The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
In this amazing story, the narrator is a writer who takes a bus on a journey between hell and heaven in a dream. He starts out in a “grey town” and speaks with several passengers on the bus before their arrival at their destination, which ends up being in the beautiful foothills of heaven. Once they arrive at their destination, the passengers realize they are all ghosts and that the landscape is somewhat painful to navigate. They learn that they will solidify and be able to travel better and more easily upon making the choice to stay in this place and travel further into the mountains, which is deeper into heaven. (The alternative to staying is to get back on the bus and journey back to the grey town, which is to choose an eternity in hell.)
I became a sort-of cheerleader as I read the exchange between the ‘ghosts’ and the heavenly ‘spirits’ who came to assist them in making their decisions on whether to stay or return to the grey town. I became exhausted from nearly holding my breath, waiting on the decisions of these ghosts. I felt like the bulk of humanity that was present on that bus was stupid and silly. But Mr. Lewis really represented people well. He gave a good slice of how people really are. It seemed as though the people who suffered from misery in this book wanted other people to be miserable too, to a fault…and they were willing to give up heaven to achieve that. And the people who were trying so hard to make a point while alive and on earth didn’t want to give up their effort to attain heaven, so they gave heaven up.
I won’t go into too much detail because someone I know is reading this book, but I really loved it. I want to read it again, right now. One day I will read it again, and I may even buy it…which is saying a lot because I don’t often buy books.
One interesting idea presented by George MacDonald (the narrator’s heavenly spirit) is this:
“…both good and evil, when they are full grown, become retrospective. Not only this valley but all their earthly past will have been Heaven to those who are saved. Not only the twilight in that town, but all their life on Earth too, will then be seen by the damned to have been Hell. That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say “Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences”: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin. Both processes begin even before death. The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why, at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to blackness down there, the Blessed will say “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven,” and the Lost, “We were always in Hell.” And both will speak truly.”So interesting, that thought. This book is for serious readers only. If you think you *might* want to read it, I beg you to read the summary and if you are still interested in it, then read it. Otherwise, you won’t like it. I loved it.