Definitely. I could never have written this book without the religion classes I took in college, and the theology/philosophy/worldview/whatever at the core of the book comes directly from conversations I had with Don Rogan, my mentor and professor at Kenyon.
Even in private conversations, I was never quite sure what Rogan believed, but he was very interested in formulations of what is called radical hope—the belief that hope is available to all people at all times—possibly even including the dead.
And the argument that Pudge makes at the very end of the book, that he believes Alaska forgives him is a pretty aggressively theistic thing for Pudge to say. (Of course, this isn’t the only viewpoint presented in the novel. There is also the Colonel’s, “The labyrinth sucks but I choose it,” which is not necessarily a theistic point of view, although I’d argue it’s still a very hopeful thing to say.)
Basically, I wanted to think about all kinds of different ways that young people respond thoughtfully to loss and grief, and show a bunch of different ways that people can prove so astonishingly resilient.