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Silence - William Johnston, Shūsaku Endō Reminded me of The Road in that the characters are faced with some really impossible moral conundrums (although I'm sure the father in The Road would consider the theological and cultural combat in Silence to be a meaningless luxury of people who have food to eat and clothes to wear). Anyway, Silence describes situations that don't seem to offer a satisfying ethical alternative. A Christian reading group could have a great time kicking around the questions that face the Portuguese priest captured during a persecution of Christians in 17th century Japan. Is a priest justified in apostasizing his faith if that will release others from torture? Should mercy for physical suffering win out? Or how about the idea that the missionary priests came to Japan with the intention of laying down their lives for their flock, but instead the peasants are laying down THEIR lives for the priests--the whole history of missionary work offers a lot of discussion fodder.

And, if you're worried about enduring a lot of horrible torture scenes (as I was), Endo actually doesn't go into great detail on the worst of it. So it's grim, but bearable reading. Actually, the historical note written by the translator is the most gruesome part of the book.

Now, of course, I want to read about a couple of real apostate priests on whose history Endo drew. (Unfortunately, some of the records on one of them were incinerated in the atomic blast at Nagasaki.)