Walter Wangerin’s The Book of the Dun Cow is certainly one of the most unusual novels to be classified as Christian fiction and, as I learned from teaching the 20th Century Christian Writers course at Grace University this semester, it can be very difficult to describe in brief. But The Book of the Dun Cow is such an excellent novel, one so full of drama and spiritual inspiration, that fans never give up trying to find catchy ways to entice others to read it. My latest attempt? "The Book of the Dun Cow is kinda’ like Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness colliding with Richard Adam’s Watership Down – but more profound and more haunting than one can imagine."
The novel is described in most quarters as a children’s novel and it won many awards in this genre. But I find The Book of the Dun Cow to be anything but children’s literature. Its themes are complex and deeply spiritual; the action is violent and troubling; the mood is as much characteristic of Nordic sagas and medieval mystery plays as it is a Christian cosmology. I’m not saying kids couldn’t understand and appreciate Walter Wangerin’s novel – I’m just saying I’d be a little bit afraid of the kids who could!
So no, I wouldn't recommend The Book of the Dun Cow as children's literature but I definitely do endorse it as a tremendous read for adults, one that satisfies on several levels but which also creates a spiritually healthy curiosity on others. Like The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton or The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein, the author’s characters and story do not always correspond directly with Christian orthodoxy but the Christian applications are readily available and momentous.
The Book of the Dun Cow is a provocative and extremely profitable adventure from Walter Wangerin, Jr. which I heartily encourage visitors of The Book Den to enjoy this summer.