Anne Rice’s latest novel, Of Love And Evil, continues the story of Toby O’Dare, the unlikely hero of Angel Time. I enjoyed Angel Time, but I was captivated by Of Love And Evil. I read it last week between Austin and Dallas on the first leg of my trip to DC. Toby comes alive in this novel and so do all those around him. Even the angels are simultaneously wholly other and entirely engaging.
It’s not a long book and I don’t wish to reveal the plot. Instead, I want to focus on a single event in the book. In his mission this time, Toby encounters a demon who tries to tempt him at a moment when he is grief-stricken and vulnerable. Toby mistakes the demon for an angel at first, which I found fitting. In the tradition of the Church, demons often masquerade as angels to gain a hearing.
The particular shape the temptation took was especially compelling to me for it drove right to the core of things I have believed and which Toby himself has considered in his past. The demon invoked the idea of an immortal soul that transmigrates from one physical body to another attempting to develop and mature. The demon circled through that frame of reference attempting to get Toby to reject the existence of a personal Maker. The transcendent permeates everything but is not God in the intimately personal Christian sense. Toby acknowledges that system has a coherence and a sort of beauty, but that he had already rejected it. The reason for his rejection flowed on the page in words that could have been uttered by my heart.
I know because deep in my soul, I know there is a God. There is someone I love whom I call God. That someone has emotions. That someone is Love. And I sense the presence of this God in the very fabric of the world in which I live. I know with a deep conviction that this God exists. That He would send angels to His children has an elegance to it that I can’t deny. I’ve studied your ideas, your system, as it were, and I find it barren and finally unconvincing, and cold. Finally it’s dreadfully cold. It’s without the personality of God and it’s cold.
Later, on the demon’s charge that there is no justice, only pain and grief and meaningless attachment, Toby’s prayer again echoes my own.
There is mercy. … And there is justice, and there is One who witnesses everything. And above all, there is love.
And finally, Toby understands he is in the school of love.
I saw a vision of love; I saw that it was no one thing, but a great commingling of things both light and dark and fierce and tender, and my heart broke as the questions broke from my lips.
Christian faith is the poetry of love or it’s worth nothing.