By Joseph R. Alila
This novel is not an easy spirit-lifting book to read. It is captivating if you’re attracted to the drama of human life; it may be repulsive if you already are wired to praise theology. The novel is full of imperfect tragic individuals in a church; that is why it’s a spiritual tragedy. Hard as it is to read, it teaches about leadership and how not to lead a people in search of a moral path; it is about human sin. Go ahead and read it; it could be about you and me—two imperfect people in an imperfect world. You’ve issues with sin? So am I, and so does your pastor or priest. A church is a house of sinners who are full of some Hope in the Cross, but most of whom still falter along the winding path up the mount because they keep dragging their heavy earthly baggage along, believing that there is a place for material wealth and power in the journey. That is the tragedy. That is what The Choirmaster reveals.
“The Choirmaster” addresses human folly and moral weaknesses—small errors that translate into corrupting moral rot when allowed to fester. This book is about the ways of the rich and powerful except the setting is a church in the idyllic enclave of Mud Valley, and the protagonists and antagonists are the church members.
The principal folly by the powerful church board—a body seeded by the rich and powerful of Mud Valley—is the belief that errors whitewashed and left uncorrected are a favor to the powerful sinner and the church whose images thus remain perfect.
Then there is the folly that the choirmaster is a man of God with superhuman musical talents; a moneymaker, and soul winner, whose services to the church at Mud Valley are indispensible. The church forgets that this larger than life individual is at the core a child. The choirmaster, the subject of every spinster’s wild imagination, becomes every mother-in-law’s imagination and soon he is every elder’s imagination. They forget that Michael the Choirmaster is a mere child who still needs molding, nurturing for good spiritual growth; a child who still needs to play among his youthful equals; who doesn’t need the elaborate dinner-settings every other day—all aimed at winning over to a particular spinster.
Add to the fact that Mud Valley was conceived on moral quicksand—a city with a history of sexual oddities; a city in which each family had to change its surname in attempts to break away from its sinful past, then we meet Mud Valley Church—a church unwilling to speak to any truth on any matter and dismisses any pastor who speaks to the rot in its sinful past. Mud Valley Church has wealth, yet it’s poor in all that matters for her mission to save souls—love and spiritual leadership. In Mud Valley Church, a rich woman steals another woman’s husband and the pastor blesses the move and the church choir sings to the robber’s praise. No wonder, few pastors set their roots in Mud Valley Church.
But nothing is new in this book that humanity hasn’t seen: there are powerful women who’d put Eve of Eden to shame; these are women who get their ways whatever what. Mud Valley is a community in which the moral miscues we shrink at are laundered in public and partied over.
There are a few people with the guts to challenge their situation: There is Ezekiel, a fallen man who rises to the occasion when sin must be called sin, but he dies as a casualty of his past moral burdens; there is Eva the victim who refuses to keep quiet and shouts when Jane (a woman from the house of rich Caleb) robs her of her husband (the Choirmaster) and one Saul robs her of her decency. Talk of Pastor David, a man who has taken it upon himself to seek the truth, even if he has to study Mud Valley Genealogy to get there. Not all hope is lost in Mud Valley.