Gina BURKART, Finding Purpose in Narnia: A Journey with Prince Caspian. Mahwah: HiddenSpring, 2008. pp. 163. $16.00. ISBN 13: 978-1-58768-028-1 (pbk.).
Reviewed by Dolores L. CHRISTIE, CTSA/John Carroll University, UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, OH 44118

This new book from the subsidiary of Paulist Press should tantalize those who are addicted to C.S. Lewis as well as those who find motivation and growth in spiritual reading. Burkhart promises the reader insight into the work of the prolific English convert through an examination of his popular Narnia series, in particular Prince Caspian. She organizes the exploration around the key themes of faith, hope, and love.

Part 1, “Finding Faith,” sets the pattern for “Holding on to Hope” and “Learning to Love.” The reader is exposed to a series of brief reflections that purport to link Lewis’ journey of faith with the major Narnian character, Prince Caspian. Following each reflection the author offers an anecdote from her own faith life or from commonly known events (the tragic shooting in Pennsylvania of Amish schoolchildren, for example) and some tentative connections to scripture. Questions on “Finding Purpose” and reflections on scripture follow each section. Scripture passages are suggested for further reading.

The reader who is an ardent fan of Lewis will recognize the allusions to his Narnia characters and to other material. One who has not read much Lewis will find both footnotes and a brief bibliography to supplement this lack. Nevertheless, both genre of readers will want more. The marvelous conversion experience of Eustace in Voyage of the Dawn Treader comes to mind as a paradigmatic story of faith. The author barely touches the surface as she makes connections between the spiritual journey of C. S. Lewis and his work.

The title is misleading. The illustrative material often is drawn from the more serious works of the Lewis corpus. The adventures of the Pevensie children play as large or larger part in her exploration as does Caspian, the Narnian prince. Perhaps this was a better direction to follow, since Lewis’ journey of faith is more explicitly exposed in his works of serious prose than in his fiction. Arguably Surprised by Joy and Letters to Malcolm, which figure prominently in Burkhart’s book, are the best expressions of the British writer’s coming to faith.

The author is at her best in the questions she offers for reflection. Perhaps the reviewer’s general apathy toward pious books causes her to conclude that Burkart performs at a lesser level with her subjective conclusions on how God has worked in her personal life. Perhaps the author tries to do too much: Lewis, Narnia, personal history, scripture, questions. A too ambitious task will dilute the best of intention and of talent. Bottom line? Better books to explore the mind and faith of C.S. Lewis have been written. One could offer Alan Jacobs’ study in The Narnian (HarperSanFrancisco, 2008) as an example.

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