Friday, February 17, 2017

Jane Austen Week Tag


We have a deep review coming on The Blue Castle and adulthood, but I'm taking my time as I write it. I want to think, pray, and make sure that I am expressing opinions with appropriate biblical thought. (Really, I want to blurt out all I think, but I also want to be cautious. It's a tricky topic and one easily misunderstood.)

So while I craft it, (you'll hopefully see it Tuesday, but if not, then by next Friday) I saw a really fun Jane Austen tag on Elisabeth Grace Foley's blog courtesy of Hamlette, and I thought I would join in!

1.  Which did you experience first, a Jane Austen book or a movie based on one?

Guys, it was Pride and Prejudice. The Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice (high five to my parents, everyone). On Sunday nights we would watch an episode of it while eating dinner (Sunday night has always been movie and popcorn night). It was back when we were young. We sat on the floor on giant beanbags and balanced our plates of popcorn using small children's chairs for tables.

I just had a nostalgic moment. 

Those cliffhangers were killers, though. Who hates the end of episode 4 with me?

2.  What is your favorite Austen book?

MansfieldParkandNorthangerAbbey

3.  Favorite heroine?  Why do you like her best?


Fanny. She's one of the best examples of someone who is moral granite--absolutely will not be moved against her conscience--and yet doesn't have a particle of insistence where her personal preferences are concerned. She will stand for principle, but not for inclination. 


4.  Favorite hero?  Why do you like him best?

I would probably be torn between Mr. Knightley and Henry Tilney. Mr. Knightley is a super kind, friendly, normal neighbor who I think would weather marriage well. I especially love his sarcastic quips in the newest Emma adaptation. Henry Tilney is funny, but also incredibly kind when he finds Catherine in a vulnerable position after her imagination runs away with her. He has a gentle touch dealing with embarrassment and shame that endeared me to him from the first read. 


5.  Do you have a favorite film adaptation of Austen's work?

That's so hard. I love the new Sense and Sensibility (though the dresses aren't always modest), and the newer Emma. I think I'd always pick a Dickens movie as my first choice, but Jane Austen is very nice to relax with.


6.  Have your Austen tastes changed over the years?  (Did you start out liking one story best, but now like another better?  Did you think she was boring at first, then changed your mind?  Etc.)

I've always enjoyed her, I think, though it's been years since I've read some of the novels. Now we like to watch the movies a lot, and I've kind of fallen to relying on them for my Jane Austen fix. I still have the same favorite books, though. (See Question 1.)


7.  Do you have any cool Austen-themed things (mugs, t-shirts, etc)?  (Feel free to share photos if you want.)

I don't. I have a bunch of beat-up old Austen books that I got at book sales (and a new copy of Mansfield Park). I own the 1980s Mansfield Park movie, which is excellent, sans language (great will the family's woe when we have to split up our movie collection), but I don't think I have any Austen paraphernalia beyond that. This is a sad thing that must be remedied.

Wait. Yes, I do! :) Some lovely friends made me a notebook with a Jane Austen theme. It contains all the plottings for War of Honor inside it. Delicious secrets....

8.  If you could ask Jane Austen one question, what would you ask her?

"What is your personal religious worldview, and how does it affect your writing?" 


I know we can deduce, but I would love to have it settled once and for all from her own lips. 


9.  Imagine someone is making a new film of any Jane Austen story you choose, and you get to cast the leads.  What story do you want filmed, and who would you choose to act in it?

Mansfield Park. It has never, NEVER been done properly with modern cinematography. It would be hard to beat the original Sylvestra Le Touzel and Nicholas Farrell, but let me put on my thinking cap. Fanny needs to be kind, and able to pull off someone shy but morally strong. I think Claire Foy could pull her off. Holiday Grainger would make a very good Mary Crawford. I have no idea who could do Edmund Bertram.

10.  Share up to five favorite Jane Austen quotations!

Some that are quoted quite often at the appropriate sarcastic moment in our house: 


"What do we live for but to make sport for our neighbors, and to laugh at them in our turn?" ~Mr Bennet. 


