Since Flannery O’Connor is my second favorite author, I’m surprised that I have not included one of her books on either year of the 52 books assignment. I wanted to, but I often try to save her for special occasions, as she only has two novels, and I don’t want to tire of them or her.
Wise Blood tells the story of Hazel Motes, a young man returning disillusioned from the Army. Something happened to Motes that caused him to see the folly in believing in God or Jesus Christ. To rebel against this belief, he begins a new career as a street-corner preacher proclaiming the freedom in the gospel message of his church, the Church without Christ. No God. No Jesus. No guilt. In all his proselytizing, it seems that Motes is running from a God that he preaches against, as if the hound of heaven chases him.
The cast of characters is a collection of misfits, hypocrites, and outcasts, all living in a world that they tell themselves is without God. Sometimes, as we run from God, we can run right into Him.
This is not a Christian novel, and much of the content will cause some frowning from the Left Behind fans. It is a novel about a worldview that refuses to acknowledge God, but he will continue to pursue us anyway. God’s chasing after Hazel Motes mirrors Hosea’s chasing after his adulterous wife (which is itself a metaphor for God chasing after the unfaithful Israel).
Flannery comments well on this novel that helps to explain the pursuit:
“For (non-believers) Hazel Motes’ integrity lies in his trying with such vigor to get rid of the ragged figure who moves from tree to tree in the back of his mind. For the author Hazel’s integrity lies in his not being able to. Does one’s integrity ever lie in what he is not able to do?”
Even without this deeper meaning, Wise Blood is an excellent, strange, and funny story that most will enjoy. After reading, you may see how the “ragged figure” is moving from tree to tree in the forest of your life.