Book Review: Tolstoy’s Resurrection

The Story.

In Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy, Prince Dmitri Nekhludov starts off as a sweet, thoughtful young man. On a visit to his two aunts, he meets a girl named Katerina Maslova (also called Katusha), whom they had taken in from a neglectful mother. She’s often referred to as their half-ward, half servant. They fall in love with all the sweetness of a teenage romance.

Nekhludov goes on to join the military, which changes him for the worse. He becomes more self-indulgent and picks up bad habits, which his companions and even his mother see as normal and encourage. The next time he goes to visit his aunts, his sweet, innocent love for Katusha has become lust, and he takes advantage of her. He gives her money and leaves for his military career with not much thought.

Years later, Nekhludov is engaged to one woman while secretly having an affair with a married woman. He’s called for jury duty and is stunned to find that the defendant is Katusha, now a prostitute who is accused of poisoning a client. His conscience is awakened to the truth he began her downfall, and he vows to help her all he can. The more he becomes acquainted with the prison system, the more injustices he learns of, the more dissatisfied he becomes with his own life. Yet finding the answers, not only for his own heart but for the wrongs of society, is not an easy feat.

Tolstoy’s beliefs

In talking with one of my sons once about a particular social/political issue, I commented that everyone agreed it was a serious problem, but no one agreed about the best solution for it. Tolstoy does a masterful job of calling attention to some of society’s worst problems, but his philosophies, to me, were a little off, especially in light of having heard he was a Christian. Here I am going beyond reviewing to processing some of these things for my own thinking.

This was Tolstoy’s last book. He had renounced novel-writing but wrote this last story to raise money for a religious sect wanting to immigrate to Canada. Some years earlier he had a crisis of faith, wrestling with the meaning of life. Many sources call this his conversion, but I am uncertain exactly what he converted to. Some of his beliefs seem to be moral and Biblically based. But in a scene where Nekhludov is listening to a preacher talk about salvation through Christ’s blood, Nekhludov leaves, “disgusted.” Tolstoy seems to take the passage “The kingdom of God is within you” to mean that, rather than a person needing to be born again, rather than being dead in trespasses and sins, he just needs the spiritual part of himself to be awakened or fanned into flame to have victory over the “animal” part of him (he has written other books about his beliefs in more detail, which I have not read: I’m just going by what he has Nekhludov undergoing here).

There were many Christian truths and principles in the book that I agreed with, but I found other beliefs in the book a little wonky:

  • He felt that public praying was a sin, but the passage about praying in secret in one’s closet was not an indication that one should never pray in front of other people or lead a group in prayer. Jesus did, Stephen did, others did in the gospels and Acts. The context of praying in secret has to do with praying for “show” so others will see and hear count us as spiritual, and that’s what was declared wrong.
  • He posits that no one has a right to judge (in a legal sense) or punish anyone. But Romans 13 tells us:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

  • He felt it was wrong to be a landowner because no one can own the earth. True, “The earth is the Lord‘s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1). But owning land and leaving it as an inheritance for one’s children is not condemned in the Bible. In fact, one of God’s big promises to Israel was a tract of land, and they went through a detailed process of dividing it up between the tribes. The Biblical concept is that of stewardship, recognizing that God is the actual owner of all we have and we’re accountable to Him with whatever we “own” in a legal sense.
  • He indicated the kingdom of God can be established on Earth by obeying the teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. Well, life would certainly be better and a lot more like heaven if people did, but we won’t establish the Kingdom of heaven here that way: Jesus will establish His own kingdom when He returns.
  • When Nekhludov classifies in his own mind five different types of prisoners, he seems to believe they are all there because of bad or misunderstood circumstances. While that’s certainly true in some cases, he doesn’t seem to acknowledge that any of them are there because they had a sin nature and chose wrong just because they wanted to or took pleasure in it.
  • He doesn’t go so far as to say it is a sin to be rich, but he does blame class differences for many of society’s ills. It’s true that class differences do cause many problems. But the answer isn’t to even everyone out into the same circumstances. Only one person in the Bible was told to sell all he had and follow Christ. Timothy as a pastor is instructed to teach the rich, in 1 Timothy 6:

17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

But the rich are not the only ones called to be generous. The Macedonians gave out of their poverty. The widow gave two mites. We all have something to give; we’re all better off than someone.

