Friday, November 18, 2011

The Keepers


The weekend before Thanksgiving may be one of the worst times to hold a garage sale, but that's what we're doing on Saturday. We spent the last weekend digging and sorting and piling stuff into boxes. It's amazing the things we kept for years 'just because.' I emptied a five shelf unit that was piled with books two rows deep and plugged in all catty-whompas to make them fit. Now there are three boxes of great books that will hopefully get snatched up and treasured.

Of course, I kept several shelves of favorites which contain a mixture of both CBA (Christian) and ABA (mainstream) trade paperbacks. In light of our great discussions this week, I considered why I chose these particular ABA books and whether they demonstrated elements of hopefulness and transformation, which the CBA books did naturally.

Here is a selection of the ABA books I kept:
Peace Like a River, Shadow of the Wind, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, To Kill a Mockingbird, Time Traveler's Wife, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Seabiscuit, Snow Falling on Cedars, Gilead, Pride and Prejudice, Water for Elephants, Jewel, The Miracles of Santo Fico, The Picture of Dorian Grey, Cold Sassy Tree

In these books I found characters who persevered, who revealed characteristics of God, who gave sacrificially, who gained new perspectives, who developed tolerance for others, who believed in a dream, whose faith was restored, who kept their word when it hurt, who didn't back down from a righteous fight, who protected what was good, who found the best in others, who never stopped loving.

Did I love each and every one of the characters? No, but they either redeemed themselves in some way or got their comeuppance. No unsatisfying, ambiguous endings here. In contrast, there are many books that I've begun and put down again. While I believe we should give a book a chance once we've started reading, we need to fine tune our discernment. I'm not referring to violence, language or sexuality, I mean when the book impacts your outlook on life in a negative way, it's time to listen to that inner voice saying 'enough!' Step away from the book.

BTW, right now I'm just getting into Marilyn Robinson's Home which takes place in the same town as Gilead during the same time period. I'm just now acquainted with the elderly pastor, his spinster daughter and her blacksheep brother. Their relationships are complicated, and I have a good feeling that they will come to an understanding and find closure in the end. They are the kind of folks I enjoy acquainting myself with. And one of them is vaguely familiar...

We know that CBA books include elements of hopefulness and transformation, but what ABA book has made an impact on you in this way? We'd love to hear!

8 comments:

Nicole said...

I admit there's nothing definitively redemptive in the spiritual sense in Vince Flynn novels, but there is often the kind of justice that reminds me that the One who is always just will prevail. And I need that. His best, IMO, is Consent to Kill where his larger than life character Mitch Rapp exercises justice with mercy. I've read that scene multiple times and actually wept at its beauty. Maybe that's just me. Anyway, I love my ABA Vince Flynn novels. Every. Single. One.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

One thing that you need to know about me: I'm a Steinbeck super freak. No, I'm not seeking therapy and yes, I went through a phase in life when I wondered if socialism wasn't a good idea (it was college...just one semester).

Anyway, I find that The Grapes of Wrath is FULL of redemption and beautiful stories of people putting others first. One of the most striking things is that most of these stories are based on real people that Steinbeck encountered when reporting on the migration.

Grapes reminds me of the good that humans have in them (because they are made in the image of The Good Shepherd) despite terrible circumstances. It very much is a "brother's keeper" type of book.

Patti Hill said...

Debbie, our bookshelves are practically twins! Not much of a surprise there.

A few books I've read in the last year (and I promise not to mention The Dry Grass of August again)that I found redemptive and/or reassuring are:
The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

Megan Sayer said...

Definitely WD Kinsella's Shoeless Joe (aka Field of Dreams)...because I'm a mad believer in the redemptive power of dreams. That book is one of the most inspiring and most beautiful I've ever read.

Susie I haven't read enough to be a Steinbeck freak, but I love love love Of Mice and Men, and the memory of that tragic, sacrificial act at the end makes that book a real keeper. Oh, and I went through a Communist phase too - first year of College...just for one Semester : )

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Megan and Susie, I have loved Steinbeck, too. I was geek-fully excited when I went to Monterey and saw Cannery Row and Doc's lab. And I agree about 'Of Mice and Men.' Powerful, moving story. Not a happy ending, but satisfying.
Nicole, I feel the same about Ray Bradbury's fiction. The strangeness and beauty moves me and I come away awed, not depressed.
You have all suggested great reading and I'll be adding them to my list.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

Oh to be worthy of the description:
Reader be aware, God's love is found in this book. ! Oh the tragedy of those who have already turned away from it and therefore would turn away from a book with it as the theme. Or those who think only one theme (what they want) is all that is necessary in the world. We need books of all endings and themes. We are all so different. And our needs are different as we progress. It is the search for uniformity that shackles creativity.
Yes, I'm responding to earlier posts because I have given my list of redemptive non-christian fiction in even earlier responses. Just call me 'better late than never'.

Karen Schravemade said...

I thought The Kite Runner was redemptive. At least, it was about a person finding their own redemption through an act of sacrificial bravery. The journey from cowardice to courage is a compelling one.

It's an interesting thought that the humanist ideal is that we are capable of redeeming ourselves....

Kathleen Popa said...

I just finished "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" by Lisa See. A wonderful story about the sin nature dressed up as respectability, about forgiveness and the real nature of love.