Jan 25, 2012
We all know the parable of the prodigal son.
The prodigal goes to his father, demands his inheritance early, and wisps away to waste his fortune in lasciviousness and profligacy. The son’s life degenerates to the lowest possible point: he finds himself longing for the pods upon which the swine eat. As the son realizes the depths to which he has descended, he experiences an epiphany in his reasoning process: his erstwhile life presents itself to his consciousness, and his conversion process begins. As the prodigal son returns to his father, he experiences a continual and ongoing recognition of his own sinfulness and of the generosity and love of his father, a love of which he knows he is not worthy. We then are treated to the emotional reunion, when all attempts at confession are swept aside as the son is embraced by his father, as contrition is greeted with mercy. Quite simply, it is one of the most powerful stories in all of Scripture.
But the story of the prodigal son is focused almost entirely on the son. We are not privy to the internal experience of the father. We know that the father was a man of compassion, anticipating the return of the son, willing before even seeing him to forgive all, to restore all, if only given the opportunity. But ultimately, we don’t know what the father’s sacrifice really cost.
Michael O’Brien’ s newest novel, "The Father’s Tale," is an attempt to approximate that sacrifice. O’Brien has made his name as an author by taking religious themes and presenting them in a unique way. His penchant for recognizing and highlighting the spiritual battles that underlie any physical suffering in the world is well known. But in his latest novel, his ambition has magnified.