Plus even in this story, Nekhludov is able to go places, do things for people, see prisoners, etc., sometimes because of his stature as an aristocrat, sometimes because of bribes. The rich have not only wealth, but position and influence that they can use to help people.

My thoughts.

Tolstoy’s best writing in this book comes when he’s telling how Nekhludov and Maslova each arrived at their current position, and in his “showing, not telling” how so many authorities, especially the day of Maslova’s trial, were thinking about everything but being agents of justice and the lives they were affecting (the judge hoping things went fast so he could keep a tryst with a woman, the lawyer polishing what he planned to say so as to look and sound at his best advantage, etc.) If The Death of Ivan Ilyich was the anatomy of dying, this book is the anatomy of either a conversion (of sorts – I think that’s what Tolstoy meant it to be, as well as a diatribe of what was wrong in society), or at least an awakened conscience. And just as with Ivan Ilyich, there are perfect little true-to-life nuances, such as Nekhludov at first “with a sense of self-admiration…admiring his own remorse” until he eventually was “filled with horror” over what he had done. There are piquant bits of irony in places, such as one prison office being decorated with “a large image of Christ, as is usual in places where they torture people.”

In this day when people abhor “preachiness,” I would have thought that few people would like this book, but the vast majority of articles and reviews I have scanned regard it favorably. Maybe that’s because many of the issues Tolstoy brings up we still deal with today.

I thought the story itself started out wonderfully but got bogged down in the latter chapters. Part of that was probably on purpose, as Katusha’s case goes through appeals, roadblocks, and setbacks. I’m sure people in such a situation feel bogged down during the process. But part of it was Nekhludov’s conversations with people, especially the political prisoners, and internal musings. I’m all for internal musings and a certain amount of philosophizing in a book, and it’s natural that in a story of this type, the main character is going to be wrestling within himself a lot. And I think the philosophizing was Tolstoy’s main point of the book rather than the story itself, but the story didn’t flow as well in the second half. I felt the ending of the story itself wasn’t adequately resolved, and felt that Nekhludov’s conclusions were right in some places but off in others.

But I do very much agree with Tolstoy that we’re responsible for how we treat people and that much in society is still flawed. I didn’t always agree with the actions and philosophies he espoused, but this book did get me thinking about some of these issues more than I had before, and that’s a good thing.

I listened to the audiobook wonderfully narrated by Neville Jason and read the introductory material and several passages in this Kindle version.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)

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Book Review: Taking God At His Word

Taking God at His WordTaking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me by Kevin DeYoung discusses…well, exactly what the subtitle says it does, “unpacking what the Bible says about the Bible.”

He begins with Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, an acrostic “love song” about God’s Word in language that would seem excessively emotional by many today, even many who read and love the Bible. He wants Psalm 119 to be the goal, the application, that the rest of the book leads to rather than a “ho hum” or skeptical reaction.

I want to convince you (and make sure I’m convinced myself) that the Bible makes no mistakes, can be understood, cannot be overturned, and is the most important word in your life, the most relevant thing you can read each day.

He then goes on to discuss what we should believe about the Word of God – it says what is true, it demands what is right, it provides what is good – and what we should feel about the Word of God – delight in it, desire it, depend on it. He then discusses what we should do with the Word of God (with supporting points for each section).

He discusses the “feeling as though God speaking to us through the Scriptures is an inferior, less exciting, less edifying means of communication. We can’t help but conclude, ‘Yes, the Bible is important, but oh, what a treasure it would be if I could experience God really speaking to me! If only I could hear from the sure and infallible voice of God'” and assures us that that’s exactly what we do have in the Bible.

He devotes a chapter each to God’s Word being enough, clear, final, and necessary, concluding with “Christ’s Unbreakable Bible,” which shows what Jesus believed about and how He responded to the OT Scriptures, and “Stick With the Scriptures.”

A few more quotes:

The authority of God’s Word resides in the written text–the words, the sentences, the paragraphs–of Scripture, not merely in our existential experience of the truth in our hearts.

The goal of revelation is not information only, but affection, worship, and obedience. Christ in us will be realized only as we drink deeply of the Bible, which is God’s word outside of us.

