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Bennett, "Jacob T. Marley: The Story of the Ghost who visited Marley" (reviewed by Tim Ballard) Options · View
Posted: Friday, September 30, 2011 3:25:04 AM

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Title: Jacob T. Marley: The Story of the Ghost who visited Marley
Author: R. William Bennett
Publisher: Deseret Book
Genre: fiction
Year Published: 2011
Number of Pages: 184
Binding: softcover
ISBN13: 978-1-59038-351-3
Price: $17.99

Reviewed by Tim Ballard for the Association for Mormon Letters

“Marley was dead, to begin with.” So begins Charles Dickens’ classic, *A Christmas Carol.* But what if he was *not* dead to begin with? What if he had been alive for years before Charles Dickens’ narrative had ever begun? What would he have said? What would he have done? And how would his life have affected that most famous character, who we, at once, love to hate and hate to not love—Ebenezer Scrooge? This is the premise to the delightful, and very thoughtful, sequel (or better said, behind-the scene-quel) to Dickens’ masterpiece. Its title reveals the powerful theme of the tale: Jacob T. Marley.

The book is a classic in its own right. To begin with, it reads much like a Dickens narrative (which is as good a compliment as any author might seek to achieve). Indeed, the author, R. William Bennett, clearly possesses that Dickensesque flair to turn a phrase, to pull the reader in, and to leave the reader, alternatively, joyful, sad, giggling, remorseful, and awestruck—all within a few short pages. For example, note how he cleverly describes Nephew Fred: “Rather, the more he was pushed down by Scrooge, the more his joy seemed to flow out of him. It was like the light of a lantern assaulting the early evening dusk, when the dark only seems to strengthen the beam.”

But Bennett’s wonderful literary flair informs only a fraction of the reason his book is truly a masterpiece. The real value of the story is found in its powerful ability to change lives. For it invites the reader to self-examine and seek higher planes. We are taught, through the examples and experiences of the characters, that “we all ascend or descend in steps, the journey to the high road or the low taken in many increments, the sum total determining our eventual destination.”

Particularly during the Christmas season, many a reader loves to follow the life of Scrooge and feel the exhilaration of witnessing, once again, the familiar story of redemption. In many ways, it is the story of us all. It is the hope of us all. If the wicked and decaying Scrooge can become the best man in London, certainly *we* can elevate our not-so-bad selves to be worthy in the sight of God and man. If this is why we read *A Christmas Carol* (and watch it played out endlessly on television in all its many forms—from Albert Finney, to Mr. Magoo, to the Muppets), then Bennett’s version will not disappoint. For it is redemption at its best. In this sense, perhaps it is even better than Dickens’ original. For, with Marley and Scrooge working the scenes together, we are plunged doubly into the abyss of wickedness. Conversely, however, when they are, together, shot up out of the abyss, to the uppermost realms of joy, we feel doubly redeemed. (Lest I become a plot-spoiler, I will spare you further details.)

For the Mormon reader, this tale is especially significant. For, without offending the non-LDS reader, the author masterfully, yet subtly, laces elements of Mormonism’s plan of salvation. We are taken to the Spirit World, we witness the role of Angels in our lives, we feel the power of Christ’s atonement, and we sense the true principle of vicarious sacrifice. But most of all, we are left happily tearful, and with a resurgence of energy to choose the right. I do believe that most every reader of this book will, upon putting it down, seek to fully fulfill God’s greatest command: to love one another. What better take-home message could one possibly hope for during this Christmas season—or for that matter, during any season?
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