I recently finished Tobit’s Dog by Michael Nicholas Richard. I had great hopes for this historical fiction, as one always sees it pasted in the Ignatius Press catalogue near the likes of Sigrid Unset and Michael O’Brien–both both excellent authors.
Essentially this novel is a retelling of the biblical book of Tobit, but with an American, racial spin, being set in North Carolina during the Depression. Now, I love the biblical book of Tobit, so as I said, I had great hopes for this modern twist.
Alas, I was disappointed–not disappointed enough to quit reading it, mind you, but just disappointed. It’s like getting all psyched up for a run in the wintertime. You know, when you commence putting on layer upon layer of clothing, pull that face mask on, and then realize the wind’s whipping at 30mph with the thermometer hovering at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. What to do? Suck it up and get going, of course. Realizing that you’re in for a doozy and that things might not end well.
So as I say, I was disappointed in Tobit’s Dog, and here’s why.
Firstly, the characters were all limp and toneless. I mean, there was no real depth to Tobit, Tobias, Anna, Sarah, Gaston Walker, Judge Oliver, Mason Newberry, Del Gaines, Ben Cobb, Crafy Forgeron, Doc Mack…well, all of them. There were too many characters in this book. It was distracting. Like on page 9, not kidding, I had to start writing them down. When I got to 20 names, by the first third of the book, I just quit with it. And let me tell you, there were many more to come.
Secondly, I was dissatisfied with the plot. I didn’t mind it when Richard downplayed the great fish miracle or lowered the number of husbands killed by the demon, or used blessed water from Lourdes to cure Tobit’s blindness, but throwing in that disturbing suicide scene and adding the sodomy bit was…too much. Not too much as in I can’t handle grotesque situations, no. Too much, as in it was too hasty, barely scratching the surface of human nature, and corny and hackneyed. In fact, the whole book had a deplorable element of triteness.
That said, would I recommend it? Maybe, if you’re desperate for a read that won’t assault your Christian morals. Richard does get that right, and I commend him for it. You know, the good is good, and the bad is bad. And good wins. Thanks be to God.
A Note on Moving
Lastly, we’re in the final stages of packing a household of 9 and about to sail across 500 miles of prairie to disembark in a forest. It’s rather exciting around here, and I’m a bit distracted.
In other words, it’ll probably be a few weeks before I can offer another post.