A review of The Shadow Doctor by Adrian Plass
My introduction to Adrian Plass came in 1996, when his Sacred Diary was first published. It was funny, revealing, challenging and ultimately showed a real affection for the very things he gently mocked. His book was a rounded stick with a cushioned end which served if not to poke our sacred cows then to nudge them and make them moo for their supper!
One of the lines from the Diary which I have now remembered for over 30 years is Plass’ description of Christian paperbacks as being ‘like Chinese meals – nice at the time but not long before you need another one’. Shadow Doctor is not such a book. For a start, it is in hardback – but the difference runs far deeper than that.
This book will jangle the nerves of anxious Christendom. Some will toss it aside in disgust, and others will read it quietly and see themselves reflected in its pages. In this, it is much like The Shack, by W. M Young – whose commendation appears on the cover. Ultimately, it is the language of this book which will set it apart. Who but Plass would talk about an ‘evangelistic eczema‘ which needed to be scratched? There is real pathos in the description of an hour as ‘sixty minutes dragging me down like a necklace of lead weights’. For me, the most memorable description is of the words of comfort offered to others as being ‘like bubble wrap. The little air pockets go pop as soon as I apply pressure to them‘. To find out who says that, and why, you will need to read the book.
If I had one criticism, it would be that the book feels rather like the first two acts of a three act play. With deftness and understanding the author sets the stage and introduces the characters. On turning the page I felt rather as if they had departed a perfectly dressed stage and left me staring at it as they exited to the wings. Then again – maybe that is how I was meant to feel? I should ask the Shadow Doctor about that…