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***The Garden at the Edge of Beyond

by Michael Phillips

Reviewed November 24, 2003.
Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1998.  158 pages.
Out of print, but with limited availability on

Like its model, The Great Divorce, by C. S. Lewis, The Garden at the Edge of Beyond is a shell of a story about an experience of life after death used to talk about spiritual principles.  It was tempting to categorize both books as nonfiction, since their main purpose is to communicate spiritual truths.  However, both are in the form of a story, so I’ve listed them as fiction.  I did read this book, not as a story, but chapter by chapter in my daily devotional times.

This book is clearly patterned after The Great Divorce, with the author visiting heaven.  I like it that, as C. S. Lewis had George MacDonald appear as his guide to heaven in The Great Divorce, Michael Phillips had both C. S. Lewis and George MacDonald as his own guides.  He also included several biblical characters.

This story didn’t inspire me as much as C. S. Lewis’s, but it did present some valuable truths.  The overall metaphor of understanding a principle as you smell a plant seemed a little awkward to me.  However, I did like the idea that our choices and actions on earth will determine whether, in heaven, we produce a good aroma or a bad aroma.

“The poor, the rich, the intelligent, the slow, the powerful, the insignificant—all possess like opportunity to use their moments to turn the central thing of character into a bed of radiant beauty and heavenly fragrance or to squander these same moments with self-gratifying choices that cast off a stench rather than a perfume.”

Another fun idea is that characters and creations of authors on earth might be found in heaven.  “God gave us our imaginations as well as our wills for his glory.”

Reviews of books edited by Michael Phillips:
Discovering the Character of God, by George MacDonald
Knowing the Heart of God, by George MacDonald

Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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