Les Miserables

Author: Victor Hugo
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Description from Amazon.com: [Editor's Review] Set in early-19th Century Paris, in which the lives of several colorful characters cross paths, seemingly randomly, and are each changed dramatically from contact with these others. "Les Miserables" is a short glimpse at how people's actions have direct results on the lives of others, and how God works in these actions for the ultimate good. The novel begins by introducing us to the life of the elderly priest, Monseigneur Bienvenu, an utterly humble and Christ-like man who gives everything he has, including his heart and spirit, to the people he comes in contact with, yet doing it all in testimony to the grace of Jesus Christ. Bienvenu's spirit is what allows him to change the heart of the hardened criminal, Jean Valjean. Valjean, so impressed by the grace shown to him by Bienvenu, embarks on a life of repentance and noble actions. In time, he crosses paths with Fantine, the single mother of Cosette, whom Fantine has had to place in custody of the Thenardier family, being unable to care for Cosette herself. It is out of desperation (a state initially brought upon herself by her own poor choices) that Fantine is forced to leave her daughter with the Thenardiers who, unbeknownst to Fantine, are thoroughly evil people. As Hugo puts it: "There are human creatures which, like crayfish, always retreat into shadow, going backwards rather than forwards through life, gaining in deformity with experience, going from bad to worse and sinking into even deeper darkness. The Thenardiers were of this kind."Out of kindness to Fantine, Valjean sets out to rescue Cosette from the slavery which she has been left to. But by this time, Valjean is being tracked by the cold, legalistic, Javert, an inspector seeking to arrest Valjean for parole violations stemming from the crimes of his earlier days. This sets up a novel of lives on courses that cross with dozens more, with countless twists and turns of the roads on which each character is travelling. What the reader encounters is a fascinating example of how simple meetings of "chance" can often lead to radical re-workings of one's entire outlook on the world and the people around him; of the ways in which these events and introductions can entirely alter how one's life plays out. Ultimately, it is a story that presents numerous challenging questions concerning God, grace, and predestination, or in other words, our sovereignty... or His: "He could see two ways ahead of him, and this appaled him, because hitherto he had never seen more than one straight line. And the paths led in opposite directions. One ruled out the other. Which was the true one?"
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