NOVEMBER READING: THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE by Emily Maguire
Luke Butler has recently been appointed senior pastor at an evangelical Christian youth centre in suburban Sydney. He is in his late 20s, and never known any life apart from the orphanage he was brought up in following his abandonment at birth, or the church to which he has devoted his life to and where he has finally found a family of sorts. He has no knowledge, or indeed any desire to find out about his birth parents or family. Luke's life is one of order, devotion, tolerance and adherence to God and the teachings of the Bible.
Across the road from the youth centre is, in a bizarre situation of polar opposites, a family planning clinic, managed by the very capable, compassionate and real Aggie Grey. Aggie has a complicated back story too, but wildly different from that of the chaste and clean living Luke. She is a counsellor at the clinic, dispensing contraceptive and relationship advice, helping those with gender identity and sexual orientation issues, counselling women with unwanted pregnancies, and dealing with sexual diseases.
The snake on the cover of the book does not need an apple to tell you what is going to happen when these two meet. An instant and dangerous connection sees them both compromising their deeply held values and beliefs. Into this mix comes 16 year old Honey, pregnant, alone and without a clue as to what she should do. She has been treated very badly by the men in her short life, and she is inextricably drawn into the powerful relationship bubbling away between Luke and Aggie.
The time worn theme of two people falling in love at the wrong time in the wrong place is at the core of this novel. And just like Romeo and Juliet, there are myriad forces at play to prevent any lasting happiness. The elephant in the room is 'abortion' and what is seen to be in the best interests of Honey by the pro life and pro choice factions, ie the church and everyone else. As expected, things rapidly spiral out of control, and there is no happy ending in sight.
Despite the deep and controversial subject matter, this is a straightforward and easy book to read. The characters are perhaps a little too stereotyped and one dimensional, but this is an important subject with neither a right or wrong answer that has been intelligently handled.