Week 50: The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson
This week was a highly eventful one. I traveled to Bangaluru for the weekend to attend a conference and came home to one of the worst storms in Chennai’s history. The combination of torrential rain with howling winds managed to pull a real number on the city. Apart from the damage to trees and property, we were out of power and Internet for three whole days. This meant I ended up reading most of this book under a candle light, which was a little exciting but largely frustrating.
The Testament of Gideon Mack is about a Scottish minister from the small town of Monimaskit who is found dead in the mountains, allegedly of suicide. When a publisher, Harry Caithness receives an autobiographical manuscript written by Gideon Mack, chronicling his life, his interest is piqued. Most of the book, is this manuscript and it is followed up by details of a small investigation conducted by Harry into its veracity.
Gideon’s transcript begins right at the beginning of his life. Growing up all alone in the cold Manse to a father he hates and mother he doesn’t respect, Gideon realizes quite early on that he lacks faith. Yet somehow he finds himself following his domineering father’s footsteps when he joins the Church of Scotland. Following the death of his wife, Gideon’s life slowly begins to spiral out of control. He becomes obsessed with a stone he spots in the woods, which it appears only he can see. His encounter with the Devil after a near death incident is the final straw and it pushes him into the arms of welcoming lunacy.
James Robertson explores religion, depression, mental illness and immortality in this book in an extremely humorous manner. Gideon Mack is a man full of contradictions. His lack of the faith, the most glaring of them is only the start. His skewed sense of morality lead him to make questionable choices, yet he never stops being an endearing character. This book was an extremely interesting read. Its novel plot and satirical humor paired with the masterly writing makes for some fun reading.