Earlier this year I received a book in the mail, a yet unpublished novel written by Christopher Blunt of The Yeoman Farmer. He was kind enough to let me read it before the final editing was done. My wife, LeXuan, happened to get the mail that day and immediately started reading. I didn’t see the book again for two weeks. She brought it with her on all of her motherly errands – violin lessons, piano lessons, organ lessons, etc. – so that she could grab a page or two during her down time. She brought it with her to work to read on her lunch break. She kept the book handy so she could read it while nursing the baby. In our late night conversations, just before bedtime, she would try to tell me about the story without giving too much away. For several weeks, in fact, this book probably made up 10% of our daily conversation – even after we both had finished.
Suffice it to say that Passport is a real page-turner.
I don’t normally go in for books like this. It’s a work of fiction in a contemporary setting, my least favorite literary genre. But the book doesn’t feel like fiction at all. The characters and their lives are all-too real, their errors and failings all-too familiar. The book could be the story of anyone but for a few salient features that make this novel exceptional.
“Passport” is written by a man who quite obviously has traveled some distance himself on the el camino real, the road to sanctity, and because of this he is able to capture the silent workings of grace in the lives of his characters in a way that is beyond the reach of most writers. The main characters – both of them – are faced with agonizing and frankly humiliating choices. Even I, a supposedly seasoned Catholic, found myself longing for the characters to take the easy way out, the way of respectability and comfort and happily-ever-after. Although there is plenty of romance (hence the attraction for female readers), the Catholic life is not romanticized or sugar-coated. In fact the book vindicates one of the primary reasons for my own conversion, the realization that Catholicism is a religion thoroughly obsessed with reality, no matter how messy, no matter the cost, and often the cost is high indeed.
The personalities of the book were meaningful to me. The central character is a man much like myself – in many respects a better man, and in others, perhaps less so. Stan Eigenbauer’s story was, at times, uncomfortable reading due to its honesty and familiarity. I don’t know how many other Catholic men will have the same reaction, but I can think of a few who might (note to self: make sure TSO sees this post and orders a copy). The other characters had remarkable similarities to people I know, or have known in the past, including a certain Vietnamese-born woman who converts from Buddhism to the Catholic Faith.
This is a story about an ordinary man who does an extraordinary thing: he takes up his cross and follows Christ. Despite his hopes of breaking free, he is nevertheless determined to go all the way if he must. In the process, he takes a few others with him – even those who don’t realize they are going – and discovers a new freedom that is beyond anything he has ever experienced.
Every book has a target readership. I’m not sure who Dr. Blunt has in mind, exactly, but in my opinion this is a book best suited for Catholic young people, maybe age 18-30, who are not strangers to the ways of the world. The book is utterly without any trace of obscenity, vulgarity, or objectionable material of any kind. But it does deal with “adult” issues and isn’t something you want your 13 year old homeschooled daughter picking up. The book presupposes a Catholic reader, but I can think of quite a few non-Catholics who would enjoy the book and benefit from it. It is one of those rare books that you will still be thinking about several months after finishing.
“Passport” can be ordered through one of the vendors linked here.
And thank you, Chris, for writing this book. As I told you on the phone, it is a book I should have read twenty years ago!