Friday, May 22, 2015

Book Review: Christy

Christy. Catherine Marshall. 1967. 512 pages. [Source: Bought]

Only my father saw me to the Asheville station that Sunday morning in 1912. 

Christy Huddleston is the heroine of Catherine Marshall's historical novel, Christy. It is set in a small community in the Smoky Mountains. Christy is the new school teacher hired by the local mission. She'll be working alongside, Miss Alice Henderson, and David Grantland. (Miss Alice Henderson runs the mission. David Grantland is the new minister, the oh-so-young, just-fresh-from-seminary minister.)

How to describe Christy? Well, she's young, spirited, enthusiastic, optimistic, naive, and well-intentioned. She's got a lot to learn, but, she's the type who's eager to learn. She comes to idolize (deeply respect and admire) Miss Alice. She sees Miss Alice as being the wisest woman ever, essentially. Miss Alice, to her credit, sees how loved she is by Christy, and seeks to show Christy how very human she is. Miss Alice would be the last person to say she had it all together and had all the answers. (She just knows who has the answers: God, and she trusts him and his providence.)

So the book is about Christy's experiences as a teacher, as a young woman. It's about the children she teaches, the families she meets, the women she befriends, the men she comes to know, namely David and Doc Neil MacNeill. It's a coming-of-age story, a spiritual coming-of-age story. How Christy came to the mountains believing certain things about God, but, during her time away from home and family, those beliefs were tested and questioned. She came out of her experiences KNOWING God instead of knowing about God.

I love the teaching aspect of this one. I like books about teachers: Anne of Avonlea, Anne of Windy Poplars, Good Morning, Miss Dove, Up A Road Slowly, When Calls the Heart, etc.

I like the spiritual aspects of this one as well. So many characters are in so many different places spiritually speaking. You do have to weigh all the statements about faith and God and Christianity while you're reading. Not all end up being true theologically. (I didn't necessarily like what the book said about Calvinism, at one point, Calvinism is blamed for their believing only in a God of wrath and their unwillingness to see him as a compassionate, forgiving, gracious God. It was a very generalized statement. It's on page 68.)

There is David, the minister, who came out of seminary knowing a lot of big words, but not knowing anything of the faith for certain. His conversations are heartbreaking, in my opinion. For example, when he and Christy go to visit a dying woman, she asks him to read from the Bible, and to talk to her of heaven. And he's hesitant. Oh, he reads the Bible fine. But when it comes to talk about the afterlife, about heaven, about dying. He stumbles a lot. Even Christy sees this as a weakness. He seems so uncertain of so many things we can be certain about. The old lady ends up giving him quite a speech. She knows God, David, well, it seems he may not even know about God. Not the God of the Bible.  (chapter sixteen)

Doctor MacNeill also comes to mind. He and Christy have quite a discussion. He has been shaken in his faith by a tragedy, and, he's in a place where he's doubting God's goodness and faithfulness. He doesn't necessarily trust or love this God who permits such suffering. The discussion they have, the questions he asks of Christy, are good for her, good for her spiritual journey. (chapter twenty-five) And I love the ending.

I love the romance of this one. It's a very understated romance novel though. David proposes to Christy, relatively early on, after six or seven months of working together. He'd never expressed any interest in her before the proposal. And even after the proposal, he doesn't really ever say that he loves her. Just that he needs her. And at times he seems most interested in having her body than anything else. Doctor MacNeill, well, it might take a few rereads before their scenes start to have an effect on you. (For example, chapter thirty-five). But once you do, it's hard not to love them as a couple.

I love, love, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Doctor MacNeill. I do.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

1 comment:

barbarah said...

I'm almost done with this one. I'd read it before, so I knew how it ended and which she chose, but I had forgotten all the different spiritual levels of the characters.