I am an admitted book stalker of Julie Davis and became interested in Save Send Delete by Danusha Goska as she was posting about it at Goodreads.
Her 5 star review of the book sealed the deal for me as I know she does not max out stars lightly.
When I first read the summary of the book I thought it might be a bit like The Loser Letters by Mary Eberstadt. As I really liked that book as it was funny while making some great points. Very pointed satire.
There are points of contact between The Loser Letters and Save Send Delete especially as one is a series of letters to a “spokesmen of the New Atheism” and the the later is a series of emails to a Richard Dawkins type.
The premise of this book is that it details a series of emails to a famous atheist. Mira after having seen this famous atheist on a Bill Moyer’s show on PBS decides to email him. As Julie describes:
She sends him a long, forceful, clever email that she knows will never get past his secretary. Except that he answers. And he won’t let her off the hook with a polite apology.
The book goes on where you only see her emails to this famous atheist intermixed with some to her friend. The “Save Send Delete” refers to the end of each email where one of these words is bolded. This is a rather clever idea and you get an idea of a thought process of initial reaction, revising, changing your mind about what you said, or committing to reply. But this goes on beyond just being clever as it really adding to the narrative of the story.
The often long emails that take so many divergent paths are a wonder to read. They are so funny, pointed, and filled with the realities of life. Political correctness has not only taken a vacation, but I think had run away in alarm. This is not common apologist fare, but a look at the reality of the faith. The “famous atheist” replies (as we draw from context) some of the standard objections and she calls him on the vapidness of some of these arguments. For example the “Your Catholic because you were raised that way and plus you don’t know other faiths” argument. Sometimes in more dissenting publications you see an argument of “Lived experience” as if it was a trump card to the truth. Yet here Mira’s “lived experience” is an argument for the faith and the life she has lived across the world. It also draws from a wealth of information culturally and historically. Strangely at times it even reminded me of Fr. George Rutler and the wealth of information he draws from when he writes, that is is Fr. Rutler was a bit coarser and swore.
These series of letters are just a wonder to read on so many levels. I was so drawn into the book that time and time again I forgot that Mira was a character in the story. Sure a good novel draws you in, but this was beyond that. In just so many ways this novel is brilliant. The relationship between Mira and “Rand” the atheist goes from back and froth from adversarial to common ground respect. What also adds to this novel is that while Mira is arguing for the faith, she has her own difficulties and fallenness. She struggles in her faith while knowing it is true. Her correspondence with “Rand” brings out the desire to be a better Christian.
“Inhale as a believer, exhale as an atheist”
Mira’s struggles are indicative of this phrase she uses. In some ways this is a theme of the book, but not without hope. It brought to my mind the quote “Be pitiful, for every man is fighting a hard battle,.” There is a inner battle going on in both Mia and Rand. The novel also really brought to mind the reality of that quote to something more palpable to me. Are intellects can apprehend a truth while still not fully taking it in.
There are aspects of this book that would have annoyed me if this was a lesser novel. Mia is not the perfectly faithful Catholic as she alludes once to supporting women’s ordination and seemingly homosexual acts. Again I had totally forgotten that Mia was a character in a book. But even this was I think a part of the “Inhale as a believer, exhale as an atheist.”
I wish I had the skill to describe how good this book is and it has been one that gave me a lot to reflect upon. It is not the type of book you just put down after finishing it, because you are just not done digesting it yet. While I have very little impact on what books get better known, I can hardly think of a book that I want to have better known. It deserves all the attention it can get.