"Your hands are cold." (2005 Pride and Prejudice. It makes me snicker.) 


"Deal the cards for me, Fanny." ~Lady Bertram, 1980s Mansfield Park 


I'll cheat and share a favorite movie scene, too. The scene with Mr. Knightley and Emma dancing is the perfect dance in the history of ever. It beats out Cinderella, and that's saying a lot. 


I can't think of five. -.- I'm sorry. 


Hope you have a happy weekend, folkies. Curl up with a book and relax for a while this evening. And join in the celebration over at Hamlette before the 18th to get in on the Jane Austen celebration! 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Perfect Novel for Valentine's Day

If you have a little extra time to celebrate tonight, (and a chocolate bar to keep you company) then of course you'll want a book to curl up with.

I have the perfect one for you. If you love Jane Austen, this one is for you.

I first heard of Old Friends and New Fancies whilst talking to my friend Carly on the phone. We talked about art and life, and books (of course), and she recommended a really sweet Jane Austen sequel. Of course, I was intrigued. It's also free on Project Gutenberg, which is just my price.

On Saturday I collapsed into a chair with said novel and pretty much didn't move unless forced until it was all done.

The Book 
The Darcys enjoy their idyllic establishment at Pemberly, until Georgiana Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam decide that their idea of domestic happiness is not wrapped up in one another. After their engagement is broken--greatly to the ire of Lady Catherine de Bourgh--they are left with the question, who in the wide world will make them happy?

Filled with plottings, friendships, dancing, and old scandals relived, Old Friends and New Fancies weaves together the lives of the Crawfords, the Wentworths, the Ferrars, the Knightleys, and the Darcys in a way that is at once plausible and deeply satisfying. While I've read other sequels that aren't nearly as good, this one, written in 1914, has all the vintage charm and reserve that made Jane Austen herself a favorite author of the last couple of hundred years.

My Thoughts 
Everything about this book is charming. From beginning to end, the character interactions intertwine with tight cause-and-effect plotting that leave nothing dragging or implausible. It's like a stack of dominoes that collapse one onto the other to bring about the character interactions and feelings.

Georgiana's character was my favorite. She's sweet, with a genuine growth of maturity and kindness under her shy exterior, and I think we see into her very lovable heart in a very lovable way. Jane and Lizzy with their respective establishments are perfectly satisfactory, and while Lizzy takes on some Emma-like qualities, at least she knows where to meddle. The other character I especially loved was Mary Crawford--who has some of the same imperfections and pride as we know in Mansfield Park, but which have been tempered by the Bertram scandal into something more refined, with hope for a better future. I am heartily glad to have made their acquaintance and followed them a little further down the road than Jane Austen took them. We also get cameos of Mr. Bennet and Mrs. Jennings (though not in the same scene). You'll love how the characters all intertwine.

Old Friends and New Fancies contains very brief language, comparable to the original Jane Austen novels. There were a couple of characters I didn't quite like the interpretation of, namely Thomas Bertram and Emma Knightley. Emma seems almost sharp and grudging at times towards Georgiana, and Thomas Bertram, in getting inveigled with Isabella Thorpe, can't recommend himself to anyone's good taste. Personally, I think Tom had a complete reformation at the end of Mansfield Park, and it does him a discredit to present him as a rather selfish, shallow, rich heir in this book. But they were small, needlesome elements in an otherwise perfectly lovely book.

Old Friends and New Fancies is a lovely way to binge-read on a Saturday, or even on a quiet Valentine's evening. I highly recommend downloading it to your Kindle and enjoying a further glimpse at the world of Jane Austen in a way that is sweetly satisfactory. It's free over on Project Gutenburg. 

Best enjoyed in company with chocolate cake and tea.

Friday, February 10, 2017

No More Faking Fine

Think for a moment about something painful that you've been carrying for a while.

