Updated: Mar 12, 2022
I have recently published a novel that I wrote nearly ten years ago, and which has been sitting in my (digital) trunk ever since. The novel is titled The God of the Cucumber Vine and takes place on a fictional Pacific island called Milau. It is a comedic drama buddy adventure with a pacey story and a touch of magical realism. It is not really a finished book, not in the fullest sense anyway. It is a complete story from beginning to end, but it never went through the process that any truly completed book must, which is to say it has not been fully rewritten and no editor has touched it. All real books are created several times by at least two people—usually more—who take an author’s draft and craft it into something complete. Not so with this one. Cucumber Vine is also a very green book written by a man not yet thirty who even ten years on knows very little about writing.
Cucumber Vine is, fundamentally, about God the Father and His presence in the economy of salvation, which is something deeply mysterious indeed. Especially when one considers death. That, by the way, is the other thing this book is about: death. And the symbols of water, the night, the little girl, and many others mingle around the question of death and the Father’s place in it (to put it thus) throughout the story. It is a work of theology in fiction, then, but as you will see it is not explicitly religious, barring at most a short flourish near the end. And the book is meant to be funny, which makes for a little bit of an odd combination.
I have left many stories, poems, and novels behind over the years as any writer does. There is no need to finish or publish everything. But there is something at the heart of Cucumber Vine that haunts me even ten years later in spite of it being green, and flawed, and incomplete. There is an idea at the centre of it—that idea about God the Father—that I still think matters. It feels like the time has come to take the Doc’s advice from the very end of the novel and just let things be what they are. Or, in his words:
There's nothing but life and...not-life, that's the thing. You can do what you do, or you can just end it all. You don't build anything—you don't make anything that lasts—that's not the point, even though every jackass in the world seems to think that now, just like Ella did and Mary did. No, you don't build, you don't do, you just be or not—sit through the hours or walk out of the exam. But it's not all gloom—you've got to be able to appreciate that. It's not all just foggy afternoons or something. The thing is, you're here anyway, and what the hell else are you going to do to occupy yourself, huh? I mean, the time is going to go by whether you like it or not—you might as well build the damn pyramids, right? Just don't fool yourself into thinking they're really doing anything to be there. They'll just dissolve into sand.
I hope, then, that you’ll enjoy this novel simply for what it is, and pass it along to anyone else who might appreciate it the same way. May it be a solace, somehow, to know that however terrifying it may be to recognize God’s literally infinite depths, by faith in His love (faith which is never quite certainty) we are steadfast in our hope that we will reach Him and the life for which we have been created.
Daniel G Opperwall, Hamilton, 2022
[Note to website readers: a version of the above also appears as the preface for the novel]
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