Robert and I went from bookstore to library, lured by the Summer Reading Program and its promise of earning ducats. While he gathered up THE SPOOKSTERS HANDBOOK and PIRATES, I wandered aimlessly, picking up an antique price guide for Marc, who is unloading my mother's storage unit, and John Irving's CIDER HOUSE RULES for myself. "Just what I need, another book," I muttered darkly at the check-out counter.
The Writer's Circle had introduced me to Irving's A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY, a great book that I finished will all the excitement of discovering a new author. Then I tried his HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE, which has been on our book-for-a-buck shelf for years. Put-off by the pervasive sexuality, I never finished it.
Somewhere along the line I bought WIDOW FOR ONE YEAR. The yucky sex was so graphic that I felt like reading it with a brown paperbag over my head. I was uncharacteristically glad that my boys don't usually pick up books that are lying about. Probably I wouldn't have finished it if I hadn't PAID for it. Yet when the book was over, I sat in admiration for the deep, multilayered study of prostitution, presented with astonishing compassion and understanding.
Admiration also prevailed when I finished CIDER HOUSE RULES. It took me over a week to read, because again I couldn't stomach more than a chapter's worth of yucky graphic images at time. But the descent into hell was worth the ascent, the various faces around abortion painted with unparalleled depth and love. (No, I haven't seen the movie--reading those images was bad enough.)
Around about this time ATONEMENT CHILD by Francine Rivers came in. Cinda wrote me that every teenage girl should read this story of a nice Christian girl at a nice Christian college who gets pregnant through rape, much to the disgust of her rising star, nice Christian boy friend.
I have a lot of respect for Francine Rivers after reading her Hosea-gold rush romance. So I finished CIDER HOUSE RULES, took a deep breath, hoped I wasn't pregnant, and plunged into ATONEMENT CHILD.
No uncomfortable graphic images here. The book is tasteful. It does a solid job of showing the stink of how worldly the Church can get. Yet the concept of enduring years of post abortion trauma is highly overplayed and the book finally becomes a polemic, using the vehicle of a prayer group sitting around discussing the evils of abortion. I think what I hate most in Christian fiction is an unwillingness to trust the STORY...sans propaganda.
::pause to hum a few bars of "I love to tell the story"::
Frank Peretti's THE PROPHET glimmers on the shelf. His book around abortion is the only one of his early books that I haven't read. I've alternately heard that it is his best/his worst. BITTERSWEET by Gay Lewis is a mother's story of walking with her daughter through an unwanted pregnancy. I met Gay at the Writer's Conference. Another lovely lady. Stories abound, and in them God's mercy and grace.
* + *
Steven, who opens the store the 3rd Sunday afternoon of the month, is recently back from England where he saw the exhibit, SEEING SALVATION at the National Gallery in London. He brought back the book, which is chock full of wondrous works of art. I've got it on my coffee table now, but when we come back from camp on August 14, I'll move it to the Word Shop table--on loan for the enjoyment of those who happen by.
Those who can't happen by will be glad to know we are working post our books on-line. Soon we'll have a Prayer page on the Hot Reads section of our website.
Meanwhile, if you have a chance to happen by the musical production of LES MISERABLES, don't miss it. It's full of grace.