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The Blood of the Lamb

3.99  ·  Rating Details  ·  833 Ratings  ·  107 Reviews
The most poignant of all De Vries's novels, The Blood of the Lamb is also the most autobiographical. It follows the life of Don Wanderhop from his childhood in an immigrant Calvinist family living in Chicago in the 1950s through the loss of a brother, his faith, his wife, and finally his daughter-a tragedy drawn directly from De Vries's own life. Despite its foundation in ...more
Paperback, 248 pages
Published June 1st 2005 by University of Chicago Press (first published January 1st 1961)
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Marita Ulrich There's a sophistication to Peter DeVries's writing, his humor and style of writing. Not sure a 14 yr. old would appreciate it all, yet.
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Jan 10, 2010 Greg rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, favorites
This is my new favorite author. Not capital F favorite, like DFW or James Ellroy, but my new, ‘oh my god how could someone this good be so obscure and have almost all of his books be out of print’, good.

Kingsley Amis called him the funniest author on either side of the Atlantic, which is a pretty big compliment, since at the time Amis senior might have wanted to consider himself the holder of that title. And Amis is not wrong, De Vries is funny. There is a bit of the funniness that one would ex
Jul 12, 2012 John rated it it was amazing
This is a marvelous read. The mirthful first half, however, fails to balance against the devastatingly heartfelt second half. De Vries's writes so well from his soul it is as if you are inside him and suffer with him.

Fanny Butcher of the Chicago Tribune comments on the back cover are so true: "The last half [of The Blood of the Lamb] is an emotional experience so rare in books, in its sincerity and its tender, almost breathless sharing of an author's heartbeats, that it should not be missed."
Mar 28, 2013 Elizabeth rated it liked it
I think this is one of those books that would have read better in the era in which is was written. I picked it up on a tangential mention from John Green, who used it as some of his background reading (I think?) for The Fault in Our Stars--or maybe he read it in the course of his theology studies? Either way, I think this book would've been far stronger a read, for me, as a memoir, but can understand as much as I'm able why it was written as fiction, and thus published so shortly after the death ...more
Jonathan Hiskes
Mar 12, 2014 Jonathan Hiskes rated it it was amazing
"What baffles me is the comfort people find in the idea that somebody dealt this mess. Blind and meaningless chance seems to me so much more congenial -- or at least less horrible. Prove to me that there is a God and I will really begin to despair."
David Schaafsma
I have a confession to make: I was raised as a Dutch Christian Reformed boy (DeVries uses Dutch Calvinist as shorthand for his many fans NOT in his tradition) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, graduated from the (Dutch Calvinist) Calvin College (associated with the Christian Reformed Church), gradually extricated myself from the tradition, leaving the church at last when I was 28… and here I am at 61 and had never read the most celebrated and famous Calvin College author's greatest book. I think most p ...more
Sep 16, 2010 Eric_W rated it really liked it
Peter DeVries was a very popular writer who contributed many stories to the New Yorker in the fifties and sixties and who wrote several very funny novels. This autobiographical novel describes the growth to maturity of Don Wanderhope, member of a strictly Calvinist Dutch Reform family, whose brother becomes a heretic, whose father becomes addicted to drink and goes insane, and whose wife commits suicide after giving him a child whom he loves deeply. At age eleven, his daughter contracts leukemia ...more
Dec 29, 2012 Katie rated it really liked it
The first half and second halves of this book seem like entirely separate books - it took me a couple of chapters to get in this, printed 1961, with the old book smell and the weird stain and that font that was so popular midcentury that just invites skimming, but I'm glad I gave it the time. This book is gorgeous. It's a semi-autobiographical account of the author's struggles with religion over the course of his life, and it ends up being kind of a defense of the idea that not everything can or ...more
Oct 01, 2007 Hilary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book in the laundry room of my apt. The cover said something like, "the most well written and most extraordinary book of our time". So i thought, i better read it. It was surprisingly great! It dealt with love, loss and the struggle to believe in God all with a very dry wit and intellectual tone. The story is over such a long period of time that i keep thinking it was 2 or 3 different books, but each season of the main characters life is so amazing to read. I also learned later that ...more
Jun 16, 2016 Todd rated it it was amazing
It's hard to think of too many novels that have the emotional impact this one does. A truly remarkable literary achievement. The writer Kingsley Amis described it as "harrowing." It's that and a whole lot more.
Mar 18, 2011 Darkoze rated it it was amazing
How do you laugh and cry on the same page? In the same sentence? Let Mr. DeVries show you how. Not recommended for any father with a young daughter. Wait until she's all grown up and healthy. Otherwise, this book will keep you up most nights.

