Review: Northern Lights: An Anthology

Northern Lights: an anthology

Northern Lights: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Writing in Canada, Byron Rempel-Burkholder, Dora Dueck, Doug Koop, eds.  (John Wiley & Sons, 2008)

What does it mean to be a Christian living in Canada? Does our national identity affect our spiritual one?

The Northern Lights anthology came together as an exploration of “the many faces of being Christian in Canada” (p. 1). In essays and poetry, the selections attempt to trace out our “spiritual geography.”

Northern Lights is filled with beautiful and often thought-provoking writing. When I picked it up, I was glad to see some authors whose work I always enjoy, like Mark Buchanan, Susan Fish, and Linda Hall, and to “meet” many new-to-me authors. The best-known contributors are Bruce Cockburn, Michael Coren, Preston Manning, and Rudy Wiebe.

These are stories to savour slowly, not to rush. Some you may want to chew on for a bit, maybe mull over and discuss with a friend. I liked the ones in the first section, “Dance to Creation,” best.

The anthology is more an exploration of the significance of ideas and events than a simple telling of tales. It feels to me like a literary journal, or perhaps a university-level discussion—not hard to follow, but treading some deep water in places.

It’s almost inevitable to compare Northern Lights with Hot Apple Cider, since both anthologies of Canadian Christian writing released in the same year. They’re both fine books, and I’m glad to see them raising awareness that, yes, there are plenty of talented Canadian Christians who write. I hope many people will read these books and discover new favourite authors.

Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “My books are water; those of the great geniuses are wine—everybody drinks water.” Northern Lights may be a fine wine. Hot Apple Cider may be more of an “everyman” drink. We need both.

Northern Lights is a book well worth reading, and you’ll probably want to look for more works by the authors you like best. You can get it through your local bookstore or online through John Wiley and Sons, Chapters-Indigo or Amazon.ca.

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