I know, scandalous... maybe. The Mormon girl writes a book review on the Sabbath, but seriously, this is Sabbath worthy.
Before I even begin, I feel like I should make a disclaimer that although, I can see some parallels between my marriage and Lonnie and Gideon's, the differences are many and huge. My husband and I were ecstatic to finally be getting married on our wedding day; we wanted to be there with each other. And we have wanted to be together every day since. There. Disclaimer over. Now onto the book review.
Here's another surprise, the Mormon girl read a 'Christian' novel. I have never read a novel classified as 'Christian' before. I have read many books by authors that are Christian and that have Christian undertones before. And I have read many books by Mormon authors that carry a heavy Latter-day Saint overtones. However, I can't say I have read an overtly Christian novel before. Well, maybe, I have read a lot by C.S. Lewis and I suppose that counts. I'll clarify a little: never read a Christian romance. Simply because, although I am very much a Christian and I do believe that Christ is my Savior, a lot of mainstream Christian culture is foreign to me, as a Latter-day Saint or Mormon and just as Latter-day Saint culture would be foreign to a mainstream Christian. Therefore, I have shied away from novels labeled as Christian simply because I wasn't sure if I would be culturally comfortable reading them. Boy, was I ever wrong.
The book, Be Still My Soul by Joanne Bischof, is probably one of the best books I have read this year... probably for the last few years, actually.
The story begins as Lonnie Sawyer is being pushed to the stage by her drunken father to perform for just about everyone she knows, something she is extremely against. She knows there is no disobeying her pa so onstage she goes, where we meet Gideon O'Reily, the local bad boy who is killer on the mandolin and on a girl's heart. After walking Lonnie home, Gideon steals a kiss (and then some), which in the Appalachian mountains in the early 1900's results in an arranged marriage that neither of them desire.
As readers we get to follow Lonnie and Gideon on their first year as a married couple. A year in which they experience many unexpected twists and turns, akin to what any couple could experience in our time: being out of work, having to move far from friends and family, tempers and frustrations, anxiety, finding their roles as a married couple, expecting their first child and wondering how to provide for it, and giving up parts of themselves, parts of their old, single life, in the process. Those are the parallels I could relate to. Those hard things that require so much work, sacrifice and forgiveness to get through as a married couple.
I could not help but identify with Lonnie. She grew up in a home with an alcoholic father, feeling immense responsibility for her younger siblings while at the same time being desperately anxious to fly the coop. She relies heavily on the Lord to carry her through all her trials and has a clear understanding that she is a daughter of God and that He will watch out for her. One of the things I really appreciated about the book was that, although this is such a large and important aspect of who Lonnie is, it isn't thrown in your face. There are actually proportionally very few mentions of her personal relationship with God. Rather, it is quite beautifully shown to you by the way Lonnie handles herself and the way she lives day to day.
And I couldn't help but fall in love with Gideon, even though he is the local womanizer. He too is simply seeking an escape from the frustrations of daily family life. Gideon's family background is very different from Lonnie's, he had a hard working, devoted father, but his mother seems to be a bit worn down a cynical especially when it comes to bringing more babies into the world. And as the oldest, Gideon is very anxious about his capabilities to live up to other expectations and fulfill his new found husbandly duties. He has very little confidence in himself and lacks an eternal perspective. His anger is mostly driven by his own anxious feelings of inadequacy and lack of preparedness and not knowing where to seek real help.
The dialogue between Lonnie and Gideon is so believable and genuine (and true) to what a married couple's conversations would sound like. Both characters have credible development that has integrity in regards to the circumstances the characters experience.
[This is another something that I always was leery about in reading Christian literature, afraid that a misconception of 'Christ can solve all problems, magically with nothing required from us but simple faith' would dominate the theme. That notion of the Savior's role simply isn't true, He can take care of everything, but we have to seek after Him and show our faith through our works. We must allow Christ to change us and that requires vast amounts of humility, determination and willingness to work. It doesn't happen overnight, it could, but generally, it doesn't. I am ashamed to say I was surprised, humbled and delighted to find that the author has a clear and deep understanding of the God's love, the Savior's role and the power of the Atonement. Ashamed that I obvious have some misconceptions about mainstream Christianity and I am thankful to have read this book and discovered my errors.]
I loved being privy to both Lonnie and Gideon's thoughts while they were going through their struggles. I honestly felt like I walked away with a better understanding of my husband after reading this book. It was a joy to see each character come to terms with their trials and overcome them by placing their heartache, pride and will at the feet of the Lord and saying, "Thy will be done."
Not only do both Lonnie and Gideon learn to truly trust in the Lord, but they also learn as spouses to trust in, lean on, rely on and support one another. They learn to appreciate where the other is coming from and to serve one another, even when they don't feel like it. I love the time period of this book, a time when marriage was a commitment and you simply didn't walk out on it. A time when there was a sense of duty, of responsibility that came with the territory of husband and of wife. While the times and cultural sentiments may have changed in our modern world, the principals of true happiness in marriage haven't. Through Lonnie and Gideon's story, Bischof was able to demonstrate the art of working, serving and forgiving that can and ought to occur in a marriage and that will, when consistently given just as it was by both Gideon and Lonnie, result in increased love and true happiness.
If you can't tell, I adore this book and highly recommend it. If I thought my husband would read it, I would so send it to him. I was fortunate enough to be this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for the purpose of an advanced review (please know that in no way effects my love for this book). Sadly, everyone else will have to look forward to it's release, October 2, 2012 by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers. To satisfy yourself until then, you can read the first chapter on Scribd here.