I’m not a critic. I’m especially not a literary critic. Those fools spend so much time tearing apart literature in order to get to deeper (and certainly more contrived) meanings. I’m going to tell you what I thought about a book. At face value. From a regular Joe. I mean Johnson. A Johnson who’s a regular Joe.

It took me well over a year to finish this book. I’ll credit that to being busy, poor time management, and having a girlfriend. And let’s be honest, if you want to relax and read a book, Dostoyevsky’s books aren’t exactly gripping in the same way that modern books are.

This is a book about characters. A clash of ideals; where every one of them has their world view challenged, and all of their lives are shaken to the very core.

Shockingly, this is a slow moving book with lots of characters involved in a very intense story. All of it revolves around the three sons, Alyosha, Ivan, and Dimitry. All of the characters have a different way of dealing with their father, and adjusting to life without him. Alyosha is a devout priest whose faith gets challenged. Ivan is the atheist who loses all sense of meaning and hope in the world. And Dimitry, at the center of it all, gets framed for his father’s murder.

That’s it. That’s basically the entire book. The way that it twists and turns, and slowly worms it’s way through the story is amazing. Every action of every character means something, and the consequences for their words and actions are often surprising.

While the content of the book is heavy and complicated, you never feel like you are in the dark about what’s going on, because the plot itself is very simple: The Father is dead. Someone killed him. It was probably Dimitry.

While the premise is simple, the characters are complicated. Dostoevsky has a special ability of being able write complex and emotional characters that just seem so real. Alyosha is so committed to the church, and has such a vast love for God, but at the same time he has inner demons and doubts that he is constantly dealing with. He calls this turmoil his inner “Karamazov” that seeks to turn him like his father. Then, on top of all this his faith becomes challenged by an external event.. He isn’t perfect, and his faith has  to go through a crucible of doubt.

The same can be said for Ivan: Who is so tormented by his choices that he becomes physically ill. He believes that since God does not exist,  everything is permitted, so it blurs the lines of morality. This belief becomes challenged, and we don’t know whether he keeps this belief, or it grows into something better. I hope that he changed his ways.

What I loved so much about this book is all throughout it, it taught me about humanity, and about myself. It is a story that looks at the soul of a man, and asks questions that we will often ask ourselves in our own lives. The characters are constantly second guessing their own actions, and hoping that they are making the right choice.

In your life, your beliefs will constantly be challenged. This story is a great example of why that’s a good thing. Alyosha’s faith was challenged, and in the end he became wiser and stronger in his faith. It grew him as a person and pushed him forward in life. When Ivan’s belief was challenged, it showed him where he was wrong. When Dimitry was thrown into prison for a crime he did not commit, he became better through the trial of belief. Because even though he did not physically kill his father, he was shown how he was partly responsible.

This book is like looking into the soul of humanity. It shows you what drives us, and how ideas or beliefs alter our entire lives for better or for worse. If you read this book I hope it makes you just as introspective as the characters in it.

It’s an opportunity to strengthen your beliefs

Read this book. It’s good.

Photo by Simson Petrol on Unsplash