Thursday, November 10, 2016

September and October Reading List

Here are the books I read in September and October.  I've got several I've been reading for awhile, so hopefully they'll show up on the November list.

Rescue the Captors was written by Russell Stendal.  Russell Stendal was kidnapped by guerrillas in Colombia and held captive for almost a year. At first he was angry and upset and pulled a gun that he had in his boot and shot one of the guerrillas. Fortunately the guy didn't die and Mr. Stendal was able to ask the man's forgiveness and they became friends. During his captivity Mr. Stendal began to see that if God allowed him to get into this situation, God could get him out of it and it wasn't necessary for him to use violence. As the months went on, he became more and more courageous to share the gospel with his captors. He realized that he would possibly be freed; even if he was killed by them, he knew he'd have eternal life. His captors, however, would be killed by the Marxists if they tried to become free of the organization. So he made it his mission to share the gospel with them. He ended up having a quiet influence on his kidnappers. The epilogue section of the book is several chapters based on teachings on the Sermon on the Mount that he uses to help couples in marital difficulties to reconcile. The last part of the book would be helpful, but I felt that it should have just been a separate book. Mr Stendal doesn't have the best writing style, but he doesn't claim to be a writer, either. He is just telling his story in his own words.  I've been thinking a lot about my personal philosophy of handgun use and Mr. Stendal's conclusions about the use of violence helped me a lot.

Bridge to Haven is written by Francine Rivers, one of my favorite Christian authors.  The author based this story loosely on an allegory of unfaithful Jerusalem found in Ezekiel 16. If you read that passage, you understand the love shown by God to Jerusalem, the gifts lavished on her, and yet she turned her back on her Rescuer and prostituted herself with other lovers. But the chapter ends with a promise to make atonement for all she has done. 

Abra, like Jerusalem, is abandoned, then rescued at birth. She is fostered by Pastor Zeke and his wife, Marianne, but when Marianne dies, she is adopted by another family who love her deeply. But Abra grows up convinced she has never been wanted. She wants to be somebody and to be loved for who she is. She runs away with Dylan, convinced she'll find love but he only uses her for his own pleasure. She then ends up with an agent who makes her a household name. He loves what he's made of her, not for herself.

She eventually comes to her senses and ends up back home where she finds both forgiveness and love.

Francine Rivers is an excellent writer, but there were places where I felt let down in this book. The main thing was that the mess that was Abra's life was resolved in the last 100 pages or less (the book is well over 400 pages in length). It just seemed too easy. Mrs. Rivers does a fairly good job of detailing Abra's struggle to return home and the forgiveness she found, but it was all just a little too easy. But then, when the prodigal son made up his mind to go home, his father ran to meet him and forgave him instantly, so this part of the book isn't completely unbelievable. Still, I can imagine that a woman who has been used by two different men for five years wouldn't just so immediately be healed from her past. Mrs. Rivers does hint at the shame and fear Abra has on her wedding night, but it seems like a pretty immediate healing of her past. 

My second criticism is that some of the bedroom scenes border on a little too much information. But then, if you read the account in Ezekiel 16, there's also a lot of uncomfortable word pictures painted, so I'm not sure what to think about the bedroom scenes. I wouldn't let younger teenage girls read this book, that's for sure.

In general, I think the story is well-told. It certainly is a reminder of how we turn our back on God and His love gifts to us and go after other lovers who don't even love us at all and how He will always welcome us back with open arms when we come in repentance.


Marilyn Yalom is the author of A History of the Wife.  First, I think the title was a little misleading and should have been something like A History of the Wife in Europe and Her Descendants in North America. In other words, she said very little about African-American women, and even less about women from the Indian nations, or Hispanic women in N. America. She mentioned European women often, especially in France and Great Britain. The History of the Wife living in Asia, South America, Africa, Australia, or Eastern Europe was mentioned not at all. So the title gives a false impression.

I expected the book to be written by a feminist, and it is. So that bias comes across strongly in the book and, again, I'm not sure A History of the Wife is the best title. Perhaps History of Wives Moving into Feministic Culture or something like that would have been a better title.

That said, it really was an interesting book, whether or not I agree with her world view. I learned a lot and felt that it was worth reading to see how what is expected of a wife in 2016 is so much different from what was expected of a wife in other periods of history.

The Man of the Desert was written by Grace Livingston Hill.  Her books are always somewhat predictable:  a rich person falls in love with a poor person; there is a beloved mom who is either an invalid or has passed away; somebody always plays the piano or can sing; the heroine is impossibly beautiful and the hero is stunningly handsome.  That said, her books are always clean and inspiring.  This one didn't disappoint.  A little Grace Livingston Hill is always good when you want something light and fluffy to read.

Willa Cather is the author of My Antonia.  I recently saw a list of books that used to be required high school reading, so I looked up the books and since most of them were free on kindle, I downloaded a bunch, including this one.  The book is about European immigrants who settled in rural Nebraska.  The book has little plot in the traditional way, but tells the story of an immigrant family through the voice of a boy who lived on a neighboring farm.  

The story is well written, the scenery is beautifully described, the struggles of the immigrant families are sympathetically dealt with, and the characters become real.

I really enjoyed this book.  If you enjoy historical fiction, make sure to add this one to your list.

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