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Book Review: Mia’s Magic Wand

Thursday, 17 December 2020  | Terry Hunter

Mia’s Magic Wand

By Peter Volkofsky

(Self-published on Kindle, 2017)

Who doesn’t love a good story!

Usually it has intrigue (unpredictable adventure), characters and situations with which we can identify, and risk taking. There’s something about ‘watching’ others (usually from a safe distance) taking risks with their lives – it raises our adrenaline, our sympathy or empathy, even our ire, as we share to some degree in their predicament. When the story ends in a way that affirms our shared sense of good triumphing over evil (at a micro or macro life level) - when people ‘get what they deserve’ in the end - we can move on in our lives feeling that justice ultimately prevails through whatever powers there are that guide or control the universe (and ensure a just outcome) – powers that are mostly predictable, friendly and life-affirming rather than capricious and destructive.

Mia’s Magic Wand certainly fulfills the criterion of ‘unpredictable adventure’, and the writing skills of the author certainly enable the reader to share in the deep knowledge of its characters. But whether it affirms one’s existing Christian faith worldview or uncomfortably cuts across it will be an issue for some readers.

This 500-page thriller is set in contemporary Sydney and takes us on a fugitive journey with a youngish mother and social worker, her ‘married-to-the-army’ husband, and a modern day abbot from a training seminary, and ends in an edge-of-seat confrontation in the Australian outback.

Each of these main characters wants to fix what’s wrong with this dangerous world while using their own well-honed de-risking strategies of feminine wiles, weapons and special forces training, and spiritual insight and prayer. This is a strange juxtaposition.

When the mother gets raped, she finds herself in possession of a ‘digital vault’ containing damning evidence of high-level political corruption. Those threatened by the potential exposure will use all the power at their disposal to retrieve the video archives and destroy those in possession of it.

This is the first fictional work by Australian author Peter Volkofsky. Peter’s life’s purpose, gleaned from his writings and blog site, and from one conversation I’ve had with him, is to communicate the good news of God’s grace toward and desired friendship with all his fellow ‘fallen’ humans – humans whose foolishness is not only in trying to make sense of life independent of their Maker, but also in wrapping the ways of God up into neat, predictable, manageable theological bundles. Volkofsky’s mission, like the wandering monks of Christian history, involves walking alongside ordinary pilgrims - here it is contemporary Aussies in the midst of their anger, despair and failed pursuits - and opening a thoughtful dialogue with them at a friendship level as he journeys with them. While ultimately pointing to the grand biblical narrative’s Author and Sustainer of life, who alone enables us to make (some) sense of this beautiful crazy world, he refuses to do this with the typical tools of evangelicalism which can so easily slide into facile and meaningless clichés that belie the often painful rawness of life and the real nature of the biblical crucified God of the universe.

Mia’s Magic Wand would be hard to categorise in a library. Though the story is fictional, it contains much reflective theological pondering as the abbot wrestles with his own certainties and uncertainties as well as those of his friends who are facing extreme danger. Though obviously written by a wordsmith and someone who is well versed in the wisdom and insight of ancient and contemporary Christian writers, the book will nevertheless likely turn off some fellow believers and people of piety from early on in the story. This won’t be through boredom, but because of its raw language and fairly explicit portrayal of the lives of the characters who live and work in a world that is often chaotic and uncontrollable – even for believers.

In some ways this book is an uncomfortable read even for the less easily offended. When a thoughtful, tuned-in man-of-God (a worldly-wise monk) questions his own faith and the power of prayer (though he persists in it) in the midst of so much pain inflicted by evil people in powerful places, it may rattle our own sense of God being in control. This is not a new issue for many.

But this sense of vulnerability in the face of evil may be just where God wishes us to be. It reminds us that there is no guarantee of a believer’s exemption from pain and the seeming wastefulness of life on earth (many saints’ lives have been ‘tragically’ cut short). It also throws us back to trusting (almost blindly) in the ultimate goodness and mercy of the biblical God shown through His suffering Servant. ‘For love knows nothing of order…’.

Mia’s Magic Wand is a riveting read you could comfortably give to your non-Christian friends and neighbours without appearing preachy, thereby opening up the possibility of spiritual dialogue with them. But it also presents a challenge for us as educated western Christians. Our knowledge of ourselves and our faith, and of God and his ways, will always be limited, tentative and dependent. Accepting this will likely produce a more robust and authentic faith. This attitude is also more likely to be attractive to our neighbours in this post-scientific era where those who hold to doctrines of certainty and truth are not only under suspicion, but are becoming seen as a danger to society.

Peter Volkovsky has also written a practical guide for new Christians, A Beautiful Quest, which I found refreshing and hope-inspiring. For more about Peter Volkofsky, visit his blog site.

Terry Hunter was an educator, artist and innovator, and is currently a business operator based in Bendigo, Victoria.

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