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Alfred J. Garrotto has authored four religious nonfiction books and five novels. His experience as teacher and spiritual guide has prepared him to harvest the deeper meaning of Les Miserables and apply its inspiring message to modern daily life.
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What can a 21st century seeker learn about life, love and spirituality from a 19th century French novel? Plenty.
Alfred J. Garrotto offers Victor Hugo’s flawed protagonist as a model for anyone in search of practical wisdom for everyday living. One of fiction’s most beloved characters, the former convict and life-long fugitive represents humanity in both its brokenness and its potential for selfless—even saintly—living.
Reflection topics range from forgiveness and the primacy of conscience to the joys and sorrows of parenthood. Each Reflection explores a universal theme, including the daily call to spiritual and moral conversion and the life-lessons parents impart to their children. Questions at the end of each Reflection invite you to use the book as your personal wisdom journal.
“Your personal story illustrates that the feelings of parenthood are universal.”
“I like your analogy to a situation in a fictional masterpiece.”
“I look forward to more wisdom from Victor Hugo and Jean Valjean.”
Cover art by Douglas M. Lawson
Category: Religion and Spirituality
From the Introduction:
The inspiration for this book came to me in the early 1990s, as I wept through the final scene of Boublil and Schonberg’s musical version of Victor Hugo’s novel, Les Miserables. From its darkened perch in the balcony of San Francisco’s Curran Theater, my heart flew to the bedside of the dying Jean Valjean. Over the course of the eve-ning, this fictional hero had moved me with his tale of conversion, forgiveness, and moral fidelity. I wanted to be at his side as he uttered these final words to his be-loved daughter Cosette: “To love one another is to see the face of God.”
That magical experience led me to read the un-abridged novel for the first time and subsequently to deeper immersion in Hugo’s text.
When the show returned for a repeat engagement a few years later, my wife and I saw it again, this time with our two elementary school-age daughters. I am not embarrassed to admit that tears flowed again from opening curtain to the final reprise of “Do You Hear the People Sing?”
My own little Cosettes became enthralled with the story and the magnificent music—and have remained so into their adult lives. During the year that followed, we wore out an original cast cassette by playing it to and from school every day.
A marvel of Hugo’s story is its universal appeal. Set amid the political and social volatility of France during the first half of the nineteenth century, Les Miserables is still, in the words of author Mario Vargas Llosa, “one of the works that has been most influential in making so many men and women of all languages and cultures de-sire a more just, rational, and beautiful world than the one they live in.”
I discovered in Jean Valjean the essential qualities of principled living. For one like myself, a Christian who is always in process, Hugo’s protagonist embodies the core values and ideals passed to me through my religious tra-dition. From this experience, I conceived a desire that grew into a passion. What if I could spend some time with Jean Valjean? What might I learn about life, love, and compassion for the poor from this former-convict-turned-saint? What might I share of this gift with others?