Anyone who's close to me knows I've been on a serious C.S. Lewis kick, lately. I was at the beach with my family a couple weeks ago, and I was close to finishing "Mere Christianity." Naturally, I needed something else to read, because reading by the ocean is one of the greatest simple pleasures there is. We went to an absolutely delightful bookstore (shoutout to Sundog Books in Seaside, Fla.), and I picked up the first C.S. Lewis book I could find, which happened to be "The Screwtape Letters."
Boy, was I in for an experience. If you're looking for something relaxing to read while the waves crash in the background, or something to ease your mind right before you nod off to sleep, this is not it. Lewis himself said about his writing, "Though I have never written anything more easily, I never wrote with less enjoyment... The world in which I had to project myself while I spoke through Screwtape was all dust, grit, thirst and itch. Every trace of beauty, freshness and geniality had to be excluded. It almost smothered me before I was done."
Never have I read a book that was so deep and so called for notes to be taken and phrases highlighted. With the exception of the Bible, I've never read something that so called to be dissected, annotated and taken line-by-line to get at the meaning of the sentences.
Without giving a great deal away (because I highly recommend this book to anyone, whether you're a theology nerd like me or just someone looking for a read that will get you thinking), this book is an series of letters written by a being called Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood. They are Satan's henchmen, called "Tempters." The narrative Lewis creates gives rise to the idea that each human has one Tempter inside of him or her--a sort of counter to everyone's "guardian angel--and their sole purpose is for each human to be tempted away from God (referred to as "The Enemy" throughout the novel), and released into the hands of the devil.
What was so jarring was the seeming simplicity of the methods Screwtape suggested to his nephew to draw his "patient" away from God. It reinforced the fact that Hell is not a place entirely occupied by Hitlers or Henry VIIIs. It's littered with people like us who surrounded themselves by the wrong people for too long, who neglected their duties to the ones they love or who adopted the wrong mindsets in times of crisis.
But what made it so beautiful was that, in the end, Wormwood lost his patient to "the Enemy." He fell in love with a woman who was strong in her faith, surrounded himself with good people, and despite the fact that they were in a time of war (much of Lewis' writing took place during and after World War II), he clung to his faith and adopted a mindset that prevented the Tempters from properly doing their job.
Throughout the book, good prevails over evil, and even the most disgusting and depraved of creatures found themselves in awe of the love God had for his children.
Though it is decidedly not the conventional beach read; "The Screwtape Letters" is a must-read.