Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars
As a parable, this story of a city girl who flees to the mountains and discovers the wisdom of the earth is an easy, interesting introduction to spiritual insight. However, Jeanne Webster’s “Strays” fails to deliver the key to a good novel–a compelling plot.
Story: Laid off from her first job as a staff writer for an Atlanta newspaper and stuck in a dysfunctional relationship, Jane retreats to a cabin in the Smokey Mountains to demand guidance from a so-far silent God. When she accidentally falls and hits her head, she acquires a seventh sense that allows her to understand the language of animals and plants. Her divine guidance comes in the form of an abandoned stray dog and a cast of unusual characters who describe their purpose here on earth through enchanting and profound stories. With the animals and plants insights leading her, Jane finds enlightenment, authenticity, personal empowerment, and travels out of confusion and complexity into a world of simplicity and personal choice. As she recaptures her own true nature, she discovers that even the most lost can eventually find their way home. (From amazon.com)
Spiritual/metaphysical content: High. Using magical realism, Webster lets nature talk directly to Jane and help her discover the power of choice and how that affects her life. The teachings are simple and direct, packed with useful life lessons. Novice spiritual seekers will find the teachings easy to read and understand.
My take: As an extended parable, Strays is well-written and effective. Webster constructs a believable world with strong chick lit influences in which spiders, trees and snakes communicate shared wisdom in a seamless, natural fashion. I found the book more fun to read than the comparable The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and much better written. However, I can’t wholeheartedly endorse the book as a great novel because it lacks a sense of drama and anticipation. Strays delivers simple and useful spiritual lessons; however, the lessons are not seamlessly integrated into a compelling plot filled with fascinating characters, which is the foundation of good spiritual fiction. I don’t want to discourage anyone from reading the book, but don’t expect to be enthralled while you’re being educated.
Strays, by Jeanne Webster
Dupois North Publishing, 2010
Paperback, 232 pages
Buy at Amazon