Like lots of Adventist kids I grew up reading the books published by our SDA publishing houses — Swift Arrow is the one that comes to mind since our elementary-school teachers read it aloud almost every year. My guilty little secret, though, is that these were never my favourite books — they were almost always too truthful, too earnest, too laden with Morals of the Story, and just not as well-written as most of the other books I enjoyed.
June Strong’s Mindy was published by an SDA publisher when I was in junior high and word of mouth quickly touted it as a great read. It was the one and only book from the Adventist Book Centre that I truly fell in love with, and I still think it’s the best book ever produced by a church publisher (my own books included!). In fact, it’s the best work of inspirational fiction I’ve ever read, and good enough that it doesn’t need any of those qualifiers.
June Strong wrote the story essentially as a fictionalized version of her grandmother’s life, but she felt comfortable enough to take the kind of liberties that make it a great novel rather than just an earnest churchy story. Mindy is a teenaged girl in rural Vermont early in the 20th century who is trying desperately to recover from tuberculosis. The novel follows her through the rest of her life, most importantly her marriage to the handsome but taciturn Carl. It’s anything but a romance novel — rather it’s a heartbreakingly honest exploration of a real marriage and a real woman’s struggles with life, love and faith.
When I read Mindy as a girl, it was promoted largely as a cautionary tale to young SDA girls about why you shouldn’t marry outside the faith. But it’s so much more than that. Mindy is truly a beautiful story — and a courageous one, too. It was one of the first books I read that didn’t have a happy ending, but that allowed the resolution to be just as harsh and, well, unresolved, as real life often is. Mindy was well worth rereading and has earned its place of honour on my Old Favourites shelf.