Monday, November 29, 2010


The Preacher's Bride is set in England in 1659, a time when Puritans were persecuted for their simple Christian faith. Elizabeth Whitbread is a dutiful Puritan girl who lives out her beliefs in acts of service to others.
When John Costin's wife dies of childbed fever, Elizabeth steps in at risk to herself to try to save the life of the woman's newborn baby. John is one who was called to preach the word of God, no matter the danger involved. He's too absorbed in his grief and his ministry to pay much attention to either the baby or his older children.
There's much church history in this novel--most of which I didn't know. Hedlund does a remarkable job of taking the reader to early England and describing the lives of commoners. I was fascinated by all the details of village life, especially the pecking order from aristocrats to laborers.
Elizabeth and John are caught in the midst of the political upheaval that led Puritans to flee England for America--an event we remember now with our Thanksgiving celebrations.
Hedlund has adapted the life of John Bunyan to tell the story of The Preacher's Bride. Reading about Elizabeth and John gave Pilgrim's Progress a greater impact for me. I recommend this book, but suggest that some of the violent scenes might be too intense for younger readers.

Friday, November 12, 2010

MORE THAN WORDS, by Judith Miller

Although she lives in one of the villages of the Amana colonies, Gretchen Kohler dreams of being an author. A dear friend supplies her with notebooks in which to record her thoughts, but this friend is the only person who seems to care about her writing.
Her father has been distant and stern since her mother died, and her childhood sweetheart, Conrad, is a pragmatic man who doesn't pay attention to the person Gretchen really is. To top things off, she's saddled with the care of her senile grandmother, who often mistakes Conrad for her deceased husband.
One day a salesman comes to the store where Gretchen works, and notices her writing in a journal. He’s impressed by what he sees, and his interest leads Gretchen down a path she'd never have imagined. The consequences impact the entire colony.
In More Than Words, Miller follows her initial volume in the Daughters of Amana series, Somewhere to Belong, with further fascinating glimpses into the early Amana colonies. This novel was enjoyable on many levels. I recommend it to readers who enjoy family-friendly stories set around lifestyles different than our own.
My thanks to Bethany House for providing my review copy.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

WRITERS [ON WRITING], Collected Essays from The New York Times

Writers [on Writing] contains essays from forty-six contemporary authors reflecting on what impels a writer to write. Some of the essays are hilarious--how could Carl Hiaasen be anything but funny?
Some are deeply serious, as is Elie Wiesel's piece titled, "A Sacred Magic Can Elevate the Secular Storyteller," in which he tells of his struggles in trying to put the Holocaust into words. He says, "I felt incapable and perhaps unworthy of fulfilling my task as survivor and messenger. I had things to say but not the words to say them."
As a writer, I was able to identify with sections of many of the essays. One, by Carolyn Chute entitled, "How Can You Create Fiction When Reality Comes to Call?" had me laughing out loud. Ms. Chute begins the piece with waking up in the morning filled with ideas and ambition to write, then details each interruption in her day. There are many of them. Babies, dogs, husband, UPS man, friends. By the end, it's four in the afternoon and she hasn't written a word. A friend drops by, one of many during the day, and as she tells it:
"'How’s your book coming along?' Pete asks. I laugh."
End of essay.
I read Writers [on Writing] over a couple of months, one essay at a time, so I'd have the opportunity to think about each one. For writers, the messages shared in this book are inspirational in the sense that we recognize our own foibles in other authors, which somehow makes us seem normal.
I'd recommend Writers [on Writing] even to people who have no interest in writing, but love reading. The insights in this volume will enrich the time you spend with books. And for writers--run out a buy a copy. It's a keeper.
If you've read it, please let me know which essays were your favorites.