To deny, disregard, edit, alter, reject, or rule out anything in God’s Word is to commit the sin of unbelief.

Just because God cannot be known exhaustively, that does not mean he cannot be known at all.

We should not abandon faith in anything God has taught us merely because we cannot solve all the problems which it raises. Our own intellectual competence is not the test and measure of divine truth. It is not for us to stop believing because we lack understanding, but to believe in order that we may understand (This is a quote from J. I. Packer’s book “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God).

There is an objective standard of truth which supersedes private impressions or experience.

But, someone may ask, doesn’t Jesus sometimes argue that the Old Testament was wrong? Doesn’t he actually correct the Scriptures on a few occasions? It may look that way, but upon closer inspection we see that Christ never corrects a verse of Scripture when rightly interpreted and applied. For example, the claim is made that Jesus relaxed the requirements of the Sabbath, thus violating his own principle and tweaking Scripture to be less rigid. But actually Jesus appealed to Scripture—to the story of David and his men eating the bread of the Presence—to show that the Pharisees were imposing standards which violated the teaching of Scripture (Mark 2: 23–28)…Jesus is not correcting Scripture itself, but the misapplication of it.

Scripture doesn’t tell us everything we may want to know about everything. But it tells us everything we need to know about the most important things.

The author covers a lot of ground in a short book (146 pages) in a way that is thorough, engaging, clear, learned but not full of academese, easily accessible, I believe, for non-Christians, new Christians, or experienced Christians. I enjoy Keven’s writing, and though in other posts and books of his I may not agree with every little point, I don’t recall anything I objected to in this book. Highly recommended.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Carole’s Books You Loved, Literary Musing Monday)

 

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What’s On Your Nightstand: August 2017

The folks at 5 Minutes For Books host What’s On Your Nightstand? the last Tuesday of each month in which we can share about the books we have been reading and/or plan to read.

It seems like such a long time since the last Nightstand post, with August being such a busy month for us (surgery, family vacation, two birthdays, eclipse viewing). Then again, with the way the last Thursday of July fell, we did end up with the last week of July coming into this month’s post rather than last month’s. But at any rate, let’s get to it, shall we?

Since last time I have completed:

The Death of Ivan Ilych by LeoTolstoy, audiobook, reviewed here. You could say it’s the psychology of one man’s dying, which sounds morbid, but actually is very moving.

The Thirty-nine Steps by John Buchan, audiobook, finished but not reviewed last time, reviewed here. Classic man-on-the-run story. Excellent.

Unlimited by Davis Bunn, reviewed here. An apparatus that may be a new source of free energy has gotten one man killed and another man nearly so by people wanting it for wrong reasons. Excellent.

All Things New by Lynn Austin, reviewed here. Adjustments have to made after the Civil War ends, and some people handle them better than others. Very good.

Threads of Suspicion by Dee Henderson, reviewed here. A new governor’s task force investigates cold cases, and one involves a missing college student. Very good.

Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber, reviewed here. True story of an independent young woman studying at Oxford and not expecting anything but a great experience and education but who is confronted with the claims of Christ. Very good.

Lessons I Learned From My Grandchildren by Delia Halverson. Not reviewed. Not recommended. Disappointing.

I’m currently reading:

Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy, audiobook.

Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me by Kevin DeYoung (Just finished this one this morning! Hope to review it soon.)

The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate

God Is Just Not Fair: Finding Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense by Jennifer Rothschild

Up Next:

The Sea Keeper’s Daughters by Lisa Wingate

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

Love in Hard Places by D. A. Carson.

Jane Austen: Christian Encounter Series by Peter Leithart

And if I get through those, I have book gifts stacked up from Christmas, Mother’s Day, and my birthday to explore!

Praying for Houston and surrounding areas this morning. I lived there for a while and have family and friends in the area. Last I heard last night, one sister’s power was off and the flood waters were almost to her door. Rescue boats were in the area, but were picking up emergencies first, and then they decided to stay put overnight. I am waiting to hear the situation this morning. One local friend has a sister in ICU in Houston in serious condition, but the family there can’t get to her due to the flooding. A lot of people have been evacuated, and more rain is expected.

