Michael Horton has a simple thesis: American Christianity has lost sight of Christ, and is selling a product that bears little resemblance to historic, Christ-centred Christianity.
It’s a thesis a lot of people, from many corners of the Christian world, would agree with. He argues that most of American Christianity has been colonized by American culture, and rather than transforming the world, has been transformed by it. Again, a lot of us would agree.
So far, his thesis seems to resonate with some of the conclusions Nadia Bolz-Weber reached in her twenty-four hours of viewing Christian television (Salvation on the Small Screen): the name of Jesus was rarely mentioned except as a talisman, and little reference to His life, teachings, or death made it into the Trinity Broadcasting Network’s 24 hours of exhortation to a fuller, better, more properous and successful Christian life.
Having just read Bolz-Weber’s book and enjoyed it, I was thinking of that when I began Christless Christianity, and nodding along in agreement with the author’s condemnation of American Christianity. But this author was about to take me into different territory, and not necessarily territory I was comfortable navigating. Continue reading
OK, I write Biblical historical fiction. And in fact, Terri Fivash and I have the same publisher. But Terri Fivash makes me feel like an absolute amateur in our common field. Dahveed is my favourite of her three books so far.
Fivash does the kind of hard-core historical research that makes you feel like she has a time machine and has gone back and lived in Israel, circa 1000 BCE. She’s taken classes in Blbical Hebrew, for crying out loud – and it shows. But not in the bad way, the “Look at my research!” way. She’s created a great story with believable characters in a fully realized world that seems real because of the groundwork she’s done. Continue reading
Philippa Gregory strikes again. This time, the wildly successful historical novelist has moved away from the tried-and-true Tudors and stepped a little back in time to the messy situation that brought the first Tudor to power – the Wars of the Roses.
Possibly the nastiest family feud of the last millenium, the Wars of Roses involved the Lancasters and the Yorks – distant Plantagenet cousins, for the most part – fighting over the throne of England. It all ended with the much-maligned (and also much-admired, in other circles) Richard III. But before Richard either did or didn’t murder the Princes in the Tower, the Princes’ father, Edward IV, enjoyed a brief but popular reign with his controversial wife, Elizabeth Woodville.
Elizabeth is a great character in a story, so much so that I’ve even been compelled to write a short story about her. I’ve never read an entire novel with her as the main character, and I’m glad that if someone was going to take on Elizabeth, it was Philippa Gregory.
I’ve never had that fascination with China that a lot of people have, but Lisa See — first in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, now in this novel — has managed to awaken my interest in that country and made the hidden lives of Chinese women come alive for me in a way no other writer, even Amy Tan, has been able to do.
Shanghai Girls begins in 1935 with the first-person narrator Pearl and her sister May, young girls who consider themselves modern and liberated from traditional Chinese values. They live in the cosmopolitan, urban centre of Shanghai; they earn their own money as “beautiful girls” — i.e. models — posing for advertisements and calendar art; they plan to marry for love rather than allowing their parents to make an old-fashioned arranged marriage. The sisters’ relationship is intensely close even though there’s as much jealously as there is admiration between the two of them.
All their optimistic plans for life shatter when their father loses all his money to a gang leader. The girls are forced into the very kind of arranged marriage they’d dreaded, but that’s only a foretaste of the horrors to come as the Japanese invade China, and Pearl and May are forced to flee for their lives. They end up in the United States, where the book turns to a vivid portrayal of the hardships faced by Chinese immigrants during World War Two and the years that follow.
The historical background is superb and detailed, but the human story is always front and centre, with absolutely believable and absorbing characters working out their lives in difficult times. I loved this book.
I know authors hate it when readers say this (I would too, had I written a fabulously successful first novel), but there’s no getting around the fact that anything Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus write (together or separately) is going to be compared to The Nanny Diaries. And no, I didn’t find Dedication as good — as fresh, as original, or as thought-provoking and funny — as The Nanny Diaries.
Leaving the comparison aside, it’s a good, light piece of fiction — a good vacation or airplane read, which was where I read it. It’s about a thirty-year-old woman, Kate, who is still kind of stuck on Jake, her first love who dumped her when she was 17. The reason she can’t get over Jake is that he disappeared from their home town, leaving Kate and all his friends in the lurch, and went on to become a superstar in the music world — writing a series of songs all inspired by his first love. So even though Kate hasn’t heard from Jake in thirteen years, she can’t turn on the radio without being reminded of him.
For years she’s cherished a fantasy of meeting up with him, finally confronting him, and getting closure on their relationship. When her high school best friend calls to tell Kate that Jake, along with his superstar fiancee and his entire entourage, is back in their hometown for Christmas, Kate finally gets to live out that fantasy. The results are fun and satisfying to read, but what I enjoyed most were the flashback scenes that told the story of Kate and Jake’s teenage relationship — the authors got the intense, claustrophic nature of junior-high and high-school friendship and romance exactly right.