Friday, October 19, 2012

Glory, Duty, and the Gold Dome

To be honest, this book is a tough nut to crack. But I'll do my best.

The Plot

14-year-old Thomas Richards (homeschooled) acts as his father's representative aide in the Georgia State House of Representatives. A great responsibility for anyone that age, but his prosaic, no-nonsense approach and meticulous attention to detail help him greatly. This year is election year, and his father is stepping up his political ambitions by running for Congress. Thomas will do anything to see him win.
But when a young woman is found in a coma after driving through a red light, their world shifts dramatically. Her husband wants nothing more than to pull the plug on the machine keeping her alive. Her parents are distraught. Surely this man who got their daughter pregnant out-of-wedlock and then turned her out into the street has no right to make a decision on quality of life.
Thomas's father, John Richards, takes the case on determined to save the life of Angela Bauer and the child she carries inside her. As the trial escalates into a evolutionary debate on when a child becomes a human, both father and son receive threats to pull out. The Supreme Court rules against the Bauers. Angela has twenty days before the feeding tube is removed.
With John's run for Congress at stake, he continues speaking out against this unjust action, and calling the Governor of Georgia to intervene. Thomas finds that their threat of betrayal lies within their own party. When he sees his father throwing away the Congressional campaign and taking action outside of the law, Thomas finds a way to help that collapses both the campaign and the Bauer case into the dust.

My Thoughts
To fit the style of this particular book, I am going to write this section in the format of alternating pros and cons.
Pro: Good father/son relationship on the part of John and Thomas Richards. I think Darnell portrayed a natural enjoyment of working together, and a realistic picture of how parents have issues they want to improve on as well as children.
Con: Darnell writes from both Thomas' and John's perspectives, and since he chooses to write in first person, it was very difficult to tell when one was switching to the other. This, I admit, detracted from my enjoyment of the book, as I had to start several sections with no idea of who the speaker was. I think this could have been easily remedied by making headers "John" and "Thomas" or something similar to let the reader know when the perspective switched.
Pro: Thomas is a well-written example of a homeschooled student, who loves history, enjoys having a purposeful existence, and interacts appropriately with adults. This is the product of good homeschooling, and Darnell painted the picture quite accurately.
Pro/Con: This particular point falls into both categories. Some readers may find John and Thomas' conversations to be a little stilted when they're talking through moral issues.  For the most part I didn't have a problem on that score. Though our family doesn't talk the way the Richards do, I think if we were used to it we would find it natural. Darnell makes John put the emphasis on honoring God, not on his children giving him anything. And I think children sense when adults want the respect for themselves "in the name of God" rather than putting the emphasis on God alone. Children are often very resistant to the former, but respond willingly to the latter method of learning to honor their parents.
Pro: Darnell describes the workings of Georgia's State Representatives in a way that engages his readers. You can tell he loves politics, and has an extensive knowledge of law and government. I enjoyed seeing that passion played out in the book.
Con: Darnell advises this book for 15 and up, I think--at least for teen readers. I agree with him; the Bauers plot would disturb most 8-11 year olds, and some of the statements are a little more mature, though not graphic in nature. However, his writing style is a little younger than the average homeschooled 15-year-old. It didn't challenge me enough--and I wanted more. I think he could have stepped it up a bit, to reach the audience he was trying to capture. I would rate it for  13-16, due to medical information, but writing style-wise I would say 12-14.
Pro: In the fight for the Bauers, he really captured it from every angle: the reporters asking for interviews, the parents in the hospital room, the court arguments, the family discussions around the dinner table. This was a realistic representation of what families fighting for a cause undergo.
Con: I didn't connect with any of the characters. Throughout the book, you never see personalities demonstrated. And in a story, no matter what issue you're trying to get across, it is imperative that the author makes his characters engaging. They need to be real flesh-and-blood people to the reader, because that puts flesh on the problem you want to reform.
Con: Vision Forum needs to get a line-by-line editor before sending a book to print. This is one of several I've noticed in which the quality could have improved if they had spent a little more time checking for grammatical errors.
Pro: I liked John Richard's wife. She supports her husband, and sometimes thinks up things on her own to help his cause. She portrays a good picture of a helpmeet. We don't have our brains removed on our wedding day. We're to use them to further our husband's work.
Con: I never liked books in which one of the villains has  a made-up name. "Loo-loo Larry" just doesn't grab me. That offered more groan moments than suspense.
Pro/Con: Darnell surprised me with the identity of one of his villains. I let go of one little clue, and missed it completely. I have to hand it to him for pulling off something that Dickens generally can't. And that's saying much.

Final Opinion: While Glory, Duty, and the Gold Dome was well-written and a good, clean moral tale, I think Darnell overshot his mark. I would have enjoyed two non-fiction books on law and medical ethics much more. However, I applaud him for his desire to provide God-honoring fiction to teens. I think we need to see more of that, and I would like to see him continue with this series. While I didn't connect with this particular book, I support his mission and would do much to help him further it.