(Sharing With Literary Musing Monday)

Book Review: Threads of Suspicion

Threads of SuspicionThreads of Suspicion by Dee Henderson is the sequel to Traces of Guilt, the main character of each being Evie Blackwell. Evie is one of the lead investigators for the Illinois State Police and has recently accepted a spot on the governor’s new Missing Person’s Task Force. She is partnered with a man named David, and each person on the task force starts looking into individual missing person cold cases, but help each other out in crunches.

Evie’s case involves a college student missing for nine years. Much of the job is going through old information and details, re-interviewing people involved, getting an idea of the personality and lifestyle of the victim, forming and ruling out new theories. Evie describes it as tugging on various threads to see which one starts to unravel the case.

David’s case concerns a missing private investigator, and there are some surprising coincidences connecting their cases and even David’s personal life.

Evie’s less successful at unraveling the threads of her own personal life. She has been seriously dating a banker for some time, Paul, and he’s ready to propose. But Evie has doubts. First, she’s a little engagement-shy since she has experienced three broken engagements before. Plus there are significant differences between herself and Paul – their jobs, their personalities, their ambitions. Would those differences complement each other or pull them away from each other? Plus Evie really likes her job and lifestyle and isn’t sure she’s ready for the changes marriage would bring.

As I said of the first book in the series, this is not what you’d call an action-packed book, though action and suspense are in places. It’s more puzzle-solving, following the threads with Evie and seeing whether you come up with the same theories. Plus in both books, the faith element is natural and unforced. And, as with the last several books, there is some crossover of characters from previous stories, and though that’s fun, I think you could still enjoy this as a stand-alone book if you haven’t read the others. I always enjoy Dee and am looking forward to Evie’s next installment.

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday and Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Carole’s Books You Loved)

Book Review: Surprised by Oxford

Somehow I often end up running behind with books that are making the rounds all over the Internet. Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber was one such book: I saw many reviews of it a few years ago, was intrigued by the title hearkening to C. S. Lewis’s Surprised by Joy, but just never got to it until I saw it on a Kindle sale this year.

Carolyn Drake graduated from college in Ontario and traveled to Oxford for graduate studies in Literature with a full scholarship. She brought with her baggage from a broken home, distrust of men, feminist leanings, self-sufficiency, and agnosticism.

I reasoned that God most likely did not exist because we could not see Him, or if He did exist, He did not interact with us in any tangible way. I had dabbled in the Bible for various course requirements, these forays mixed with a few hazy images from childhood. Reason, not faith, however, helped me build the emotional boundaries I needed to survive…

Magnificently self-sufficient, like William Wordsworth on his deathbed, I would have said I had no need of a redeemer. Unlike Jane Austen, I did not believe the only power afforded women was that of refusal. I had no real need of believing in men, God incarnate or otherwise.

And yet I also knew that from the very first of firsts I felt a beam deep inside of me that was connected to and recognized a beautiful source, the utmost of all “reference” points, but that the world made it a dangerous place to open up this light, to shine it, to function from it. So I packed up that feeling like a cherished outfit that was now out of style (a robe, perhaps, of too many colors) and put it away.

She only knew one “evangelical” in Canada, but in Oxford, she seemed to come across Christians and Christian influence often, especially with “TDH” (tall, dark, and handsome), with whom she got off on quite the wrong foot at first.

She wasn’t looking for faith and argued against it, but she couldn’t deny the truths she confronted.

Most people who have never actually read the menu probably assume they can order à la carte at the Jesus table or customize their own recipe of faith. But you can’t say yes to the historical figure and a few parables but pass on miracles, the resurrection, and the Son-of-God thing. That is not the offering. Christ is a fixed meal. It is all or nothing with His claims. Everyone is invited, but only you can decide if you actually want to eat at His table. For those who do believe in Christ, it means getting real, being honest about your sin, and living your life as if you really mean it.

The morning after I heard the gospel, however, I woke up with what felt like a hangover. Little would I know it was of the spiritual kind that accompanies the inevitable dawn of realization that life is not, perhaps, what we previously thought it was. And we cannot go back to pretending. What a headache to be caught in that liminal space! Literally.

It was occurring to me that believing in the Bible was an all-or-nothing affair. Either you believe it is the revealed Word of God, or you don’t. It is like being a little bit pregnant. Impossible. Either you are in or you are out. Having eliminated lunatic, given the unavoidable seriousness warranted of my attention, was it now liar or Lord?