I've read this book about 10-15 times and each reading is a pleasure and a sorrow.
Sara  (
I read this because years ago John Green mentioned that this was an influence for The Fault in Our Stars. This book was written in the early 1960s about the 1930s and you have to get through a fair amount of Portnoy's Complaint -like casual misogyny, immigrant family shenanigans and the youthful selfishness and weird passiveness of the young male protagonist before getting to the Serious Part which deals with faith and death.

You can probably tell which part I preferred. The way it dealt with th
Christopher Billquist
Feb 07, 2015 Christopher Billquist rated it really liked it
At once both witty and deeply serious, this book struck a chord with me as one who has struggled with doubt and often been one to question the given assumptions of the way things are. I recommend this book to anyone who has experienced or is interested in experiencing the grey areas of life that don't have any clear answers. Bonus points if you have had interactions with Calvinism. While I think the book's interpretation of the Calvinist take on the Christian faith hit closer to home for readers ...more
Aug 17, 2009 Laryn rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book but I will leave the review to James Calvin Schaap.


I finished Peter De Vries's Blood of the Lamb last night, for the second time. I read it initially sometime in the Sixties, four or five years after it was published, at a time in my life when I loved the irreverence he wields at his tribe--the Dutch Reformed people into which he and I were both born. De Vries mocked us but good, for our silliness and the sometime idiocy of our piety.
There is humor in Blood of the
Scott Graham
Apr 18, 2012 Scott Graham rated it really liked it
A number of great American novelists from the 20th Century are disaffected or 'wrestling' Catholics; De Vries wrestles with his Dutch Reformed background. De Vries is frequently compared to Thurber or Mark Twain - he has rare gift of writing with great humor and tragedy, often in the same paragraph.

There were two main things I got out of this short but powerful read. First, 'The Blood of the Lamb' came out in 1961, and it has a 'Mad Men' era feel to the struggles and questions that may have face
Aug 27, 2012 Kirstie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those interested in Chicago in the 1940s and 1950s and in religion/philosophy
Recommended to Kirstie by: My mom
This was a book I started to read at the end of the last school year in June and had a really difficult time with because of the very personal nature of the subject matter. (The forward by Jeffrey Frank gets into this quite a bit, speaking about how De Vries was usually known for writing more comedic novels and how this is perhaps the closest he got to autobiography with his own life's tragedies.

But, to be fair, this book is really more balanced than I thought it would be. Most of the book doesn
Katherine Snedden
Sep 15, 2012 Katherine Snedden rated it really liked it
"I now mastered the art of remaining half drunk while having lost the joy of drink. Alcohol and barbiturates between them afforded a few hours of tumbling dreams, like those somersaults of men pictured in space fantasies as floating beyond the gravity of any world, life or death."

"Rage and despair are indeed carried about in the heart, but privately, to be let out on special occasions, like savage dogs for exercise, occasions in solitude when God is cursed, birds stoned from the trees or the pil
Talmadge East
Oct 26, 2014 Talmadge East rated it really liked it
I've struggled on how to rate "The Blood of the Lamb," though I knew I liked it. The story is very much in a Hemingway style, though with more humor, in that you read the book and you are not really sure where the author is trying to take you, but when you finish you are glad to have been where you were.

This book is emotionally very moving, though in no way inspiring. More importantly to me, and this is why I teetered between a 4-star and a 5-star rating, was that this could possibly be the mos
Noah Rolf
Jan 25, 2016 Noah Rolf rated it it was amazing
Honestly, this is nothing less than the best book I have ever read. I won't spend an hour saying why, but just know that I am critical and it is hard for me to find anything worthy of 5 stars. But this book takes it.

It is heavy, though humorous, and without detracting. It is eloquent and highly intelligent, though never verbose. The imagery is vivid and the characters are endearing; the women are especially captivating.

The themes explored scrape the furthest depths of your humanity, not evil or
Jan 23, 2010 Sara rated it really liked it
Beautifully written but wrenching story told in the first person by a father whose daughter has leukemia. I first read this as an 11 or 12 year old when it appeared in one of the Reader's Digest condensed books collections. The story always stuck in my mind though because it resonated so much with my own life since I read it only a few years after my own younger brother died of leukemia.