Maybe it's something you had forgotten about until now. Or maybe it's an angst that has eaten at your soul 24/7 since it first reared its head.

Maybe it's a wrong someone did to you...something you grew up with...maybe it's a disability or a mental illness, a broken friendship, or a broken marriage. Maybe it's a sin you just can't let go of, or something you've tried to forgive fifty times, and fifty times the pain is still there. Maybe it's a dream your family never supported.

Maybe it's something you never acknowledged was a wound, because you thought someone else's wound was deeper or more legitimate.

Open up that wound, and come read this book with me.

Official Book Description
If you’ve ever been given empty clich├ęs during challenging times, you know how painful it can feel to be misunderstood by well-meaning people. Far too often, it seems the response we get to our hurt and disappointment is to suck it up, or pray it away.

But Scripture reveals a God who meets us where we are, not where we pretend to be.

No More Faking Fine is your invitation to get gut-level honest with God through the life-giving language of lament. Lament, a practice woven throughout Scripture, is a prayer that God never ignores, never silences, and never wastes. As author Esther Fleece says, “Lament is the unexpected pathway to true intimacy with God, and with those around us.”

Esther learned this the hard way, by believing she could shut down painful emotions that haunted her from a broken past she tried to forget on her fast track to success. But in silencing her pain, she robbed herself of the opportunity to be healed. Maybe you’ve done the same.

No More Faking Fine is your permission to lament—to give voice to the hurt, frustration, and disappointment you’ve kept inside and silenced for too long. Drawing from careful biblical study and hard-won insight, Esther reveals how to use God’s own language to draw closer to Him as He leads us through any darkness into His marvelous light.

My Thoughts 
I got this book one night when I was trying to work through a cocktail of hard things. One morning I read almost 1/3 of it, and the rest followed not too long after. It's the kind of book that you literally can't put down because it's a message of grief that just hasn't been offered in the same way before. And it is so needed for a bunch of dying, hurting, festering wounds that Christians are carrying around alone. 

Esther Fleece went through hard things in her childhood and was told to get over it. As a child, she determined that she would--and poured her soul into excelling at school and church. She was never vulnerable with anyone. After a while, she thought she had healed. Then God brought her to a grinding halt in the middle of a successful career, and she realized she hadn't healed at all. 

She had just coped with hard things and tried to move past them, lying to herself and others that she was doing fine. But God doesn't let us cope forever. He wants us to be a whole people (spiritually healthy), and we can only be whole when we face inner pain and go through the healing process. 

I cannot begin to express the grace contained in this book's pages--the absolute necessity of believers reading it. We must, must, must learn to pause in our pain--not to let busyness and life act as an anesthetic. God's people find wholeness by bringing their brokenness to him. I am finding more and more a holy discontent with coping, and a deeper desire to face, uncover things, and become healed. 

Part of being whole is lamenting your hard things. Even if that means leaving your job or your ministry and trusting God to provide so you have time to do that. 

Part of being whole is lamenting the pain you have undergone before you try to forgive someone. Or lamenting the pain you have caused in someone else's life. 

Part of being whole is lamenting the pain, and then going to God and lamenting again--as many times as you need to until the infection of pain is gone and a song of joy comes in its place. 

Part of being whole is lamenting in community, so that your lament doesn't consume you alone, and others can help carry the burden of the hurt you're undergoing. 

God will give you a new song. He will restore. But the strong emotions of anger and sadness and betrayal are not meant to be stuffed down somewhere in your soul and forgotten. They are designed to be brought to him, just like countless people did in the Psalms, so that you and he can grow closer together through every emotion you experience--not just the safe and pretty ones. Moses did that many times, and he was considered a meek man. 

Those are reminders I so desperately needed. I have some lamenting I need to do. I suspect a lot of us do--and I highly recommend getting this book to help with your own soul-healing. 

You can download a free study guide that offers some Scriptures and types of lament you might need to make. Just visit www.estherfleece.com to get your own copy. 