What would you like Him to say that He hasn’t said already?

How my friends who grew up in Christian homes took their gifts of faith from their parents for granted! How prayer came as second nature, an obvious problem-solver or comfort or alternative to panic, anxiety, and fear. They took for granted the powerful pause of grace before meals. How oblivious they could seem to the precious and effective armor they had been given: to have the gift of faith from your childhood, to lean into it and grow into it . . . to even have the luxury to rebel against it.

This book is the story of that first year in Oxford, Carolyn’s hard-fought journey to faith, and her wrestlings with the implications of it. Thankfully she also shares a bit of what has happened in her life since in the epilogue.

I’m always intrigued by someone coming to faith who didn’t grow up with it and wasn’t looking for it, an “outside looking in” view. Their stories reassure me that there is hope for some I love and pray for. And it’s so marvelous to see how God works to draw people to Himself.

Some readers would want to know there is a bit of crude language in one spot and a good bit of alcohol consumption. I would disagree with Carolyn on some secondary issues, but I ached and rejoiced along with her in her journey of faith.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Carole’s Books You Loved)

Book Review: Unlimited

Unlimited by Davis Bunn starts off with a bang: Simon Orwell has just had an accident on a hot dusty road in Mexico. He is carrying some sort of apparatus with him. something highly valued, though damaged, and he’s escaping from the man who deliberately caused the accident.

He had been on his way to see his former MIT professor with whom he had helped work on the apparatus. But when he finally makes his way to a safe place, he learns not only that the professor has been killed, but the emails from him were sent after his death.

Simon ends up hiding out at an orphanage run by the professor’s dear friends. Some of those friends see Simon as a danger who needs to leave ASAP. Others, particularly the orphanage director, Harold, see Simon first as a desperate soul in need of help, and secondly as the man who could finish the professor’s research.

Simon had come for only one reason: to apologize to the professor for a former betrayal. Wracked with uneased guilt, with no confidence in his own potential, Simon is at loose ends. But when Harold shows him some of the professor’s further research on the device, a source of free energy, Simon begins to tinker with it and then to believe he can fix it. While Harold is thrilled, he is more concerned with the weight on Simon’s soul and his reclamation.

There are others, though – some lurking in darkness, like the man who caused the car accident, and others lurking behind fake smiles and assurances, who want the apparatus for far different reasons.

Bunn does an excellent job keeping the reader in suspense throughout the book on several fronts: whether the apparatus can be fixed and made to work as intended, whether the wrong people will get their hands on it and hurt people in the process, and whether Simon will respond to the truth Harold is sharing with him and living out before him.

Parts of the story are true, especially the fact that Harold is a real person, a former NASA engineer, who retired to establish orphanages in India and to lecture on principles of success. Honestly, what I read about the latter online, that “internal powerful forces that can propel [people] from ordinary to extraordinary…You can begin now to illuminate your path to future unlimited greatness and Dr. Finch wants to show you how” made me a little uncomfortable and wary. What was presented in Unlimited was fine but I wouldn’t endorse the rest of his teaching without knowing more about it.

This book was made after the 2015 movie of it, rather than the movie being made after the book as is usually the case. I had not heard of the movie and couldn’t find it in any of the usual rental places. I did look it up on Pureflix and found it there – we aren’t members, but it may be worth a trial membership to see it.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday, Carole’s Books You Loved)

Book Review: All Things New

All Things New by Lynn Austin takes place at the end of the Civil War and the beginning of Reconstruction, one of the most difficult periods in American history.

Virginians Josephine Weatherly and her mother, Eugenia, and sister Mary have lost their father, oldest brother, and many of their possessions to the war. Their other brother, Daniel, finally comes home but is a broken man. Living for so long with famine, fear, and unanswered prayers, Josephine has lost her faith as well.

As the South tries to recover from the war, various attitudes clash. Some, like Eugenia, want to restore everything to the way it once was and have difficulty treating the former slaves as employees. Some, like Daniel, become bitter and want revenge and control through violence. Josephine is in a fog for a long time, but eventually she sees that things must change. Bored with her listless life and empty time, she begins helping one of their two remaining servants in the garden, much to her mother’s shock and dismay. But Josephine finds that she enjoys doing something useful. She also begins to see the servant, Lizzie, as a real person and learns more about the family she hadn’t even known Lizzie had.

