“Trying to explain human emotions and ideas by referring to their molecular foundations is like trying to explain a cathedral by holding up a brick.”
Canadian author Will Ferguson will be best known for his Giller Prize winner 419, a story of internet scams out of Nigeria, a book which I never read, but did get my husband to write a Guest Post about.
The Shoe on the Roof is Ferguson’s latest novel and it has a unique premise. Thomas Rosanoff grew up world renowned as “The Boy in the Box.” His father conducted experiments on Thomas and wrote a leading book on child development. Now Thomas is himself in medical school, and embarking on research of his own. There are three homeless men who all claim to be Jesus. For reasons that will soon become clear when you read the book, Thomas decides to bring them home and study them, and possibly also cure them from their delusions. Of course the whole caper soon falls apart and points to more sinister events at play. I loved the humour in this book, but the story was just ok for me and not as well crafted or suspenseful as I’d expected.
There are however, many interesting explorations of how faith and spirituality mesh with neuroscience in this novel. For example, one of the main characters is talking about a certain type of brain scan and says, “if I hook you up while you’re praying, the neuro-chemical pathways will light up like a map of God!” Another character is talking about finding empathy, reason, etc. in certain locations in the brain, but love? “Love is hard to locate in one particular area. It’s a bit of a mystery really.” 🙂
Guest Post by Dirk Booy:
Most of us have received an email from nowhere promising great riches if we just help someone get through a tough situation. Usually it appeals to our sense of justice, offers a financial incentive, and suggests that a life is in danger if we do not help. The stories are so unbelievable that we simply hit the delete key and wonder who would get suckered into such a scam. ‘419’ explores what happens when someone actually does reply.
Will Ferguson’s book, winner of the 2012 Giller prize, is titled after the Nigerian criminal code, number 419, specifically written to control fraud like email scams. The story tells of how an elderly man responds to such a scam and is eventually ruined by his tormenters. It’s a fascinating behind the scenes look at how such scams operate and why people respond. In the end, it’s a tale of how a family fights back and tries to reverse the damage caused by the scam – both to their family as well as others indirectly involved.
I found it original and captivating. Ferguson weaves a story that takes place in Canada and Nigeria involving different families and shows how a simple email scam can affect so many people. I found his descriptions of Nigeria to be real and authentic. Although the plot and style are somewhat cumbersome, the originality of the story makes it well worth the read.