Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Mayflower, Just Between Us, & Deadlock

Today life slips back into routine. Jesse went back to work, the kids are home, and we all try to go back to what life was before. Although I don't think that's quite what I want. I like the new Jess that came home from Louisiana. He's a little stronger and more self-confident. He's really trying to figure out what plans the Lord has for his life, and that's a good thing. And I definitely don't want to go back to the complete dependence on others that I was slipping into. It feels good to accomplish things on my own. Today is Molly's 13th birthday so all of the grandparents will be descending upon the house. She's not feeling very well unfortunately, poor girl. I've been thinking of her as 13 for a while now, and she's having a real "party" with her girlfriends in a couple of weeks, so the day seems kind of blah. Maybe the banana cake in the oven will perk everyone up.

Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick is the story of the Pilgrims of the Mayflower and their descendants and their relations with the Native Americans up through King Philip's War. Philbrick's research is excellent, and he does a terrific job of not assigning blame to either the Pilgrims or the Native Americans entirely. He does his best to destroy some myths that have developed about both sides (Thanksgiving was more like a party than has recently been made out), and describes the main players as real people. Squanto comes across as a manipulative, underhanded man; Miles Standish as brutish and overbearing. Both seem accurate, and that is Philbrick's point. All of these were real people with flaws, not just cardboard stereotypes to be pulled out of the history books once a year. The astonishing obstacles that the Pilgrims had to overcome to live in this new world for which they were completely unprepared gave me new respect for them. And the destruction that the Native Americans faced because of sickness and greed on the part of the Pilgrims moved me as well. Both groups were a strong people who destroyed each other because of misunderstandings and greed. The only real hero who emerges from Mayflower is Benjamin Church, a man who tried to get each side to see the other, but ultimately even he failed in his attempts. This is a history book that should be read in every high school classroom to give a better understanding of our country's foundation: the good and the bad.

Just Between Us by Deborah Bedford is the story of 14-year-old Ann who becomes pregnant. Her father has emotionally abandoned her since the death of her mother five years before, so Monica becomes Ann's Big Sister. I was extremely disappointed in this book. I've read other Bedford books, and she tackles big topics in an intimate way, so I was looking forward to how she would handle Ann's pregnancy in a Christian way. Unfortunately this book is less about Ann and more about the attraction between Monica and Richard who just can't seem to stay apart. In many places it reads like a bad historical romance: she can't keep her mind away from his taut muscled arms and she loves his manly scent. Ugh! I know that for some, this may be a great romantic book, but I was looking for something deeper. Richard's sudden turn from complete jerk to romantic hugger seems absurd, and the climax was completely unreal. Christian fiction is so much better than this. Bedford's other books are so much better than this!

Deadlock by James Scott Bell is the story of Millicent Hollander, a Supreme Court justice who is a known atheist and liberal vote on the court. When she finds her life suddenly taking a drastic turn, she finds herself forced to face her lack of faith and re-evaluate everything she believes in. This was the first book I've read by Bell, and to me it seems a little like Randy Singer-lite. There's less emphasis on the law and characterizations and more on plot. It's very well written, and I enjoyed how Bell used coincidences to bring not just Millie but others to faith. But Millie's change of heart seemed a little forced, especially her decision at the end of the book. It also felt a bit like this was a set up for the beginning of a series (maybe I'm wrong, but that's how it felt). Bell does a good job of talking about Jesus and the Bible without proselytizing. This was definitely an enjoyable read, and I look forward to reading more of Bell's work, however if his other books are too similar to this one, I can see it would become formulaic.

I'm reading Persecution by David Limbaugh and thoroughly enjoying it. That man can write! Well, it's time for lunch and the kids are getting restless.