Shadow Doctor: The Past Awaits by Adrian Plass

The Shadow Doctor – or is it Adrian Plass himself, in his inimitable way? – tantalises his characters – especially Jack, his young trainee partner. He also frequently leaves us readers in suspense as he delves off onto some unlikely sidetrack, which later turns out to be somehow relevant. The trick works. And, as a result, it’s hard to put this book down at the end of a chapter.

Jack has his list of questions and so do we. By the end, a few of them get answered.

Each encounter seems to reveal a desperate person struggling with some traumatic past experience. As the Shadow Doctor – guided by some mystical insight – gets involved, apparently trivial remarks lead to unexpected revelations and – we have to assume – long-term resolutions.

The narrative culminates in Doc’s talk at a lively, avant-garde church, which is led by an ex-drug addict. His puzzling central text, “Only the fire born understand blue . . .”, highlights this idea that undergoing a major crisis is a necessary prerequisite for spiritual maturity.

Understandably, Jack questions this, “I don’t know what it means to crash and come back again … I’ve never been as far down, or as high up, as you. Do you think it matters?” To which Doc replies, “There’s no actual virtue in misery” and leaves it at that.

This book offers a refreshingly different approach to following Jesus. At times lighthearted, at others earnest, it demands neither formal rituals nor other merits. We long, like Doc, to experience ‘the Flow’.

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