The Key {Book Club}

The Key {Book Club}

From what I have read, These Nameless Things is supposed to be loosely based on Dante’s Inferno. Up until this point, I have had a hard time seeing the connection clearly. From my viewpoint, the mountain represents our own personal trials, grief, or “hell” that we face at any given point.

We started off this section by being introduced to Sarah and Karon, uniquely creepy yet sort of bland people that have settled in their sadness. They are not fully crippled by their regrets, yet do not have a desire to live their lives to the fullest. Sarah even states, “You can stay here, but you can’t live here.” There is a lack of forgiveness or resolution in their lives that is keeping them from moving on.

I appreciated Sarah and Karon because they brought a fresh perspective on the different groups of people to the story. I am sure that is because they had seen it all since the “beginning.” They mention Kathy as being someone they had trusted and then betrayed them. Not only that, but she seems to have a desire to convince others to return to the pit. Yikes!

Obviously, Dan’s deepest desire is to rescue Adam, but Sarah and Karon think that is not only unwise, but impossible. “This is not a place you can be rescued from… It’s the kind of place you have to leave on your own. Everyone who has ever left has battled their own way out. In this place, our guilt consumes us.”

They speak with conviction and certainty, which makes Dan second guess his decision. What do they know that he doesn’t?

Then there is Adam. He is stuck in the depths of the pit, absolutely suffering. But according to all that has been said, doesn’t he have a CHOICE to leave?  

The iron gate is designed only to lock people in. It is all too easy to fall into traps of regret and unforgiveness, but what is the key to leaving? Dan had taken the key from Kathy, but what does it represent? Forgiveness? A desire or decision to change?

That is the question I would like answered in the last section of this book. What is the KEY to getting Adam out of the pit? Is it the intervention of others, or does he simply need to have the willpower?

“The only thing that can rescue anyone from this deep darkness is grace.”

Sarah stated it, but she chose to stay close to her grief. I would like to think that this statement refers to the grace and forgiveness granted to us through Jesus Christ. He is the true key to escaping the pit of despair, but only if we are willing to let him rescue us. No other Christian or nice person can do it for us, we have to let him transform our hearts and believe in the identity we have through him as beloved, forgiven, children of God.

You may have noticed that this week I have more questions than answers, HA! What do you think is the key to getting out of the mountain? When it comes to grieving or living in a “personal hell,” with which character do you identify most, if at all?

Here’s the schedule for the rest of the book:

August 24: Chapters 23-30

August 31: No Book Club, learn about the next session of Connection Groups

We’re going in a direction we haven’t gone here in Book Club! Next month we are excited to be reading the book Rethinking Sexuality: God’s Design and Why It Matters by Dr. Juli Slattery. This book is going to feed into conversations and opportunities we have coming up and we feel like those discussions will be rich and helpful. Here’s a little bit more about the book!

“By contesting long-held cultural paradigms, this book equips you to see how sexuality is rooted in the broader context of God’s heart and His work for us on earth. It provides a framework from which to understand the big picture of sexual challenges and wholeness, and helps you recognize that every sexual question is ultimately a spiritual one. It shifts the paradigm from combating sexual problems to confidently proclaiming and modeling the road to sacred sexuality.”


  1. Rachel Kahindi August 17, 2021

    I’ve been thinking about the way Dan feels responsible for forcing Adam to fly when he was drunk. Dan was trained from childhood to cover up for Adam – not that he wasn’t responsible for his choices, he was and it’s good that he is able to acknowledge that… but he wasn’t equipped to make a good choice where his brother was concerned, in fact he was trained exactly opposite. And Adam never had to take responsibility. Is that why he can’t get out of the mountain? Or is it that he’s finally realizing the wrong he’s done and can’t cope? Because he can’t accept grace?

    1. Rachel Kahindi August 17, 2021

      Oh I meant to also say that their father bears some responsibility for the way he trained then growing up. Sometimes we don’t see how far reaching the consequences of our choices are.

      Also: more questions about when exactly they got into the mountain… Since Dan has a memory of Adam in prison when their dad died. I had been picturing it as happening when they were all despairing in the immediate aftermath. 🤷🏼

      1. Amanda Hutton August 21, 2021

        Rachel, I had many similar thoughts! I agree that the father had an impact on Dan’s perspective of love and grace, but I wonder if it was 100% his father, or simply his perception of reality. Even someone with the best childhood and greatest parents can walk away with anxiety disorders or challenges based on their understanding of what was happening around them. Maybe there is more to the picture? Is there something about Adam that we don’t know that would make others more protective of him?

  2. Michelle Kiprop August 18, 2021

    Well this section brought up even more questions for me. And I’m sad to say many of my questions were never answered even when I finished the book. 🙈I still wondered if there was a chance that Dan would make his way all the way into the pit and find that it was himself there. I wondered was it Kathy’s intent that Dan supposed to find the key and have it? And I asked myself a number of times if the main question in the story was how far would someone go to rescue someone they loved? Or if the point was actually supposed to be that there is no rescuing, that it has to be an individual’s journey.

    I have read Dante’s inferno, although it’s been a loooooooong time. I will say that as soon as they got to the pit I immediately thought about it and wondered if the book was meant to be somehow pattered after Dante. But I almost felt like the author needed to have sort of a manual or explanation of how the various aspects of his storyline related to Dante’s. I honestly found it all rather confusing and frustrating.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann August 18, 2021

      Michelle, I was glad you said something last week about the change in this section- it was so full of despair but I felt slightly more prepared for it. 🙂 Shawn Smucker we need you to answer all our questions!!

    2. Amanda Hutton August 21, 2021

      Michelle, thanks for your insight! This book is not at all black and white, and there are so many possible interpretations. I wonder if Shawn Smucker intended for it to have one meaning, or if he wanted to leave it up to the reader to determine the significance of it all?

  3. Phyllis August 26, 2021

    Are all the Inferno connections going to be followed through? Where Dan (Dante?!) finds Adam is were Dante’s Satan should be, in the frozen bottom of the Inferno. What does that mean?

    And their father’s name is Virgil?!?!

    And Karon (Charon/Kharon)…!

    I definitely have more questions than answers here.

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