I received a copy of this book from Book Look Bloggers. All opinions expressed are my own. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

On the Mail Stack: February



A short post today. I'm tackling a stack of work things. And I was tackling them yesterday too.

Adult life.

schuyler, all ages have lots of work things to do. don't be a snob. 

But I wanted to leave you a little something to tide you over until Friday, when we're going to have an epic book discussion (I'm still deciding between a couple of books--they're going to be good.)

While we wait, I thought you might enjoy some missives I received recently from a couple of fictional characters.

From The Book of Lost Tales II, by Tolkien 

To her ladyship, from King Turgon

I noticed your presence on the towers of Gondolin last week, after weary years of delay. Unfortunately, your presence did not turn the tide of battle. Neither the fire drakes nor the balrogs were excessively dismayed by your presence, and I was sorely dismayed to find that you did not come bringing reinforcements with you.

Please bear in mind that if you had not left my fate on the TBR stack since 2014, Gondolin might not have fallen. An elf king can only hold Melko at bay so long.

I write this hasty line with the sound of cries outside my walls. I hope they echo in your conscience.

Turgon, lord of Gondolin

From Kilmeny of the Orchard, by L.M. Montgomery 

Dear Miss Schuyler,
Eric here. I'm flattered that you remained glued to the fate of my wooing while making dinner for your family Friday night. It was sheer luck that nothing burned. (The hash browns on Wednesday were a bit tough, though you weren't reading at the time.) Our love story was a literary feast before dinner, wasn't it? Even if you did have to stop one page away from The End because dinner was ready. I couldn't help laughing, but Kilmeny sympathized. I don't think you should make reading while cooking a common practice. Your family will probably thank you.

Eric Marshall

PS. You also burned the toast Friday morning because you were reading, but I won't cast it up to you. After all, it was only your toast and not anyone else's.


really, i think i deserve more respect from fictional characters  

Friday, February 3, 2017

How Writing Offers Healing


A pastor's daughter had everything she ought to need to be happy--a loving husband, sweet children, a stable home life. She had had painful sadness in her past. Everyone does. But for some reason she couldn't explain, she had spiraled down into a serious depression.

It went on and on and on. They couldn't find a way to cure it. Her husband got worn down trying to hold the family together. At last, he was contemplating using up his savings to send her away to a quiet place where she could find healing.

When she heard of his plan, that sounded like the worst possible ending to her struggle. Before that happened, she saw another doctor. He made one request: an experiment. He asked her to write him one letter every day and tell him how she was doing.

Gradually her letters got longer and longer. She felt guilty spending so much time and feeling so much joy writing a man who wasn't her husband. But she was getting better. What had happened to her? One day, the clouds lifted, and she had her answer.

She felt better because she was writing again.

When this pastor's daughter was younger, she loved writing. But somehow the writing got lost amid growing up, and depression had come in to take its place. For her, writing had a direct affect on her mental well-being.

Her name is Thyra Ferre Bjorn. Her heart-warming biographies, Papa's Wife, Papa's Daughter, and Mama's Way, are lost classics.

But her story makes me think.

The Necessity of Writing 
Thyra isn't the only person to come to that conclusion. I was browsing through the Internet wilderness one day, and while I don't remember the title of the author or the book, the story was extremely similar. The author went through a period where her health wasn't good. After trying to find out what was wrong with her, the thing that cured her was her long-abandoned, stifled love for writing. Writing mattered in maintaining her personal health.

Over the last two or three years, I've been through my own share of difficult events. (Just like everyone, really.) Some are small and some are large, but I am beginning to realize that for me, the same principle of writing and health applies.

I've never been one to journal. It drives me crazy to write about my day and my feelings in a cohesive paragraph form. But I have always been one to write stories. And in those stories, I explore everything from questions I have (sometimes I find answers) to processing pain and life. Processing is so very, very important for any human being. If you don't process, the things don't go away. They just wait, layering up like a stack of unsorted mail, until the day you're finally going to surrender and deal with them. If you wait to deal with them too long, they layer up until they choke and debilitate you.

