Friday, January 11, 2013

The Solemn Lantern Maker

The Solemn Lantern Maker
By Merlinda Bobis

In looking for Christmas-themed books, I came across this one and was intrigued. I read the back cover which promised hope. I thought to myself, "This will be perfect for Christmas!"

Was I ever wrong.

The Solemn Lantern Maker is a boy, Noland, from Manila who has not spoken for years -- ever since the day his father was killed. He and his mother live in extreme poverty in the midst of the city's sewage. His mother, who is crippled, takes in laundry and he makes this beautiful lanterns out of paper. As the day of Christmas approaches, Noland follows his new friend Elvis to a busy intersection to sell his wears. A beautiful American lady is caught in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting and the boys whisk her away to Noland's poor shanty where her angel appearance is echoed by the salvaged pictures of angels decorating the hut's interior. As larger forces converge on them to "rescue" this foreigner, Noland himself is in danger of darker forces that lurk among the native population.

This book is dark, depressing and really quite hopeless. In fact, we never really see what happens to the  American -- does she ever overcome her own problems -- and I was not clear if Noland and his mother found any kind of happy ending.

What did this book have to do with my faith? In America, we forget how poor the remainder of the world really is and how Christmas is not such a wonderful time for everyone else. In fact, we tend to forget most of the worlds underprivileged population the remainder of the year as well. Bobis points to their poverty as well as the awful situations hopeless people allow themselves to be a part of in order to have bread on the table and a place to sleep. I found it important to really look at all the privileges I have, especially during the Christmas season and wonder how I can use my blessings to help others. Hopefully, I have done more than wonder this season and can continue to act on my faith to help others throughout the year.

I do not recommend this book -- it is really depressing!

Happy reading other books!


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