Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Evil in Dispirited

Luisa Perkins’ newish novel, Dispirited, personifies evil in the form of Zared, a spirit who steals the body of Blake Something, and inhabits the body for most of the boy’s teenage years. Inside of Blake, he causes the body to indulge in vices—pornography, heroin, pedophilia—which horrify his step-sister Cathy, and cause her to engage in a struggle to expel Zared from Blake’s body, and return it to its rightful spiritual owner.
          Thus the theological questions are ushered in: What is the source of evil? How are the spirit and body related? Is the spirit responsible for the body’s actions? Can one person’s spirit be replaced by an evil one? What is spiritual identity?

          Perkins’ novel not only raises these questions, but brilliantly tackles them with impressive complexity and texture. Zared didn’t just overtake Blake by magic; Blake’s body was vulnerable from grief over the loss of his mother. And Blake’s “true” spirit is personified too, in the innocent, powerless figure of a little boy. It’s not a black and white story—everything is shrouded in a difficult veil, which forces the reader to reflect on what they really believe about sin, agency, and the soul of man.

          Should novels address these kinds of issues? The answer is a clear “duh”—novels provide a new lens with which to study reality, and how to cope with it in humanity. Whether or not Perkins’ novel accurately reflects Mormon dogma is irrelevant; the fact that she chooses to talk about Mormon issues at all sets her novel apart from the floods of cheap literature that line most “Best Sellers” shelves. Perkins’ premise provides an opportunity for readers to think—not just be entertained—to question—rather than just memorize answers. The closer our literature gets to reality, the better, and Perkins’ novel approaches spiritual reality in a way that is laudably accessible for people.


  1. I agree that the book is thought-provoking whether or not it's perfectly Mormony or whatever. Questions of good, evil, body, and spirit can relate to a bigger realm of people than just LDS.

    I like that you identified specific questions the reader might ponder.

  2. I like how the book does more than give simple answers to the questions you mention. It forces you to think and consider these issues in a new way, which is a quality of a good novel.

  3. I totally agree. My post has certain similarity to yours in that I also formulated a lot of questions that Perkins's novel raised for me through her novel. I found that because she was willing to examine the reality and plausibility of spirits, I was able to more fully examine my beliefs on the subject, giving rise to many questions and many potential answers I hope I find someday.