Book Review: Jane Austen: Christian Encounter Series

Jane AustenBiographers of Jane Austen have a difficult task because Jane’s sister, Cassandra, destroyed much of her correspondence. But Peter Leithart endeavors to give us a sense of her in Jane Austen, part of publisher Thomas Nelson’s Christian Encounter series. He draws from what letters we do have from her as well as others’ writings and remembrances of her. In his introduction he writes:

In the brief compass of this biography, I have tried to capture the varied sides of Austen’s character. Early biographers often turned her into a model of Victorian Christian domestic femininity, and emphasized her Christian faith in an evangelical idiom she never used. In reaction, many more recent biographers all but ignore her faith. Both of those extremes distort Austen’s life and personality. I have tried to depict accurately the depth and sincerity of her Christianity, as well as her Anglican discomfort with religious emotion, but without losing sight of the other sides of her complex character –her playfulness, her satiric gift for ridicule, her ‘waspishness,’ her rigid morality. I have attempted to capture Jane Austen in full.

I particularly enjoyed these observations:

The best marriages in Austen’s novels are marriages of minds and temperament, marriages that make both husband and wife more fully themselves.

Austen believed there was a moral dimension to social behavior. Manners and morals do not exist in separate realms of life. Manners are a moral concern, and morals take specific shape in the gestures of manners.

Jane…was satirizing Romanticism before Romanticism existed.

Sir Walter Scott wrote of Austen’s “exquisite touch which renders ordinary common-place things and characters interesting from the truth of the description and the sentiment.”

This being part of a Christian Encounter Series, part of it focuses on her faith. This was what particularly drew me to this book, because some kind of faith is evident in her books, but I wasn’t sure if it was a general, surface faith or a heartfelt personal one.

In his biographical sketch of his sister, Henry described her piety: “Jane Austen’s hopes of immortality were built upon the Rock of ages. That she deeply felt, and devoutly acknowledged, the insignificance of all worldly attainments, and the worthlessness of all human services, in the eyes of her heavenly Father. That she had no other hope of mercy, pardon, and peace, but through the merits and suffers of her Redeemer.” Jane never used such Evangelical language, preferring the more formal cadences of prayer-book Anglicanism, but that doesn’t falsify the substance of Henry’s characterization.

The Austens’ Christianity was not the excitable Christianity of Bunyan or John Newton, but a cooler, more rational and more ethically focused Christianity, which expressed itself chiefly in acts of charity.

Despite her comparative reticence and her careful avoidance of moralizing, Austen’s faith was sincere and deep.

Biographers minimize Austen’s Christianity mainly because they cannot believe that her acerbic, sometimes childishly cruel wit, her satires of the clerical imbecilities of Mr. Collins and Mr. Elton, and her playful silliness are compatible with deep Christian faith…the assumption that Christian faith is incompatible with a satirical spirit is entirely wrongheaded.

Long-time readers here know that I generally love biographies, but, although I hate to do so, I must admit this is not a favorite. First of all, Leithart begins by going into great detail about a plethora of Jane’s relatives. That section got quite confusing and, though some of that information was necessary to understand Jane in context, to me the bulk of it detracted from rather than enhanced focus on her. Secondly, Leithart insists on calling her “Jenny” at least half the time, if not more, without documenting that she was ever called that. In my search to discover whether she was actually ever called Jenny, I came across this review of this book which mentions that her father spoke of her as “Jenny” to his sister shortly after Jane was born. But that hardly qualifies it as a permanent nickname, especially since none of the other correspondence or memorials of her call her Jenny. To make it worse, Leithart speaks of “Jenny” as if she were the “real” Austen. He evidently used the name to emphasize her child-likeness.

Childlikeness might not strike us an apt description of a “serious” novelist like Austen, but this only highlights how pretentious we are about art and artists. Anyone who spends her life making up stories has got to have more than her fair share of whimsy, and nearly all Austen’s virtues, personal and artistic, as well as nearly all of her vices, are those of a woman who, at the center of her soul, remained “Jenny Austen” all her life.

She recognized her own smallness, and she achieved artistic greatness because she recognized her limitations and joyfully worked within them, because she refused to outgrow being Jenny.

Quotes like these samples seem to imply that she was conscious of “being Jenny” when her “being Jenny” seems to me to be an implication only of Leithart.

Leithart comes across to me as pretentious in other ways as well: in his coining of his own word for Jane Austen mania (“Janeia”), in his criticism of other Austen biographers, and in what seems to me to be his mischaracterizations of her (“In another age, Austen might have written for Saturday Night Live.”)

There is an odd mix-up of characters from different books when Leithart says “Fanny Price is ignored and lost within the constant din of domestic life. She feels liberated when Frank Churchill shows up to take her into the open air.” Fanny is from Mansfield Park and Frank is from Emma.

