As one of the best and most innovative Christian communicators, Rob Bell has a knack for challenging one’s thinking, expectations and experience. His books, including SEX GOD and VELVET ELVIS, have inspired people to reexamine their theology and seek to understand the story of God with fresh nuances and energy.
His latest book, DROPS LIKE STARS, is unexpected and innovative. The oversized hardcover features beautiful graphics by Bell’s friend, Mark Baas. Every line, font and image has been carefully placed to create not just a book, but an experience. It’s no small feat to transform two-dimensional pages into a three-dimensional encounter, but Bell and Baas manage to pull it off with grace and ease. The details of the book --- from the paper quality, to the red, black and white page colors --- make it fun to interact with, but that fun comes at a serious cost.
DROPS LIKE STARS begins by raising the question of two brothers whose wives become pregnant in the same year. One has a gorgeous healthy baby boy; the other has a miscarriage. How do you resolve this kind of injustice? How do you reconcile that which seems so unfair? How do you handle the emotional swing from grief to celebration? These are the types of questions that Bell raises throughout the book. Though there seems to be little to no resolve, the answer is found in recognizing that even in the brokenness and pain, we can experience and discover truths in ways we could not otherwise.
The book has six sections that aren’t really identifiable, until the end, when the table of contents appears. These include the art of disruption, the art of honesty, the art of the ache, the art of solidarity, the art of elimination, and the art of failure. Bell reveals that in the very things in life that we often want to run away from, we can discover new things about ourselves and God.
“But it’s in that disappointment, in that confusion, in that pain --- the pain that comes from things not going how I wanted them to --- that I find the same thing happening, again and again. I come to the end of myself, to the end of my power, the end of my strength, the end of my understanding, only to find that in that place of powerlessness a strength and peace that weren’t there before. I keep discovering that it’s in the blemish that the Spirit enters. The cross, it turns out, is about the mysterious work of God.”
DROPS LIKE STARS can be read in less than an hour for most, less than a half an hour for some. With many of the pages containing only a handful of words and some none at all, the $34.99 price tag will leave some readers wondering, “Where’s the content?” which in some ways contains its own ironic beauty. Maybe by recognizing that readers really do want to buy words --- not just white space --- Bell will learn to fill his books with quality and quantity all the while recognizing that the two really do go nicely together.
Reviewed by Margaret Oines on July 21, 2009