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The Blood of the Lamb

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  938 Ratings  ·  116 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.

Community Reviews

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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
Jan 08, 2010 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 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 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 09, 2014 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."
Nov 14, 2008 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 27, 2012 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 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
Apr 01, 2012 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
Mar 05, 2008 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
Jason Seligson
Oct 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
I first heard about "The Blood of the Lamb" a few years ago through a recommendation from John Green. He cited Peter De Vries' novel as being one of the influences for "The Fault in Our Stars," and if you know that story, there are definitely some comparisons to be made to the fictional author Peter Van Houten and the protagonist in this story.

The actual plot here skips around quite a bit, which can be a bit jarring, and even though this came out in the 60s, there's some outdated language that
Scott Graham
Apr 18, 2012 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
Katherine Snedden
Aug 07, 2012 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
Feb 16, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Never doubt the power of uncertainty, even in the darkest moments of life. Author Peter De Vries, having lost his daughter to childhood leukemia, dares to find the humor in the raw material of his own life to describe the fictional life of Don Wanderhope. Don (like De Vries) was reared in Calvinism and through education, reading, sexual awakening, and terrible luck becomes a buffeted and shell-shocked man, quietly resigned to the tragicomedy of life.

Before early middle age, Don has buried his t
Feb 17, 2014 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
Christopher Billquist
Feb 07, 2015 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
Jan 23, 2010 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
Andrew Pessin
Oct 01, 2010 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 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.
Feb 16, 2012 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.
Jun 10, 2014 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.
Mar 18, 2011 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.
Julia Buckley
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've always liked Peter De Vries and his darkly comic novels. This one is more sad than funny, as it was written after the death of De Vries' daughter. The author's grief is explored through the sufferings of his main character, Don Wanderhope, who lacks faith despite a religious upbringing.

De Vries is an intelligent writer, and a philosophical one, and he asks pointed questions about God, faith, and death in this story of man who suffers one loss after another. Even in his grief there is a kin
Justin Bauer
Jul 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Gabriel Valjan
Oct 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
"We live this life by a kind of conspiracy of grace: the common assumption, or pretense, that human existence is "good" or "matters" or has "meaning," a glaze of charm or humor by which we conceal from one another and perhaps even ourselves the suspicion that it does not, and our conviction in times of trouble that it is overpriced -- something to be endured rather than enjoyed. Nowhere does this function more than in precisely such a slice of hell as a Children's Pavilion, where the basic truth ...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
Oct 16, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Kelly by: John Green
De Vries is very witty and keenly aware of the contradictions and absurdities inherent in the human condition. His book asks many interesting questions about life, faith, our relationships with other people, and the ultimate meaning of all these. It sometimes veers a little too much into philosophy at the expense of plot, but for the most part it was interesting to see how these issues were addressed. Also, the first two-thirds or so of the book is pretty funny, if considerably darker than what ...more
Emily Shelton
Nov 20, 2012 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
Aug 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing

I originally heard about this book through a passing mention by The Fault in Our Stars author John Green. Apparently this was either a part of his research or he based An Imperial Affliction off of it or something like that, but I saw it on a list on Goodreads, and that was when I jumped on it.

Never mind the beautiful prose because it does have that, more beautiful than I have seen in any book in
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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.” 43 likes
“What people believe is a measure of what they suffer.” 40 likes
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