Some people process through talking--art--service--music. Or writing.

As I looked over hard events last year, I realized that some of them were handled without meltdowns, and some of them were handled with a lot of tears and despair. I couldn't understand how some I had gone through without being debilitated, while others left me sidelined. God was with me in both places. Prayer or lack thereof was certainly a factor in it all. But one of the missing links in the hard times was when I stopped writing.

I was busy. I was trying to get certified in a writing curriculum. Writing would just have to go on the back burner for a while. Making that drastic of a cut to something I loved was a bad decision. After a month of not writing things I loved, I was burned out. Story writing was an "if time" activity, but I was keeping up pretty decently on blog posts. That burnout continued into the fall. I had lots of writing inspiration, but only enough energy to follow through in small ways. A plateful of social and work events turned the weeks into a whirl of activity. It wasn't that I never wrote. I worked on stories, planned stories, and went to writer's conferences. But I wasn't writing intentionally to keep myself in tune. Writing had turned from "important" to "optional" because I was overbooked and overbusy.

I had laid aside my means of processing life, and that started to show. I would sometimes mention that I didn't have time to write very much. People would tell me "It's OK, life happens." But what I needed in retrospect was for someone to look at me and say, "I know these things are important, and you are growing older and have different responsibilities. But you need to make time for writing too." Even though that might have helped, it's OK that neither they or I knew. This season had its purpose. Like Tyra and her husband, sometimes you just don't know what would help, and you have to walk through the pain to find out.

One Sunday afternoon, I turned on Scrivener. I had never written on Sundays up to that point. It was a day I strictly observed for rest, because I wrote so much during the week. (That's me, not a principle I think everyone has to observe.) But I was sad that day, and it was growing so overwhelming that I pulled out a story. It was a Schuyler story: filled with pain and quirk and worship and bonfires, and yummy descriptions of food. It felt like just what I needed.

I was processing again on paper.

It felt like getting a drink after a long time of being without water.

The Question 
It begs the question: does writing dull pain? Is it like a narcotic that makes you forget your troubles? That can be the case. Writing can encourage you to avoid facing real life by fixing your problems on paper, or it can be an idol of self-fulfillment. But I think there's two sides of the coin to that: There's a method of dulling pain that is sinful, but that doesn't mean all pain killer is sinful.

If you're trying to use writing as your only means to achieve mental health, then that's not healthy. There were ways of processing outside of writing that I needed to grow in. Over last fall, I started learning to talk to people, not just paper, about painful things. I even journaled a bit (it's sporadic, but once in a blue moon it happens.) I started memorizing a lot more and praying a lot more. Those are all part of the mental/spiritual health equation. Writing can be a crutch if you're not talking to God and not talking to people. I learned more balance in those areas. When writing is a coping mechanism that helps you avoid real life, that's the tare among the wheat that needs to be refined away.

But processing through writing can also be a good thing. Ann Voskamp, in an interview on YouTube, said that she has to write to understand her life and what God is teaching her. It clarifies the picture, invites others into her personal pain, and shares the journey of healing with them.

I like to think that's the good side of processing through writing. Stories are a means of tracing themes through my own life: Friendship. Pain. Broken relationships. Loss. Joy. Worship. When I am not tracing those themes through the lives of characters, my soul starves. The gift of being able to feel and express inner pain on paper is something that not only blesses me, but blesses those who read my stories as well.

Late last year I knew writing helped with pain, but I was afraid that it was an unspiritual means of doing it. Sometimes I would tell my sister that I didn't want writing to be a crutch. But I had a messed up balance. I was worried that as a Christian I shouldn't need writing to be a whole person. But God created me to be a whole person with writing. It's not a crutch--it's an important part of my life goals, my love, and my mental wiring.

Perhaps in some ways it requires humility to say "I don't understand all the reasons why I need to write. But I do understand that along with wise counselors, Scripture, prayer, and memorizing, writing is one of the requirements to my being a healthy person. And I need to listen to that need."

