Oscar and the Lady in Pink was written by a former student in Philosophy. One day, lost in the desert of Sahara, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt felt a presence – The Presence that will change his life forever. Quite interestingly, the story of this encounter has both a spiritual and a local meaning of drought. This intellectual man who studied the quintessence of knowledge, could not find anything that would bring a complete satisfaction for his soul, until that day.
It is with simple words that the author offers a short, but quite complete novel on the most universal belief people have concerning God: “If God existed, then … why do we suffer?” Simple thoughts also, that are brought in the toughest moment of the life of a child who we know will eventually die of cancer.
How can God help in this situation? This is what Oscar will discover as the story unfolds. The truth about life will come out of the mouth of a child who tries to understand why adults lie to him. After all, the Bible says so often that faith comes from being like a little child.
To create the connection between suffering humans and the God from above, the author lets the protagonist use the means of writing. Talking would be too easy, everyone can do that, through prayers or simple conversations, but a letter somehow highlights these unique feelings we have when we write.
A letter is a good way to keep in touch with someone who is far away. It updates the recipient about what is going on in the writer’s life and it sometimes dares to ask questions. Then we wait, until the person receives our unique thoughts, we hope it arrives well and we expect an answer in return. Just like some kids write to Santa, here Oscar writes letters to God.
Oscar is 10 years old and has an incurable cancer. He has a couple of friends at the hospital where he stays. Each of them has received a nickname based on how their illness transforms their body: such as Bacon – whose skin is highly burnt-, Einstein –the boy with the big head full of water-, Pop Corn – who is overweight – or Peggy Blue – who has a blood illness.
Although most residents are kids, the staff are all adults. They never understand the children’s world. They always think they know better, which makes them lie to the kids instead of telling the truth as it is. Oscar calls his parents “two cowards who consider me as a coward” (27); when it comes to tell him the truth about the fact that he is going to die. Is lying the only way adults have found to talk to kids?
And here comes Granny Rose. She tells Oscar that she does not believe in Santa but in God, and that He could be of a great help to Oscar. The more the little boy would believe in Him, the more God will exist. She tells him he should write God a letter and ask Him something new everyday:
-“So I can order everything from Him? toys, candies, a car…
– No Oscar, God is not Santa Claus. You can only ask Him things from the spirit.
– Example: courage, patience, explanations” (21).
The conversation about Santa comes again later in the book:
“- Your parents never talked to you about God, Oscar?
– Drop it. My parents are idiots.
– Alright. But did they never talk to you about God?
– Yes. Just once. To tell they didn’t believe in it. They only believe in Santa Claus.
– Are they as idiots?
– You can’t imagine […]” (33-34).
Granny Rose suggests Oscar to play a game. In this game, he has to pretend that every day he gets 10 years – at the end he is supposed to be 130 years.
This funny game gives Oscar a way to live a life he will not have the opportunity to live. A life in which he falls in love, goes through teenage problems, becomes an adult, gets married to Peggy Blue, or learns that suffering is a part of life – especially when he sees a statute of Jesus suffering and understands that God Himself also suffers – “The physical pain we endure it. The moral pain, we choose it” (64), says Granny Rose. The only way not to have pain is to have confidence.
Then life goes on with marital problems that will be overcome. Then some questions come up about life and how important some notions such as life or death are, and how incredible it is that no one talk about them. At age 100, Oscar realizes that life is more than a gift and he seems to have acquired so much wisdom throughout the years. At his age, he is more and more tired.
During his life span that was long and yet so short, Oscar got to grasp probably what the most important thing to life is: love. Not only loving his wife, but also his parents by forgiving them; and loving God for always being there.
This is a story of a boy who writes a letter to God every decade of his life to get closer to Him each day.