I have just finished reading an interesting novel, The Eternal Question by Theresa Dawn Sinclair. The title and description of the book intrigued me, as they didn't give too much of the plot away. What exactly, I found myself wondering, is The "Eternal Question?"
Reading this novel was a very thought-provoking experience, and raised not one, but many questions, about The Human Condition. Who are we? Why do we exist? What is our purpose in life? The story revolves around a young man, Rowanson, who belongs to the community of Lowerlanders, and his desire to be with Melody, of the more privileged Upperlanders. The Upperlanders, who have an excess of everything one could want, view the Lowerlanders as savages. While the Upperlanders are enjoying lives of leisure, with an abundance of food, clothing, and entertainment, the Lowerlanders are struggling to survive. Along the way, Rowan crosses paths with the mysterious North, who attempts to enlighten him as to his true path in life.
I could not speed through this novel at my usual pace, but this is not a bad thing, as it gave me a lot to think about. I wanted to read it at a slower pace, to consider all the questions that it raised about love, survival, faith, and our existence. The two cultures depicted in this book are very different. On one hand, we have Rowan's people, the Lowerlanders, whose numbers are slowly dwindling due to hunger and illness. When Rowan's love for Melody takes him to Cera, one of the Seven Cities and home to the Upperlanders, he is shocked by how much they have, and how little they appreciate it. They are content to live their lives, with all its excesses.
Each city is comprised of seven levels, and its inhabitants strive to ascend to a higher level, and to improve their lot in life. The highest level, represents Heaven. The descriptions of the city and the Upperlanders' beliefs, raises more interesting questions. Why do people believe what they believe, or feel what they feel, or do what they do? Because we are told to? Who says we should live life the way we do, and never question it? The character North puts it best, when he tells Rowan, "Men worship gods for no other reason than that they are told to do so....to found a society on mythology is to give birth to a monster without a functioning brain -- it is bound to wreak destruction in the end." For those who follow an organized religion, or believe at all in a higher presence, this question is definitely something to think about.
The book is well written, and the author has come up with a complex and fascinating mythology. The world of Thesos and the Seven Cities comes to life through the author's vivid descriptions. I will say, however, that as beautiful as the language in this book was, at times, I felt the author was a little too descriptive. There must be a balance between too detailed and not detailed enough. I think that at times, this affected the pace of the story, and made it a little difficult to read at some parts of the book.
Overall, I felt that the book was an enjoyable, if occasionally challenging, read. I would definitely recommend it to others, especially those, who enjoy reading and discussing novels with others. It is a great book club novel!
My Rating: 4 stars