Wild Hope: Stories for Lent from the Vanishing
Illustrated by David Klein
Paperback: Paraclete Press, 2020.
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Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith
Lent is a season for lament. And we undoubtedly have much to lament: racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, greed, climate change, and on and on the list goes. And I suspect that every year, Christians have had plenty to lament, though the mix changes over time. Our sins – intentional or unintentional – fall heavily on others in God’s creation, on other humans, on animals, on plants, on waterways, and on the land.
Gayle Boss’s elegant new book, Wild Hope: Stories for Lent from the Vanishing, is a wonderfully accessible book for readers of all ages that draws us into lament. Specifically, its brief and well-crafted portraits of vanishing animals invite us to lament what we are on the verge of losing if these animals go extinct. Many of the animals that Boss presents are vanishing in large part due to effects of human culture. The Golden Riffleshell Mussel, for instance, was nearly wiped out when a tanker truck overturned in Western Virginia in 1998 spilling hundreds of gallons of a toxic chemical into the Clinch River. Or the polar bear, whose populations are diminishing due to warming arctic regions as a result of climate change.
As Boss reminds us in the book’s introduction, Lent is a time for being awakened out of our self-absorption. Her stories remind us that our ways of living in a consumer-driven culture have detrimental effects on other creatures. Boss isn’t preachy and doesn’t spell out the sorts of actions that would help these animals to flourish. Rather, she simply tells their stories in brief vignettes of about three pages, portraying each as a dazzling creature of God’s handiwork, who by disease, human consumption, or some other scourge has been pushed to the verge of extinction. The lovely full page, pen-and-ink illustrations by David Klein only add to the beauty of this book.
May we enter into lament during this Lenten season, and as we do so, may the grace of Grace change us, so that we are more mindful of the fullness of God’s creation and how we live within it. And, as we are changed, may we find hope that God is at work healing and restoring not just us, but all the wondrous diversity of creation!
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com