Disclaimer: This is more just some havering and not really a book review.
I finally made it to my first session of a book group at my "night church" (we're two-timers, sorry) that I've sort of been stalking for the last few months. First they read The Next Story by Tim Challies, which said a lot of good stuff about technology in the lives of Christians but I just couldn't get through ("Because you kept checking facebook?" Nyuck nyuck nyuck, Mr Pastor). Then they read Saving Leonardo which I also got about halfway through, and which I was really enjoying but I felt like I needed to be sipping a hot chai latte at the Daily Grind in order to concentrate on. But then they read Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor, and that is a book that I can get through. Wait, it was a little bit like pulling teeth. But I got through it, finishing approximately 3 hours before the meeting (I'd had a month to read it).
It's sort of a sick, depressing story, described by one book group guy as "Weird people having weird conversations and fornicating." There's also a blind but not-really-blind false preacher (actually there are like 4 false preachers), a stolen mummy, a cop who pushes a car off a cliff, and a very strange view of the hound of heaven following after the main character. But it's full of these fabulous one-liners:
There was already a deep black wordless conviction in him that the way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin. [Zing! Legalism!]
"If you had been redeemed," Hazel Motes was shouting, you would care about redemption but you don't. ..." [Bam! Cultural Christianity!]
"It don't make any difference how many Christs you add to the name if you don't add none to the meaning, friend..." [Ouch! Church service content!]
"I preach there are all kinds of truth, your truth and somebody else's, but behind all of them, there's only one truth and that is that there's no truth," he called. [Score one against relativism!]
OK, so as you can guess from that guy's description of the book, this isn't one for everybody. If you really enjoy complicated allegory and don't require everything you read to be up your exact doctrinal alley--there was some serious frowny-faced Calvinism going on at the discussion, as Flannery was a Southern Roman Catholic--you might want to check it out. All of the characters are distorted beyond belief, and I think it is so that they don't hit too close to home, so that then when they do say or do things that ring true with you you're like Ouch.
When it comes down to it, books like this are helpful to some and just plain unhelpful to others. I bet you already know what you are. (That sounds judgment but it's not!)
Finally, the author's much-quoted note to the second edition: "For [some] Hazel Motes' integrity lies in his trying with such vigor to get rid of the ragged figure [that would be Jesus] who moves from tree to tree in the back of his mind. For the author Hazel's integrity lies in not being able to."