Mute little Gibbie Galbraith leaves the city's slums when his father dies, seeking safety in the Scottish Highlands his family once inhabited. Pure-hearted and intelligent, Gibbie finds a new family, but also makes enemies among those who think he is half-witted, insolent, or a thief. He grows into a fine young man and eventually inherits a home of his own.
I was kind of irritated by this book when I'd first finished reading it because Gibbie doesn't really have a character arc. He starts out pure, kind, and sweet, and he remains pure, kind, and sweet. He's too perfect, too Christ-like to be realistic. But then I started thinking of him as being not so much a character as a catalyst, someone who doesn't change, but causes others to change. And that fits the story very well, I think, as it's got this otherworldly feel to it, like an idealized version of the Highlands.
I did enjoy this story, but I didn't love it. Much of that is because it had a heavy insistence on inner goodness and inner purity, with characters having an inborn ability to emulate God by ones own efforts, and I don't believe that's true at all. I believe that people are born spiritually blind, dead enemies of God, and that it's God's love and grace poured into us that enables us to follow him, to try to be like him. There seemed to be an underlying emphasis on works-righteousness here too, with a person's actions and behavior either saving or damning them, rather than their works being presented as a fruit of faith. This is pretty common in Calvinistic Christian fiction, but that doesn't mean I don't object to it. Certainly, a Christian wants to behave like Christ out of love for and gratitude to God -- but their works are good because God has blessed them with his love, not because of their own interior good. And their works don't earn them heavenly rewards.
Anyway. It was an interesting book to read and discuss at my church's book club. Authors I very much admire, including J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, were great fans of MacDonald's books, so it was interesting to try to find ways they may have been influenced by his writing.
Particularly Good Bits:
The only voice he could not hear was his own, and that was just the one he had neither occasion nor desire to hear (p. 154).
If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for physical abuse toward a child and violence.