book 1 of 10 for Orbis Terrarum 09
genre: historical fiction
Silence takes us to the Japan of the 17th century. Christianity has been outlawed and extreme and horrible measures are taken to convince Christians to apostatize. It is into these conditions that Father Rodrigues leaves his Portuguese home, with his companion Father Garrpe, and travels to Japan to try and do some good as a missionary, as well as to hopefully confirm or deny rumors that his former mentor had apostatized under duress.
It's not a pretty story. The torture and treatment of Christians is bad enough, but Father Rodrigues's life in Japan (half told through his letters and half told through 3rd person narrative)
is a constant struggle against the force of Japan and its people. When he is able to be in his role as priest and has a flock of Japanese Christians that he can watch over, he sees a purpose for himself but as things get more difficult, his faith is put to the test more than he could ever have imagined.
The Father's internal struggle with his faith and the apparent silence of God was hard for me to read. I found myself often searching my own faith and how I would come to terms with having to watch the blatant suffering of true believers. Would I be strong enough? Would Father Rodrigues be strong enough to stand up when the time came that he had to choose faith and death or apostasy and a pseudo-life as a Japanese citizen?
The text itself often felt repetitive. I suppose in such a situation, our thoughts WOULD be repetitive, as we are trying to work out our salvation and God's plan for the world and his people, but it still bored me in some places. The author certainly gave us a taste of Japan in this time period, as well as the different faces of the Japanese people. In the end, I think it was worthwhile reading, but not easy reading.