Three short book reviews

American Haven by Elisabeth Yates was suggested to me by my blog friend Sally when I mentioned a book I read as a child about an English girl named Merry who came to America. This turned out not to be that book, but it was a pleasant read. It is the third in a series about Merry (Meredith) and her brother Michael. In this book, the two are sent to America for safety from their home in England during World War II. I loved the Journeyforth books when my children and nieces and nephews were small, and I highly recommend them. This series is suggested for ages 9-12.

The publisher’s description of Plain Perfect by Beth Wiseman is as fellows:

On the rolling plains of Lancaster County, PA., Lillian Miller is searching for her grandparents’ house…and so much more. After years of neglect and abuse, she’s turning to a lifestyle of simplicity among the Amish to find herself.

As she discards the distractions of her former life, she befriends the young boy working on her family’s farm and his attractive widowed father, Samuel Stoltzfus. Despite Lillian’s best efforts to the contrary, her feelings for Samuel–and his for her–deepen. Will Lillian find her faith in Plain living, or will she be forced to return to her former life?

I enjoyed the story as a story and I enjoyed Lilly’s development as well as her burgeoning relationship with Samuel. But with Lilly’s almost non-religious background, the way of salvation is not really made clear to her, though she is told it is a matter of the heart rather than just keeping the Ordnung. The message she seems to receive is, “Keep living an Amish-based Christian life, and it will make sense to you after a while,” which is not the way I would present it. And though there are many, many things to admire about the Amish, their lifestyle isn’t idyllic and peaceful just because they keep themselves from certain aspects of the world. So, though Lilly found peace there, I wouldn’t say one seeking peace should run off and join the Amish. But a reader who is already settled on the way of salvation and peace could enjoy the story.

My blog friend Lizzie gave me A Vote of Confidence by Robin Lee Hatcher, a book about a woman running for mayor of Bethlehem Springs, Idaho, in 1915. The back of the book says, “Who says a woman can’t do a man’s job?” Honestly, if I had thought it was just a story about a spunky heroine trying to do a “man’s job” just to prove she could, I would not have been interested. But I have enjoyed what I have read of Robin’s books, so I read on. Gwen’s reasons for running for mayor are good and objections are dealt with in the first few chapters. She has to campaign against her alcoholic opponent and a handsome newcomer who tosses his hat into the ring because of the difficulties he has encountered in getting his health spa built as well as contend with a lawyer who lends his support only to try to control her.

I appreciate Robin’s efforts to show that Biblically feminine women do not all have to be cut from the same exact mold, but I felt the “traditional” stay-at-home wife and mother was somewhat maligned in Gwen’s thoughts. It makes sense that a lady who chose to be single and independent would think as she does, but I would have liked a little counter-balance.

But other than that, I found this an enjoyable, well-crafted book, and I am looking forward to reading the sequel.

7 thoughts on “Three short book reviews

  1. I don’t believe every Christian novel needs to include a scripted scene of repentance and accepting Jesus as Savior. In fact, I think if they did, the non-believers would catch on quick and stop reading them, which would completely cancel their witness potential.

    And I am not advocating every Christan novel eliminate scenes of repentance and accepting Jesus as Savior.

    I prefer those authors who showcase spiritual struggle, spiritual successes and the rewards of living a Christ centered life. I want spiritual revival and renewal. I want hope. I want to see the love of Jesus shining through.

    I worked in ministry with the poor and disinfranchised for years. Jesus can and will work in hearts without a pre-written script. That pre-written script often intimidates and frightens people away.

  2. I agree, Quilly. I’m not talking about a “script.” I’m just saying the wrong information should not be given, either (i.e., “Just start living like a Christian, an Amish one at that, and you’ll figure it out eventually.” That’s neither accurate Biblically nor helpful to someone truly seeking, especially, as I mentioned, the character in question had little religious background.

    As someone with non-Christian loved ones who did read Christian fiction, I agree that a certain formulaic scene and certain words in every Christian book would drive people away. It doesn’t always have to be spelled out with a 3-point outline, but it should be true and real. And accurate. And whatever is shared of the gospel should be clear.

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  4. Pingback: Saturday Review of Books: December 19, 2009 : Semicolon

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