What if an author wrote a page-turner of a mystery story that depicted things about the world whose implications we have not pondered?
What if there were an industry (modeling) that routinely exploited young defenseless women, stripping them of their inhibitions and their clothing, desensitizing them to indignities, disregarding their futures, and at the same time somehow making young women everywhere long to be subjected to the same mistreatment? What if most people thought that nothing could be better for a girl than for her to be so beautiful she would get the chance to sell her soul—not even realizing that was happening—in exchange for hazardous sums of money and undesirable notoriety?
What if nobody stopped to consider that these girls are human beings?
What if instead of defending and protecting these girls, the men who saw them were swept away gawking and lusting?
What if nobody complained about any of this?
What if these women had no one they could trust, no one to defend them—no father, no friend, no brother, no mother? What if one of these women found that the only person she could trust not to sell her stories to the press was a homeless girl she met in rehab? What if one of these girls was nicknamed “Cuckoo,” and what if she had no one–neither boyfriend nor uncle–who would take her call when she thought she might be in danger? What if both men were too busy with their own infidelity even to step in and protect a fragile bird from a predator?
Imagine a tender flower–its beauty is bound up with its vulnerability–what would happen to such a flower with no hedge to shield it from the wind, no gardener to protect it from the hail?
Short the life of the lily of the valley transplanted to the mountain ledge.
What if the press, the watchdog media, instead of being concerned about what might be good for these human beings, was part of the apparatus of exploitation and sought only to join in (and profit from) the rapacious misuse of the most delicate flowers, the daintiest birds, of society?
What if the police, instead of protecting and defending and ensuring justice, were overworked, corrupt, unconcerned?
What if the masses wanted to use these birdly flowers for their own pleasure, wanted to take flight like the flowers themselves, never considering whether there would indeed be joy in their fantasized flying?
What if there were a way to show that happiness doesn’t necessarily accompany wealth, fame, and beauty?
What if it was the case that a poor, unattractive, crippled man in his mid-thirties could be heroic and enjoy his life? How?
What if he not only had purpose, he had integrity, a strong work ethic, and concern for other people, for truth and justice?
Could it be shown that a man’s character is what results in quality of life rather than wealth, beauty, and fame?
What if loving decency and usefulness to others could somehow be held up for emulation? What if this loving decency and usefulness to others could be defined as a sincere concern for other people, an ability to see their needs, and a willingness to serve them by meeting those needs?
What if a story included the sordid aspects of life outside Eden—foul language, fornication, substance abuse, the exploitation of people, broken commandments (idolatry, murder, adultery, theft, etc.)—but such that sin always looked unholy, unwanted? What if a story could be told such that the good was seen to be good precisely through the depiction of the bad?
Is God the author of all that is? How do we respond to the sordid stuff in the story he’s telling?
J. K. Rowling, writing as Robert Galbraith, addresses these questions in story form in The Cuckoo’s Calling.