A collection of short stories about unity, cooperation, and the sanctity of the natural world.
Murphy’s debut publication includes five interrelated pieces of fiction; all consider the challenges of maintaining harmonious societies. Some, such as an imagined explanation of the infamous 1908 Tunguska explosion, are based loosely on historical events, while others visit unnamed, archetypal cities and villages. A wise, holy man named Hadar serves as a voice of reason in each of the troubled communities Murphy describes. From helping resolve religious differences to encouraging scientific progress in a reactionary society, Hadar repeatedly preaches gospels of peace and tolerance. Epigraphs from the eco-theologian Thomas Berry suggest that the work may have been inspired by his writings, although Murphy offers no explicit context for the tales. Themes about the natural world reign: “How could anyone own the rivers, oceans, and skies? Were not these gifts from Mother Earth for all to share?” In keeping with that removed, somewhat biblical tone, each story reads as a pointed allegory, almost entirely lacking in plot and character development. Murphy’s characters seem to exist only to make metaphorical points, with all of their words and actions tailored to the story’s theme rather than their own motivations. The dialogue, especially Hadar’s, is often trite: “Allow your beliefs to match your greatest hopes and wisdom,” he implores one capital city, “and not your worse fears and intolerances.” As a work of literary fiction, Murphy’s collection emphasizes message over storytelling. As a solely spiritual text, however, it’s more successful. While most of the values Hadar promotes are familiar, Murphy successfully articulates them and offers the occasional thought-provoking perspective, as when Hadar asks: “Are not a person’s beliefs much like a fingerprint?” Whether as an ongoing source of inspiration or a starting point for further study, these tales may prove meaningful to readers inclined toward spiritual exploration.
An impassioned allegory with a thin narrative.