A federal agent is sent to help the freed slaves find positions, start a school for their children, and help negotiate contracts between the former slaves and masters as employee and employer. The former slaves are grateful for his aid, but he is not trusted by the white people because he is a Yankee and still regarded as an enemy. When Josephine runs into him accidentally, at first she is appalled, but as she gets to know him, she finds him and his views thought-provoking and reasonable.

Among the views that need changing are not only those involving slaves and masters, but those involving what it means to be privileged. As Josephine shocks and angers her mother by further activities outside the bounds of what privileged young ladies are supposed to do, Josephine finds new purpose and meaning. And gradually her heart begins to open to the idea that it needs freedom as well.

Here are some of the quotes that stood out to me:

Eugenia hated seeing her daughter stray so far from her aristocratic upbringing to labor like a common woman, even though her hard work was saving all of them.

Jo fought to control her temper, to be the dutiful daughter. She was walking the same narrow path that Dr. Hunter was, her conscience telling her one thing, her sense of duty and her ingrained respect for her mother telling her something else.

“Even after the war, Eugenia, do you still put people into categories the way you were taught to do—rich and poor, socially acceptable and not, black and white?”

“I haven’t placed them there. Life has.”

“But people are all the same in God’s eyes, don’t you think? Or do you believe there will be segregated divisions in heaven like the ones we’ve created here on earth?”

I think you’ll find our children’s values will be different from ours. They’ll see that slavery was wrong and that it had to end. They’ve seen the futility of war. They’re learning to live without wealth and privilege. I would hope our sons and daughters would also learn to look for other qualities in each other besides money and social position.

We have to lead by example. Our generation has to make peace with the Negroes and with the Yankees. We have to show our sons and daughters that the old South was destroyed because it was flawed and that we’re willing to embrace the changes. It will only lead to more suffering if we don’t. We can show our children that many of the changes are good. . . . It begins with us—you and me.

Pride. We began to believe that we were little gods, expanding our empires, living well at the expense of an entire race of people. The Almighty finally had enough and showed us we were only human after all, that we would bleed and die from cannonballs and bullets. He reduced us to the same poverty and helplessness that we inflicted on the Negroes—but some of us just haven’t learned that lesson yet.

The war has exposed our false beliefs and the moral rot that accompanied slavery. All of our prideful decisions and the shameful way we treated the Negroes have been exposed. We were flawed, Eugenia. God said so. It’s time to let go of our old attitudes and rebuild the South with compassion for others and with the belief that’s at the core of our Constitution—that all men are created equal. And it’s up to us to lead by example.

I grew up in southern TX, where we considered ourselves Southerners, but it didn’t really come up much unless someone with a Northern accent was around. It wasn’t until I moved to SC that I met people passionate about being Southern and speaking haughtily about “The War of Northern Aggression.” Students of the Civil War are quick to point out that it wasn’t just about slavery, that there were other issues involved as well. But as John Newton said to Hannah More in a letter concerning their fight against slavery in England:

I think this infamous traffic cannot last long; at least that is my hope…should it still be persevered in, I think it will constitute a national sin, and of a very deep die…I should tremble for the consequences; for, whatever politicians may think, I assuredly know there is a righteous judge who governs the earth. He calls upon us to redress the injured, and should we perversely refuse, I cannot doubt but he will plead his cause himself (as quoted in Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More by Karen Swallow Prior).

I don’t know why it took so long for people to recognize the wrongs of slavery. Ruffled feathers against “Yankees” and “The War of Northern Aggression” aren’t cute any more. Change of heart has been slow in coming, and it’s much better than it was in this era, but there is still a long, long way to go to repent of deep-seated prejudices in this country. I’ve lived in the South all my adult life, in SC, GA, and now TN, and I love it dearly, but we still need to grow.

I thought this book was very well done showing the difficulties of this era on all sides without simplistic platitudes pasted on like band-aids. And beyond the overarching themes and settings, the stories of the individual characters were well-drawn. Highly recommended.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday, Carole’s Books You Loved)

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