If I have to pick between a Protestant novelist or a Catholic one, I almost always choose the latter. That probably sounds funny coming from a Methodist, but experience has shown that fiction written by Catholic authors manages to deal with theological issues while at the same time avoiding simplistic, pat answers. Shusako Endo’s Silence is no exception.
The story takes place in Japan in the 1600’s. Though all missionaries have been expelled, several priests enter the country secretly to give pastoral care to the Catholic converts. Father Sebastian Rodrigues has an additional motive for making the trip: One of his favorite seminary teachers had been in Japan as a missionary and was rumored to have denied the faith while under torture. Rodrigues' quest to discover the truth makes up the bulk of the novel's second half.
The book deals with the issues of suffering, persecution, forgiveness, and the efficacy of prayer. (The title refers to God’s seeming indifference to the suffering Christians’ prayers.) Powerful stuff! This is not a light read, nor does it have a nice, neat ending. But if you like to grapple with real-life questions in a well-written book, you’ll appreciate Silence.