When I found the "real" book at the Friends of the Library sale several years ago, I bought it and began readi
Dec 23, 2014 Becca rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult, 2014, recommended
This is definitely a five star book - it's genius. However, this time round it'll have to be 4. Maybe it's because it took me over a month to read and I wasn't fully committed or because I just didn't get where the story was going for the first 60 pages. But, all of a sudden the story clicked and I realised how unique this book is. When I'm older and wiser, this book will be everything - right now I'm too young to get all the deep stuff or understand why he uses 10 pages to talk about religion h ...more
Jun 22, 2014 Laurie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cbl
This is a beautiful story of life, full of shadows and light. How we deal with and even find humor in pain and suffering and where we stand on the faith spectrum. This is my first De Vries. His writing style flows effortlessly and it's over before it seems possible, but not that terrible style that feels as if the author just quit writing. I look forward to reading more of his books.
Andrew Pessin
Oct 08, 2010 Andrew Pessin rated it it was amazing
this is a stunning book by a stunning writer -- he has total command of language, is hilarious and profound, and capable of great emotional depth -- this is the second de vries novel I've read and I will read more -- the only minor thing I didn't like about this was that towards its very brutal/tragic/sad ending it got a little too explicit in its religious questions for my particular taste -- but everything he says is insightful and profound and challenging ... de vries is a must read for anyon ...more
Mar 22, 2011 Emily rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, favorites
One of the few absolutely perfect books. Semi-autobiographical, the first half of the book is the narrator's life with his family in Chicago, and his stay in a sanatorium while he is treated for TB. The second half deals with his marriage, his wife's death, and his tender relationship with his daughter (who was based on his actual daughter, Emily). Sad, poignant, and funny, it's a rewarding reading experience.
Jan 19, 2013 Jane rated it it was amazing
Shelves: modern-fiction
After reading this a great long time ago, I told my husband, "This author had to have experienced this first-hand." These were the days before the Internet, so I had to do a little research, and sure enough, I guessed right. It manages to simultaneously amuse, disturb you and ultimately break your heart.
Ruth Everhart
May 12, 2016 Ruth Everhart rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I read this book decades ago, but after reading and watching "The Fault In Our Stars" and re-engaging the Dutch Reformed heritage that I share with Peter DeVries, I decided I should reread it. I hadn't liked it the first time. Well, I still can't say I liked it. DeVries' writing is much too clever for me. Of course! He is one of the defining voices of that New Yorker style. He has much to say that is funny and/or profound. He can set up a scene, and he doesn't waste a punchline. In the second ha ...more
Nov 15, 2015 Paul rated it really liked it
The Blood of the Lamb came to me at an interesting time. I read it because it was on a list of required reading for my required religion class. While the first half of the book is kind of a bore, it increases in intensity. The main character, Don, is in a constant battle between believing and not believing. I find myself in similar shoes, this novel acts more of a "you're not the only one uncertain" rather than a conclusive argument for either side. Can the faith you were raised on stand the tes ...more
Apr 15, 2015 John rated it really liked it
A curious read. This book was recommended by author John Green. It is quite endearing. The first 2/3 is meandering in a charming way. The last part of the book is more focused.

My favorite section was the “Magic Mountain” section. Although, I am not sure what to think of the author admitting that he was borrowing heavily from that classic.

I agree with the main character, that religion is an awful crutch. And anyone who wants to believe in a god who created this tragic world is hiding from reali
Dec 27, 2014 Pascale rated it liked it
Reading this straight after "The Tunnel of Love", I was a bit disappointed, since "The Blood of the Lamb" is supposed to be this author's masterpiece. in fact I did find it rather shapeless, but nonetheless very funny and very moving in parts. De Vries conveys the pain of losing one's child with searing immediacy. In fact the dominant theme of the book is loss, loss of faith, of ambition, and even of sanity in the case of both the narrator's father and the narrator's wife. De Vries was well know ...more
4.5/5 Stars

"Damn." I said to myself after I finished this book.

This Peter De Vries character, whoever he was. Man, could he write.

I, like almost everyone else who's reviewed this book on Goodreads discovered The Blood of the Lamb through John Green. I have no idea where he discovered it, because I'm pretty sure this is the most obscure book I've read in a very long time. Apparently De Vries was a comedic writer in the 50s and 60s, but most of his work is out of print now. The Blood of the Lamb
Dec 13, 2012 Emily rated it really liked it
I picked up this book after I saw it was recommended by John Green. I'm a fan of John Green's writing, so I figured I would also like his recommended books.

I did really like this book, but I didn't love it. I wanted to love it, but I just couldn't. It is an extremely well written novel. De Vries knows how to use words in interesting ways. Sometimes so well that I had to go back and re-read phrases multiple times to make sure that I was fully understanding their meaning. At times funny, at times
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Peter De Vries is responsible for contributing to the cultural vernacular such witticisms as "Nostalgia ain't what it used to be" and "Deep down, he's shallow." He was, according to Kingsley Amis, "the funniest serious writer to be found on either side of the Atlantic." “Quick with quips so droll and witty, so penetrating and precise that you almost don’t feel them piercing your pretensions, Peter ...more
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“What baffles me is the comfort people find in the idea that somebody dealt this mess. Blind and meaningless chance seems to me so much more congenial - or at least less horrible. Prove to me that there is a God and I will really begin to despair.” 41 likes
“What people believe is a measure of what they suffer.” 38 likes
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