The Casual Vacancy
The Casual Vacancy
J.K. Rowling
Little, Brown and Company, 2012
503 pp., $35.00

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LaVonne Neff

The Casual Vacancy

J. K. Rowling's profoundly biblical worldview.

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Without offering any spoilers, I'll just suggest that you consider the Good Samaritan, the story Jesus told when someone asked him who, exactly, was the neighbor he was supposed to love (Luke 10:25-37). Change it so that at least three priests or Levites pass the injured person on the road without helping. Have the charitable foreigner provide money for the funeral, not the hospital. Let everyone heap posthumous praises on the people they despise ("Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' " Matt. 23:29-30). And when presented with the most obvious example of their collective guilt, let everyone in the congregation avert their eyes.

There's not enough redemption in The Casual Vacancy for my taste. A few people seem to have a change of heart at the end, but I'm skeptical. Maybe the impulse will stick. Maybe the council will reform. But Barry Fairbrother is still dead, and the abbey on the hill is still ruined, and most of the people of Pagford are still self-satisfied, racist social climbers. This is the world as it would be with Voldemort in charge. It is frighteningly familiar. It badly needs a Harry Potter to come to the rescue.

LaVonne Neff blogs at and at

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