In fact, I think he should consider turning this into a movie instead. That would probably triple the story's power, and widen it's impact as well.

Quality of Life
Pros and cons aside, the issue Darnell tackles is one that should lie near and dear to the hearts of all people. Quality of life stems from evolutionary concepts, and leads to euthanasia and abortion. One particular bit of conversation he wrote well:

"Thomas," I said quietly in the dark of the car, "tell me about when a person dies."
Thomas responded quickly, "A person doesn't die until her soul leaves her body, Papa," he said. "That's what James 2:26 says."

This particular exchange struck a chord with me, because I remember very clearly the tragedy of Terry Shiavo. I remember watching the news reports, counting down the days, seeing brave young men arrested for trying to break in and free her. I remember the grief and tragedy of an unconstitutional court order, made in favor of a a husband who no longer loved or cherished her. And I remember praying that if she did not know the Lord Jesus, that somehow God would give her more time and lead her to him. We prayed for her every night when we gathered for family devotions. The grief was great while hearing the announcement that she had died after fourteen days without nutrition or hydration.

Terry Shiavo

I hope that America never forgets. Shame on us, for allowing such a crime to go unpunished.

For that story alone, I recommend that you read Glory, Duty, and the Gold Dome. It may not be the snappiest book I've ever read, but that's beside the point. The point is, we are a forgetful people, and we need to remember that we are not helpless victims of an all-powerful court. Nathaniel Darnell is stepping up to give us that reminder. We need to know our rights and our laws, because tragedies like Terry Schiavo's continue on today, ones that never reach the newspapers. People are dying who should be living.

All in the name of evolution--which runs deeper to a denial of our call to obey an Almighty God.

Blessings,
Lady Bibliophile

6 comments:

  1. Dear Lady B,
    Good post! I don't remember much of Terry Shiavo but I think I do remember when we prayed for her. I was to young to understand the gravity of the situation. It's so terrible to think of now.
    So...It makes me curious.:D What happened in the story?
    Love, Sister

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  2. Oh, I’ve read this! It was a couple of years ago now and my memory of the details is hazy, but yes—it was a fun story, good reading fodder, about some really interesting issues, but could have been written more skillfully.

    I think my verdict would be that it’d be a good book to have on one’s shelf if one had children: again, edifying reading-fodder for the very young can be hard to find. Coming from a somewhat franker society as I do ;), I would not be reluctant to hand a book like this—which treats the issue of evil in a mature and Christian manner—to a younger child.

    Given the fact that so many contemporary Christian books are badly-written and not very Christian, I really appreciate books that at least try to take every area of life captive to Christ and foster maturity in children.

    You’ve probably heard of Mr Darnell’s more recent project, a short movie called Jimmy Valiant? That showed improvement in some areas, particularly characterisation. (Trivia: A guy I know from the Aussie homeschooling community played the assassin).

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    1. We are agreed. ;) I had a hard time with this book because there were some points I wanted to critique from a writing standpoint. But Darnell's message is so important, and his book is so much better moral-wise than much that is available to children, that I didn't want to come across as knocking it too hard.

      I have seen the trailer for Jimmy Valiant several times. :) (I always do that when I don't own the movie--eke out as much as I can until I do get it) and it looks pretty cool. I would really like to see the whole thing.

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  3. P.S. I should mention that I felt there could have been more exposition of the hows and whys behind why the main characters fought to save Angela Bauer's life. Medical ethics is not something that I've been able to study in-depth from a Scriptural standpoint at this point and the novel left me with more questions than answers.

    In the two years since I read this book I had the opportunity of helping out a family caring for their terminally ill dad at home. Fighting for his right to nutrition did become an issue at one point and I had no doubts at all about the right thing in those circumstances--we couldn't just stand by and do nothing. I understand the issue much better since then but many people have never been in such a situation and I don't wish it on them. So some more info in the book would have been helpful to me in seeing why I should take the position espoused therein. I mean, obviously I'm pro-life but I need to understand the issues. It would have been nice if this book could have helped a bit more with that.

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    1. Yeah--Darnell did rather take the hows and whys for granted, which doesn't really give a defense that pro-lifers can use, and doesn't really give an answer to people coming from the opposite perspective.

      So the search goes on. Perhaps in book #2, though I doubt if he will continue the series. Unfortunately many authors start a series and leave it hanging...

      I would like to learn more about medical ethics as well. I think that is a topic we as a society are going to be combatting first hand in the near future. (Even more so than we are now) After all, n some countries you can request euthanizations now if you don't want to live anymore.

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    2. I just read through the link you included. What an incredibly difficult time, and yet one in which you can clearly see God's sustaining hand. I don't wish the situation on anyone, but I do wish that more people might understand the right thing to do at such times. I am glad that you passed the story along.

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