Perhaps, too, writing is a crutch. But perhaps I am, after all, a cripple, and that is God's instrument of grace to me. Or perhaps it's not a crutch at all. It's a calling, and when I am not fulfilling that calling, then my soul feels sick.

In Conclusion
For some of us who process by means of writing, it should never be completely cut out. If you know writing correlates with your well being, then cutting it out is like cutting out an important medication, or losing an hour of sleep every night, or forgetting a certain nutrient in your diet.

You're going to be left feeling sick and out of balance. And depressed. Health cannot be gained without intentionally knowing and providing for your needs. You are not infallible. You need to take care of your soul as well as your body. That includes using the writing ability God has given you to keep your mind, soul, and body in tune. Processing through writing can not only be a good thing for you, but a blessing to those who get an intimate look at your spiritual walk.

Make the time to avail yourself of an instrument of God's grace to you.

For the last few days, I haven't done any story writing. I've been--you guessed it--too busy. But I have dubbed today story day in celebration of a long week's work completed.

That's a part of my health equation that I want to make sure I pay attention to.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Shattered Vigil, by Patrick Carr

(To see the first book in this series, check out my review for The Shock of Night.)

I love Patrick Carr's fantasy books. But if I thought A Cast of Stones was epic, the Darkwater Saga basically took Patrick Carr's first series tension x 1000 and escalated from there. I don't think my heart could take more than one release per year.

My Thoughts
Willet, the main characters is just as good as ever. I love him. He has a pleasing sense of sarcasm, a compassion for the poor people of the town, and a good balance of manly stoicism. He carries on what I loved about the last book while peeling away deeper layers of personality. Carr surprised me by Willet's occasional unreliable narration--not because he's lying, but because the vault in his mind from his past plays tricks on him. Willet doesn't collapse under the pain of his past like some characters, but he still feels it, even though he's gone on and formed a stable life for himself.

The array of side characters is good too: Bolt, Willet's guard, is ready with a sword or a proverb depending on the situation. The Mark, an urchin lad seems to value his own worth quite well in the midst of the prestigious company he's keeping. :) And Pellin, the unwilling head Vigil leader. I don't envy Pellin having to keep all the Vigil members with their various personalities in line. Each character has to deal with hard moral choices, heart wrenching decisions, and the weight of responsibility their gift of mind-reading brings. Lady Bronwyn's plot especially, as she faces the limits of her powers and all the memories she has collected over the years, lingered. It must be hard to have an unchosen gift that requires you to carry the joys and sorrows of countless people all the time.

Sometimes I was a confused trying to remember side characters from The Shock of Night, but not too often, and that's my own fault. I should have refreshed my memory by glancing at book one. It really wasn't too bad, though. There are four Vigil characters who have POVs. Each Vigil character has an urchin companion, a guard, and a job to accomplish. It's not too hard to follow. In fact, don't let the size deceive you: The Shattered Vigil is a fast read.

I'm not too keen on the latter half of Gail's plot yet and how she found a way to be with Willet. It fit with the story plot, but it seemed a bit cliche for female power in modern literature. The only other thing I really didn't like was the unnecessary description of courtesans/tavern women in a couple of places. There were two brief descriptions in particular that felt unnecessary either for atmosphere or for the plot. It's like finding decayed spinach in your salad.

(not fun) 

Due to a plot line towards the end of the book, I strongly encourage this book for 18+. Highlight to see sensitive thematic elements: One of the characters is raped off-screen, but it's quite intense. Her grief is handled in a very true and empathetic way, not brushing over it or offering trite comfort, but it's very heavy to read about, especially pages 357-363 and you really may want to skim pages 414-415. Another character remembers being hired out. Not all readers may wish to be exposed to this. 

