August 5, 2009 > Book Review: He Flew Too High
Book Review: He Flew Too High
Reaching toward perfection is a complex and hazardous effort, rife with danger and catastrophic consequence. Using his personal repository of experience as an "angry Mennonite Boy," local author Ken Yoder Reed recounts through the fictional character Saul MacNamara, a quest to follow a perceived true path to God despite the risk of alienation from his loved ones and others whose pursuit lies on in a different direction.
Reed uses an allegorical setting of a Mennonite community, poorly understood by others and stereotyped by their insular ways. This is a "modern" parable of the Greek mythological tale of Icarus whose flight using wings of feathers and wax abruptly terminated when soaring too close to the sun. MacNamara receives a vision of nuclear incineration of his Mennonite world spurred by alienation from a life too close to the dawn of weapons of the atomic age. Horror and rejection of this revelation coupled with single-minded ascension toward righteousness presages disaster as the deliberate world of Mennonites is, by MacNamara's reckoning, too slow to cope. He believes it is his sacred mission to zealously "stand in the gap" between annihilation and salvation.
Disastrous consequences follow as a splinter group not only separates but emigrates to foreign soil. As tragedy ensues, Reed notes that his tale is "not a feel good story," rather a dose of reality allowing readers to understand that "Our God specializes in broken people." Characters are real with strength and foibles easily recognizable by all. Although the Mennonite community has a style that may be different in some respects, aspirations and tribulations are as ubiquitous as humanity itself. Redemption is shown as a gift from God, independent of trial and error. Reed notes that although MacNamara, in retrospect, has been imprudent, immersed in a self-righteous haze and may not deserve salvation, "it happens."
The color and tempo of Mennonite life is skillfully woven through the novel as Reed brings real human beings to the story. Individual and societal conflict and resolution are the tapestry from which love of family and community mingle with ethical dilemmas, betrayal and forgiveness. MacNamara can be portrayed as protagonist, hero, anti-hero and villain... multidimensional, imperfect and oh, so human.
Ken Yoder Reed