Light Novel Club Kindling: Family Is Irrational

I hope that you all are reading along with us as we dive into the third selection of our light novel club, How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom! This isekai tale of smart, rational, hard-working young man swept into a kingdom and given its reigns has been a joy to read so far. Right from its prologue, in fact, its given me food for thought as the protagonist, Souma, reflects upon wisdom once given him by his grandfather regarding family:

You always tended to think about things rationally. But, listen, you mustn’t do that when it comes to family. Once you’ve taken their hands, never let go.

The words from Souma’s grandfather are packed full of meaning: in the most important relationship unit we’ll experience in life, our family, we have to get out of our minds and think with our hearts. Rationality doesn’t often work here, and in fact, can do irreparable harm (I’m reminded of a forced decision that the mother must make in the film, Sophie’s Choice). After all, family sometimes doesn’t make sense, and is comprised of people that often hurt each other deeply. Using rationale only when dealing with family might lead us to the decision to abandon them entirely, or if not, to love them only so much as it helps us.

And yet, what Souma’s grandfather is really telling us we must love our families unconditionally. “Once you’ve taken their hands, never let go.” No matter what they do to you, no matter what trouble they bring you, no matter how much they make you suffer, “Never let go.”

This task is both easy and not. It’s often easy to let the little things go, harder for the big ones. It’s easy for loving families to be gracious, harder when one’s family is abusive.

What will a realist (and overworked!) hero learn about family from the kingdom’s princess?

But also what I find that complicates this quote is something that I think the light novels will impress upon us, that family isn’t always blood nor something we fall into. The princess by chapter two is already considering what it means to be family and the value of it in relation to Souma, who isn’t thinking that way, who doesn’t have time to think about anything that doesn’t fit into the plans he’s created. Yet the quote given in the prologue must be meaningful to the story; it must be leading Souma somewhere as he takes on the burdens of being everybody’s “father” in a sense, and perhaps the honor, too, of starting a family.

I’m excited to see where all this goes and I hope you all will join me in seeing the same. Consider downloading this title (it goes to print in September, but that’s too late for our purposes) and joining us for our discussion here on the blog on July 5th!

featured art by 杉87 (reprinted w/permission)

5 thoughts on “Light Novel Club Kindling: Family Is Irrational

  1. Hum… Imprinted with the seal of God, every love is certainly misterious, and more than we can fully understand, but I think I object to the concept of family being irrational. Reason is our ability to grasp the truth, and love must be founded in the truth. I´m watching March comes in like a lion (and loving it): I´d even say that the family is the space for the most prudent discernment we are capable of, precisely because small things are so important, and everything there is so intimate and close to our hearts, and we tend to project oneselves in those who share so much with us, and things get so easily muddled. I see this a lot in the different reactions of Hina and Akari (mild spoilers): Hina is all heart and would instantly jump whenever something happens, but Akari has this reflective, experienced way of giving Rei what he needs from them in this particular moment. The first is a must, but I find both to be necessary. Rei will probably need them both to deal with his complicated relationship with Kyoko, where (mild spoilers again) guilt, sadness, attraction, sibling love, compassion, rejection, depression, admiration, envy, suffering, trauma and so much more things are mixed.

    We are a mess: as you say, reason can be misguided and cling to egoism or obsessive control, and our hearts are often broken, frozen or frail. Our Lord can heal and enlighten both and He does, but it´s always strange and difficult. And sometimes, you may even have to go, or to let go…

    1. I agree (especially on those thoughts about March Comes in Like a Lion!) I think reason is important when dealing with family because sometimes our strong emotions for those close to us can blind us to the truth; even more so when thinking of how mistaken our hearts can be. But I’d also agree with you and TWWK in that rationality might lead us to make callous decisions. There’s a balance that needs to exist between reason and emotion.

      1. Family provides a place both where love is fulfilled most and where its most denied, a powerful model of what happens when sin enters relationships and how the gospel can free us.

        Thanks for the feedback, Myron!

    2. Thanks for the input! Certainly, March Comes in Like a Lion provides strong examples of the power of family, the challenge of life, and the redeeming power of grace.

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