Out of all the plot lines, Willet's was still my favorite. I love his companions most--Bolt and the urchin Rory--and knew exactly what he was trying to accomplish. Plus we got to see more of the town from book one, and tie up some plot lines. Willet feels more seasoned than Erroll (A Cast of Stones), but still super interesting to read about.

Now I'm going into shock and recovery mode so I can be emotionally stable for the release of book 3. ;) There are so many intriguing questions about Willet and the Darkwater that I want to know. I can't wait for the big reveal, and I hope my favorite characters make it to the end.

If you want an intense fantasy with deep emotional conflict, a fast pace, and characters funny and heart-wrenching by turns, The Darkwater Saga is for you. There's so much at stake. So much emotion. So much grief. So much forging ahead in the face of unknown mental fear. I'm convinced that mental fear is even more emotional than huge creatures or armies. Sometimes the fear of ourselves or of our comrades is the biggest thing we ever have to tackle.

I received this book from Bethany House Publishers. All opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, by Madeleine L'Engle

I sat in a packed auditorium, my creative soul feeling as if I had just eaten a feast. We had just listened to two days of talks on writing, creativity, work balance, and love for our stories. After enriching conversations with friends, I didn't want to leave.

To end a perfect day, one of the conference board members read a quote from Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water. It talked about submitting ourselves to the process of carrying and giving life to a creative work, just as Mary submitted herself to carrying and giving birth to Christ.

While L'Engle isn't trying to put fiction writing on the same level as Jesus' birth, carrying and giving life to something is exactly what writing a book feels like.

So when I saw Walking on Water come up for review, you bet I grabbed it.

My Thoughts 
Madeleine's book is full of food for inspiration, moments that resonate, and encouragement for Christian artists. Writing about Christian art was difficult for her. She found Christianity in art by Christians and by secular people, regardless of their faith. I think I would agree. Some songs both Christian and secular move me very deeply, books both Christian and classic resonate with my soul. That is simply because they are good and full of truth about the world.

This book is full of thoughts that are hard to summarize but rich to read about: thoughts on political correctness, God's healing through art, and the sense of wonder that the Christian art requires. Madeleine told herself stories to heal the pain of things she did not understand. I deeply resonated with that as well, but I'll save more thoughts on that for a stand alone article, hopefully next week. She gives anecdotes about her life and different writers she met, and books she worked on, all fascinating to consider. Her words have a warm, friendly, deep thinking style.

Along with the inspiring paragraphs, there are sections that are confusing. Sometimes there were thoughts about communion I downright disagreed with. Sometimes I didn't understand what she meant or how a particular thought connected. She writes in a very personal, conversational style that would probably take me more than one reading to wrap my mind around. But in spite of that, I often found myself giving a resounding yes to things I did understand. Madeleine is Catholic and I am not, but I didn't find her Catholicism overwhelming to the content. Her mind is one it would be intimidating to converse with, though she seems very kind.

My favorite chapter by far was Chapter 11. In this chapter she is talking about the idea of being a servant of the stories, and how the stories know more about how they are to be written and what should be in them than the author does. For instance, the story will tell her what it needs, if it's a knowledge of physics or cellular biology, and she will study that thing. She doesn't take what she knows and pour it into a book. She takes what the book needs and learns it.

In chapter 11, Madeleine told several anecdotes about unexpected characters that popped onto her page and made her work so much more vibrant and complete than her original idea without them. She also told a beautiful story about making an unlikely situation in her book, and finding out that something like it had actually occurred in history. "Miracles" as she calls them, of fiction matching up with true life can indeed take place. I have happy first-hand accounts in my own stories of those things happening without my prior planning.

Walking on Water will give you much to ponder about Christian art. Some of it will be confusing, but all of it will be deep and worthy of consideration. I enjoyed it, and it's an easy read, so I recommend all Christian artists give it a try. Perhaps this statement of hers summarizes the book best:

"I have often been asked if my Christianity affects my stories, and surely it is the other way around; my stories affect my Christianity...." Madeleine L'Engle (2016) Walking on Water, pg. 96. Convergent Books.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
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