewhat depressing themes, at first glance. The first one is about a small boy who hasn’t really accepted that his beloved grandmother has died. The second, clearly satirical (and quite amusing in places), is a letter explaining a new way of being a Christian, involving mountain-climbing. As a parable, it works rather well.

The third story is perhaps the oddest of all. It’s the defendant in a murder case, providing documentary evidence, both video and written, that should excuse what he has done. To those of us with elements of misophonia, it’s rather a scary outline of something that might well inhabit our dreams, even though I profoundly hope I would never reach that stage. To those who do not find small noises and repetitive habits irritating, it probably seems like a morbid fantasy. I’m not entirely sure how it works as a parable, to either group of people, but perhaps the truth will come in at the window later on. It’s the only one I remembered clearly from my previous reading of the book all those years ago.

I read one or two stories per evening, over the past week, and found them all very readable and interesting, even if I didn’t necessarily get the point of them from the parable perspective. Adrian Plass’s writing is always thought-provoking, making me smile and think in turn.

The last story, ‘The Visit’ is a rather longer one; it’s the story of ‘The Founder’ making a visit to a small town in the form of a man, confounding expectations and showing people the way he wants them to live.

Overall I enjoyed re-reading this short story collection, and would recommend it in a low-key way. Not currently in print, but can sometimes be found inexpensively in charity shops or second-hand stores online.

Review by copyright 2016 Sue's Book Reviews

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