Great Divorce

Great Divorce

by C. S. Lewis
Publisher: HarperCollins
Trade Paperback, 146 pages
List Price: $17.99 Sale Price: $15.29

In this book C. S. Lewis again employs his formidable talent for fable and allegory. The writer, in a dream, boards a bus on a drizzly afternoon and embarks on an incredible voyage through Heaven and Hell. He meets a host of supernatural beings far removed from his expectations and comes to significant realizations about the ultimate consequences of everyday behavior. This is the starting point for a profound meditation upon good and evil. "If we insist on keeping Hell (or even earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell."

Review by Amanda Evans

Idealist, former perfectionist, and now mother of five, Amanda Evans is also former co-owner of Exodus. Amanda's reviews focus on those items that matter to wives and mothers (which covers more than you might think!). Read more of them here.

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  Another Gem From Lewis
Amanda Evans of Clackamas, OR, 8/5/2010
In this book, Lewis tells of a dream or vision he has in which he has died and gone to the afterlife. He starts out in a drab, dreary city in constant twilight full of lonely souls who do nothing but bicker. He joins several of them on a bus and they journey up to a green valley, a kind of "Valley of the Shadow of Life." Everything there is more real than they are. Their ghostly bodies can't affect anything. The grass feels like spikes under their feet and a leaf is too heavy to lift. In the east the sun is about to rise and yet the light never changes.

Lewis wanders around watching the other ghosts react to this place and listens as people who belong there (real, shining people) try to convince them to stay. Eventually he finds George MacDonald who explains things to him.

In the last few pages Lewis discovers that all Hell—that dreary city he first came from—is but a crack in the dirt. "For a damned soul is nearly nothing: it is shrunk, shut up in itself....First they will not, in the end they cannot, open their hands for gifts, or their mouths for food, or their eyes to see." Lewis asks, "Then no one can reach them?" And MacDonald answers, "Only the greatest of all can make himself small enough to enter Hell. Only One has descended into Hell."

When Lewis asks if He will ever descend again, MacDonald explains that Time doesn't work like that outside of Earth. You can't answer questions outside of time in the same way because there are no possibilities except the Real and the answers cannot be given to mortal ears. Time is the lens through which we see something that would otherwise be too big to see. That thing is Freedom. Outside of time we only see the predestined reality. And yet the choices we make in life are "truer than any philosopher's theorem." You can't know eternal reality as a definition; we have to live it one choice at a time.

In the end, his vision was just a dream and the bitter drink of death is still before him. The picture of Truth and Reality was a little clearer, but it was still seen through the lens of Time.