Friday, September 21, 2012

The Great Romance

I've really enjoyed the discussion about romance we've had since Patti's post last Friday started us on the topic. I loved the clip she posted from You've Got Mail, which is high on my list of movie favorites. I love all the comments generated by the posts of the past week, and have added titles to both my reading and movie-watching lists.

To conclude the discussion, at least for now, I'm posting a book review of one of my truly favorite movels about romance. Actually, it's a trilogy I'm reviewing: Black, Red & White by Ted Dekker. The trilogy is speculative fiction, a thriller/fantasy, so why in the world would I promote it as romance? I'll get to that.

For those who haven't read The Circle trilogy, I'll tell you what the back cover copy says about each one.  Black: The Birth of Evil. "Black is an incredible story of evil and rescue, betrayal and love, pursuit and death, and a terrorist's threat unlike anything the human race has ever known. A virulent evil has been unleashed upon the people of the earth, an unstoppable force bent on the destruction of all that is good. Only Thomas Hunter can stop it, and he has been killed. Twice."

Well, I was already quite a fan of Ted Dekker's writing, but when I read that back cover copy I knew Black was a must-read for me. I'm sure I read the opening pages three or four times and still couldn't figure out what was happening. It was my faith in Ted that kept me going, because I knew when the confusion cleared up it would be so worth it. But that's not entirely true. I'd have kept reading regardless, because the story didn't just draw me in, it sucked me in. I had to keep reading.

I had the privilege of seeing Ted Dekker as the keynote speaker at Mount Herman Christian Writer's Conference a few years ago. What he spoke about bolstered my determination to not give up on my dream of publication. He said the world of writing is like a pyramid. At the base of the pyramid you have a large number of people who want to be published. Move up the pyramid a bit and there will be a smaller number of people who will actually write to be published (a little author humor there). Move closer to the top of the pyramid and you have a much smaller number of people who will hone their craft and persevere until they are published. I left that conference knowing I was going to persevere until I realized my dream or died trying.

I read Black -- devoured it is more like it -- then had to wait several months for Red to be released, and several more months for White. The upside was that I read Black a second time just before Red came out, and read Red a second time just before White came out. Then I read White a second time ... um ... to keep things in balance.

Here's the back cover copy for Red and White:

Red: The Great Pursuit. "The mind-bending pace of Black accelerates in Red, Book Two of Ted Dekker's ground-breaking Circle trilogy. Less than a month ago, Thomas Hunter was a failed writer selling coffee at the Java Hut in Denver. Now he finds himself in a desperate quest to rescue two worlds from collapse. In one world, he's a battle-scarred general commanding an army of primitive warriors. In the other, he's racing to outwit sadistic terrorists intent on creating global chaos through an unstoppable virus. Two worlds on the brink of destruction. One unthinkable solution. Enter an adrenaline-laced epic where dreams and reality collide. Nothing is as it seems, as Black turns to Red."

White: The Great Pursuit. "Thomas Hunter has only days to survive two separate realms of danger, deceit and destruction. The fate of both worlds hinges on his unique ability to shift realities through his dreams. Now leading a small ragtag group known as The Circle, Thomas finds himself facing new enemies, never-ending challenges, and the forbidden love of a most unlikely woman. Enter the Great Pursuit, where Thomas and a small band of followers must decide quickly who they can trust -- both with their own lives and the fate of millions. Dreams and reality quickly bleed into each other as time runs out. And neither the terror of Black nor the treachery of Red can prepare Thomas for the forces aligned against The Circle in White."

So again, what does that really have to do with romance? Well, just as the incomparable Lord of the Rings trilogy is, to my mind, the best Christian allegory ever written (I know, the debate continues over whether Lord of the Rings is an allegory at all. To me, it is) so too The Circle trilogy is a thrilling allegory about the love of God. In the trilogy it's referred to as the Great Romance. My family (all of whom read and loved the trilogy) and I fall back on that phrase on a regular basis. It's a succinct way to remind ourselves and each other of the deep, abiding, unquenchable love of God. As the story so beautifully drives home, "From the beginning it was always about the Great Romance."

What book(s) can you think of that at first glance would never fall into the Romance category, but when you get to the heart of it, it's about little else?


Megan Sayer said...

Does anybody here but me read Nick Hornby's books? He's one of my all-time FAVOURITE EVER authors...books like About a Boy and High Fidelity are more "about romance" than they are romance stories. So atypical. So wonderful. So insightful about the complexities of the human heart and so funny that it's easy to forget that there's romance in them at all. But they are quintessentially love stories. Well...I love them anyway : )

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Megan, I haven't read the books ( shame on me) but I've watched the movie of "About a boy" quite a few times and loved it every time. It 's a classic.

Sharon, you've tickled my curiosity now. I'll have to check out the circle trilogy. I'm not a huge Ted Dekler fan, but I have heard good things about that series. I love that pyramid illustration.

S. F. Foxfire said...

Well, now that you mention it....

I would think..."Blue Hole Back Home." You'd think that it would be specifically about racism in the south after the Civil Rights Movement, but when you look at it from the romance view, it's about loving the unloved, about how God doesn't play favorites and neither should we.

I love that book. GORGEOUS.

Megan Sayer said...

Karen you definitely should read it.

...oh, and I LOVED Blue Hole Back Home too. AWESOME book!!

Jennifer Major said...

Unbroken-Laura Hillenbrand. Oh my word.I read it when it was first on the shelves and watched it grow to what it is now. AMAZING story. Just amazing!!!!

Sharon K. Souza said...

S.F., Blue Hole Back Home is one of my very favorite novels ever. I love that book. And you're right in your assessment.

Bonnie Grove said...

I'm going to have to tell Joy there are so many wonderful comments on the blog today. It will make her day!

Henrietta Frankensee said...

I think of all the great historical stories of people pursuing the elusive. Alexander the Great building an empire, Wellington pursuing Napoleon, Wilberforce ending slavery, the Suffragettes. Schindler saving Jews and Corrie Ten Boom surviving and forgiving. We could not have imagined these stories into being, so strange are they, yet they tell the Great Romance in the same blood, sweat and tears that one finds in the Bible.
The factor that ties great stories to the Great Romance is the tenacity of the protagonist. No stone left unturned, no corner unsearched, no resource unspent toward the ultimate goal.
And the Victory! There is a reason we don't say Napoleon's pursuit of Wellington or the Plantation Owners' salvation of their culture. The victory emancipates, sets in a nobler place what was degraded, bestows abundance of life.

Sharon K. Souza said...

Very true, Henrietta. And well said. My husband, daughter and I had the privilege of going to the Ten Boom home in Haarlem, Amsterdam, and to stand in the hiding place. It was an amazing experience.

Joy Jordan-Lake said...

I have to say, I love, love, LOVE this blog but don't follow it or any blog as closely as it deserves. Every time I'm here I'm amazed with all these women who sound like people I want to do coffee with and talk about books with at the beach or over iced tea. And then my friend Bonnie Grove was kind enough yesterday to give me a heads up to come read the comments about Blue Hole Back Home, my first novel. What a gift you all gave me. It's taken me way too long to produce a second novel (part real life with family and teaching, and part my just not being able to get it right--very humbling). Just wanted to say a huge thanks AND a low bow from the waist for this every-more-wonderful blog. Go, NovelMatters!

Bonnie Grove said...

You, Joy, and your writing are the gifts you give us.
Thank you for stopping by. You are loved. And we're waiting--no matter how long it takes--we're waiting for that next novel. Just keep writing. We'll wait.