Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor

I have come to love southern gothic literature in the last few years. I think I needed life experience in order to truly appreciate the humor and the truth in it. For this reason, I have never been a big fan of Flannery O’Connor, until now. I recently read O’Connor’s novel Wise Blood. From the first chapter I became a fan. This is the story of Hazel Motes, a young man recently released from the Army and in search of a new life. His family is dead, and he is struggling to deny the faith he was raised under. He meets Asa Hawks and his daughter Lily Sabbath. Asa is an apparently blind street preacher, and Lily is searching for a better life for herself. Motes recognizes the truth about Hawks, and decides to prove himself a greater cynic, by creating his own “church”, The Church of Christ Without Christ.

There are only a few characters in the rich novel, but each one is searching for something that they believe Motes can give them. Enoch Emery, another lost soul, is sure that Motes is right, and he does all in his power to befriend him. Mrs. Flood, Mote’s landlady believes they can have a life together. Hoover Shoats wants to work with Motes to develop a money scam.

Early in Wise Blood, you know that all of these people are on a collision course, with Motes in the middle. There is simply no way this novel is going to end well. And yet, it is a thoughtful, compelling and lyrical novel you will not want to put down.

Wise Blood was O’Connor’s first novel, in her very small body of works. She died at age 39. One has to wonder what incredible characters she would have created had she lived and written longer.

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