Blessed Assurance by Stewart Ennis tells the story of an unlikely friendship between Joseph Kirkland, a God fearing evangelical, and his seemingly Godless fun-loving pal Archie Truman. It’s about guilt–ridden Joseph trying to find salvation in the fictional Scottish village of Kilhaugh during a foggy week in December in the late sixties. The lives of the two boys could not be more different as Joseph is a sad self-harming orphan who has been brought up in a strict protestant evangelical home by his Grandparents while Archie is a Glaswegian who, despite his alcoholic parents, manages to remain optimistic and caring. The pressure mounts as visiting preacher Benjamin Mutch arrives at the Hall to give his testimony and looks for converts hoping to be born-again but Joseph at just 11-years-old is torn between adventure and compromise. Joseph’s attempts at explaining what it feels like to be saved result in Archie likening the experience to the 1950s science fiction horror film Invasion of the Body Snatchers!
Ennis fails to make life within a scripture-centred household appealing. Instead the family come across as stereotypically dour, drab and strict. He does, however, succeed in extolling the virtues of the Catholic church which is portrayed in a loving glow of candles and incense and a priest with a good sense of humour.
It is difficult to know what genre to place this novel in as it falls somewhere between culture and fantasy. Whether the author is trying to mock religion or convert is a matter for the reader to decide. Although written in the third person it reads like a biography and leaves all the main questions to the reader’s own interpretation. It would be a fair analysis to liken this book to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress where the main characters are on a journey through life, exploring how the various people they meet along the way touch their lives.
Blessed Assurance is a colourful portrayal of life in the sixties when the highlight of village life was the annual jumble sale! It’s just unclear what Ennis’ purpose is.