Book Review: The Story of B, by Daniel Quinn

Essays by Shalon Sims on education, creative writing and literacy

Book Review: The Story of B, by Daniel Quinn

During my research on spiritual fiction, I was recommended to read Daniel Quinn’s books, Ishmael and The Story of B.  At my local new-and-used bookstore, Companion Book, I found a cheap copy of The Story of B and I was pleasantly surprised while reading it. 

It is a unique blend of fiction and non-fiction and the ‘spiritual’ part is based more in biology than in metaphysics.  In fact, it is really not that metaphysical at all.

I won’t ruin the plot for you by telling you that the main protag is a Laurentian Priest (Christian) who is sent to investigate a group that is preaching a return to animism. The story takes the form of a diary of the priest, written in the first person.

One aspect of the book that I found not only original, but really smart, was the author’s decision to take out the ‘teachings’ from the storyline itself, and to put them at the end of the book in an appendix. That made it easy for the reader to choose whether to focus on the story, or the teachings, and I really appreciated that.

While I found the plot a bit weak, the information I learned while reading the book made up for that weakness. In any case, the characters are all compelling and well-developed.

While reading any book, I always love to savour those bits of poetry (beautiful prose) that really captivate a truth. To be honest, there wasn’t much poetry to find in this book, in my opinion, but here is a small passage I found especially beautiful:

“Nothing in the community lives in isolation from the rest…. Nothing lives only in itself, needing nothing from the community. Nothing lives only for itself, owing nothing to the community. Nothing is untouchable or untouched. Every life is on loan from the community from birth and without fail is paid back to the community in death. The community is a web of life, and every strand of the web is a path to all the other strands…. Nothing lives on a strand by itself, unconnected to the rest.”

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