For a C.S. Lewis aficionado like me, choosing a favorite of his works is like asking me which of my five senses is my favorite.
Um … all of them?
After all, most of his books are so different that it’s nearly impossible to compare them, spanning from his space trilogy to the apologetic Mere Christianity. But if I had to pick one that stood out from the others, I would have to choose Till We Have Faces. Lewis considered this book, written later in his life, one of his best works. When an author says that, it’s probably a good time to sit up and pay attention.
Till We Have Faces is the retelling of the Greek myth of Psyche and Cupid from the perspective of Psyche’s older sister, Orual. Psyche is beautiful; Orual is ugly. But far from a story of sister rivalry, the book follows Orual’s dedicated—even obsessive—love for her sister.
Over spring break, I picked up Till We Have Faces at a friend’s house with the understanding it was about one woman’s complaint against the gods and being satisfied with not knowing, something I was interested in. So I muddled through, trying to understand. The tone is much more archaic and serious that many of Lewis’ other works. Having come off Abolition of Man and The Great Divorce, I found it a bit jarring, even slow at points. The first part of the book is fast-paced, but it soon moves into a meandering chronicle of Orual’s years as queen. I knew Lewis considered it his best work, but I couldn’t help questioning his judgment.
Don’t be fooled. Finish the book—you won’t be disappointed.
The last 30 pages or so turns a startling corner. To say much would spoil the ending. Suffice it to say Lewis brilliantly redefines the entire book into a glorious exploration of what it really means to love another person. And the answer may not be what you expect.
The “aha!” moment for me came when I read:
“I loved her as I would once have thought it impossible to love, would have died any death for her. And yet, it was not, not now, she that really counted. Or if she counted (and oh, gloriously she did) it was for another’s sake. The earth and stars and sun, all that was or will be, existed for his sake. And he was coming.”
This book is not a light read and deserves to be read slowly, preferably with a Bible sitting nearby. But if you’re looking for a thought-provoking read, I highly recommend this book.