Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Overarching the story of Out of the Red Shadow is the introductory epigram of James 1:17, assuring the people of the beneficent and unchanging nature of God. The book is divided into six parts, each introduced by a biblical epigram that re-creates the rite of the Eucharist as practiced in Reformed Protestantism and that underscores the intertwined nature of the Polish resistance movement and the country’s relationship with religion.

Psalm 80:4-5 introduces part 1 and Jacek’s story. Because of his obligations as a CIA operative working for the SB, he has had to make many regrettable choices and witnessed many horrific things that now, as an old man, he must face. Amy’s sudden appearance prompts him to reflect on all the mistakes and missed opportunities of his life, his own “bread of tears,” that not only affected him but in many cases inflicted tragedy on others during the years of the Cold War in Poland. Retreating to a mountain lodge and isolating himself gives Jacek the opportunity to seek solace and find strength to return to the world. During this time, the Solidarno movement is beginning to emerge, as well, fomented in the people’s protest against postwar Communist oppression.

The taking of the Eucharist is outlined in parts 2 through 4, through Matthew 6:11, 1 Corinthians 10:16, Matthew 4:4, and John 6:51, respectively. In part 2 one reads the prayer for daily sustenance, the daily life and needs of the diverse Piekarz family, and the growing demands of the Solidarno movement. Part 3 concerns the devastating loss of Gonia and the seeming insufficiency of prayer to ameliorate the family’s response to her death. In part 4, Tomasz leaves to seek the materialism of the West, forgetting that “bread alone” is inadequate for life. In part 5, Tomasz’s recovery will admit the “living bread” of Christ that Tomasz and Jacek also find manifested in their encounters with nature.

Closing with Jacek’s framing narrative enables de Graaf to reiterate the constancy of God asserted in the opening epigram. She draws on Psalm 78:2, recalling that even when people act irresponsibly or unfaithfully, God does not desert them. This is effectively underlined when anetka’s dying grandmother, the voice of Scripture in the novel, tells her granddaughter that she has an “intercessory heart,” a reminder of the Eucharist as the celebration of Christ’s role as intercessor for the people of the earth.