Due to my fondness for the Artemis Fowl series, I decided to give this book a shot. Unlike Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl, this book is a single novel; since there isn’t a large commitment, those of you who are reluctant to invest in a new series can get away with a nice, shorter read.
The setting is modern day Ireland. We begin with a fourteen-year-old girl (Meg Finn) who breaks into an old man’s (Lowrie McCall) home to steal his retirement money. She is accompanied by the troublesome Belch Brennan and his vicious dog. Unfortunately for them, Lowrie meets the robbers with a gun. Unfortunately for Lowrie, Belch’s dog was able to move faster. Meg stops Blech from killing the old man, but this caused the boy to turn his anger on her instead.
The result was the death of both Meg and Belch (and his dog). Belch inadvertently merges with the body of his dog as he is hurled to the fiery pits of Hell. Meg on the other hand, with her final act of goodness, finds that she is inbetween both Heaven and Hell. Because of this she is given the opportunity to go back to earth as a ghost and try to make things right. By doing so she would offset the balance and be allowed to enter the gates of eternal paradise.
Satan has another thing in mind. His subordinate sends the dog-boy version of Belch back to the land of the living to stop Meg from achieving her goal, and thus, send her to Hell. What was the goal to be exact? To help Lowrie (the old man she tried to rob, but ended up saving) accomplish his Bucket List before his heart gives out. With odds against her, Meg does all she can to fulfill a dying man’s dream, and Belch does all he can to stop her.
Eoin Colfer is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. His use of wit, quality of writing, and dynamic range of characters are refreshing and a joy to read. I love the subtleties and character conversations in The Wish List. It’s a satisfying story with a satisfying ending. Well worth a read.
Things to consider:
The first thing I want to make clear here is that this is a work of fiction. The description of Heaven and Hell (and how one gets there) is not meant to be taken theologically. Every author runs the risk of stepping on toes when writing on such a topic, but Colfer gets by with this because he lightens the tone. The story is not meant to be taken literally, but figuratively. With this in mind, as a parent, be sure to explain this to your children; just in case they don’t understand the difference. There are a few disturbing scenes that may bother younger children, but overall a fairly clean tale. No sexual content, extensive foul language, or excess of violence. Great for preteens plus, and equally targeted to both girls and boys.
Opportunities for discussion:
This was a hard one for me because I’ve gone back and forth with trying to decided if I should (1) approach the issues Christians will have, or (2) address the true meaning behind the story. So I will briefly attempt to do both. First, this story makes it sound like a person is measured by their deeds, good and bad, and is then sent to Heaven or Hell based on which they did more of. In a theological sense, we know that even the best of deeds is not good enough. It would be like arguing that $100 for a Lamborghini Reventon is better than $0.50. Both fall far short of the $1,600,000 price tag. As a believer, the only way we can afford the cost of an eternal paradise is to accept it as a free gift. Anything else would only be an insult to the giver.
Secondly, there’s a powerful message of redemption in the story. Even though one’s passage to the “pearly gates” is not defined by deeds, we are called to be people of a certain sort. That is, people who seek to do good rather than wickedness. Both Meg Finn and Lowrie McCall discovered this when finalizing the unsolved areas of their lives. One of the primary being that vengeance does not lead to life; forgiveness does. In a biblical sense, we are told that for us to acquire forgiveness from the Father we must also extend it to our fellow man. Be sure to talk to your kids about these things after they read the story. We don’t want them to miss out on the great messages behind the text.