The Father’s Tale, by Michael O’Brien, is an impressive book to look at. It clocks in over 1000 pages and is not for the faint of heart.

It’s a LOT of reading.

But wow! WHAT reading!

Here’s literature in the modern day, a little slice of what Dickens might look like if he were writing now. These characters are richly written and real people.

I’ve never been to Russia, and before I read this, I would have thought it unlikely that I would ever go. O’Brien makes his story a journey, and while you may not feel that you need to know how everything looks, I didn’t find it overwhelming or to be too much.

In other words, I loved the book.

On the surface, it’s a good story. Dad finds out that son disappears, takes off for the first time ever from his small town and travels around the world. During his journey, he runs into all sorts of interesting folks and crazy adventures.

If you go a little deeper–which, really, you should, after investing all that time in reading it–there’s more to be considered.

First, what is fatherhood? And when we consider ideal fatherhood–not what we have experienced in life, but what God intends–how do we get a clearer picture of God himself, God as our father?

While O’Brien has you wondering just what in the world is going to happen (and there was a point, near the end, when I was convinced I did have it figured out…and I didn’t. Not at all.), he also forces you to do a bit of self-examination.

What does it look like to give it all to God? What does trust in God really entail?

Can I do that?

Or, if you’re me: Are you serious?

If his characters were any less authentic, the story wouldn’t work. I’d have walked away shaking my head, convinced there was no way any real-life person would undertake something so far-fetched.

I’m looking forward to reading other reviews of this book–I’ve kept myself a bit shielded from them, because I wanted to articulate my first thoughts before getting a dose of what other people were saying. This is the kind of novel that has life lessons in it, but that’s not why you read it. Maybe there’s a message in it, and maybe it is the parable of the prodigal son retold.

What I really loved was the story. Any message that was in it was like life itself: integrated into the very fabric of it.

Highly recommended, and one of my favorite reads this year.