While I don’t know that Leithart accurately “captured” Austen, this book does present a compact overview of her life, times, and career.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday)

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Book Review: God Is Just Not Fair

Not FairWhen Jennifer Rothschild was 15 years old, she was blinded by Retinitis Pigmentosa, effectively killing her dreams of becoming an artist and cartoonist. Then, several years later, she experienced a time of deep depression which, as she put it, tore holes in her blanket of faith.

In God Is Just Not Fair: Finding Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense, Jennifer Rothschild explores from her Bible study and personal experiences the questions that often come up when experiencing some sort of trial or trauma: Does God care? Why did He allow this? Why did this person experience healing but I didn’t?

That last question, not only of unanswered prayer on my part, but of the very same prayer being answered in someone’s else’s life, can bring up questions of God’s fairness. Fairness doesn’t mean He does the exact same thing in every person’s life. We’re not robots or cookie cutter Christians: God works in our lives individually according to what He wants to do in us and how He wants to grow us and show Him forth in our own circumstances and sphere of influence. And Jennifer turns this around to ask if it’s fair that we receive mercy and blessings instead of wrath for our sin. If we got what we truly deserved, we’d all be in trouble.

But Jennifer doesn’t tell us to therefore stifle our questions. She encourages us to bring them to light. We might not find answers to all of them, but we will for a few, and for the rest we can trust Him. Where He doesn’t give answers, He gives Himself.

There is so much good teaching here, it’s hard to sum it up. But I’ll give you a few examples:

If God allows you to wrestle with him, it is not so there will be a winner and a loser. He doesn’t need to prove he is stronger and you are weaker. No. The point of wrestling with God is to give you an opportunity to cling to him. God wants you to hang on to him no matter what — and the result will be blessing. You are blessed when you bring your hurts and questions to God and struggle with them in his presence. In that divine wrestling match, you may feel wounded, but you will also receive a blessing you couldn’t have received any other way.

He sometimes allows something bad in our lives to prevent something far worse in our lives. That is a wondrous work of God I cannot even see, because sometimes I have no idea how God is working on my behalf.

Being willing to thank God doesn’t mean you ignore what bothers you. It just means you are willing to look beyond what bothers you and see the good in a situation also.

Paul positioned gratitude as a choice, not a feeling. My friend, even when we don’t feel grateful, we can still be grateful.

Your difficulty can be hard enough, but the resentment or anger you drag along with it can be even more debilitating than the difficulty itself.

When we are enduring hardship, perhaps the better questions to focus on are not about the whom of suffering but about the how: • How will God use this redemptively in my life? • How will he use this loss for my gain? • How can I cooperate with my loving God’s master plan through this current suffering? • How can this possibly help me grow or change? The why of suffering is sometimes never answered. But to ask the how of suffering allows us to begin to see the beautiful redemption of what God can do in and through our suffering.

God’s ways may seem strange to us, but his ways do not have to live up to our standards or our analysis. He is who he is, and we are who we are. He is beyond error, perfect in all his ways. If his ways confuse or disappoint you, guard against the temptation to re-create him into a god you like better. You and I are to humble ourselves before him and seek to conform to his standard, not the other way around. He is sovereign and good, compassionate and merciful. If we do not accept God in his wholeness, we will never experience our own.

Ultimately, I trust God’s will to be best. He knows more, sees more, and loves more than I do.

Faith is the evidence of things unseen; instant response is not the evidence.

Unanswered prayers and prayers with disappointing answers can be greater gifts that getting what we thought we wanted.

He may allow your suffering to remain because he is using that hard thing to protect you from something far worse, preserve you for something far better, or provide for you what you don’t even realize you need. His apparent inactivity is not a sign that he is forgetful or lacks compassion, but rather an indication of his deep compassion and higher purpose for you.

God allows you to struggle, even though his power could prevent it, because his wise and compassionate authority knows that the benefit of your struggle far outweighs the comfort you may experience from his rescue.

God delivers us in different ways. Sometimes he protects us from awful things so we never have to endure them. Other times God delivers us by rescuing us or healing us. Sometimes God brings us through hard things —that’s also a form of God’s deliverance. But then there are the times that God, out of his great care for his children, delivers us out of the horror and into glory.

Thomas’s questions and doubts could have led him away from the Christ he loved and away from his friends who followed the Christ. But what a loss that would have been. Your questions and doubt can take you many places if you let them. They can take you down a road of cynicism, despair, or loneliness. But, my friend, what a waste of your doubts and questions! When you are full of questions and doubt, might you respond like Thomas? Might you stay connected with your friends who follow Christ? Will you take whatever faith or curiosity you have and channel it toward Christ himself? He welcomes questions, and he welcomes the questioner. He already knows your questions, but ask him anyway. Jesus won’t just give you the lesser gift of an answer; Jesus will give you himself because he is the answer…It was in the midst of Thomas’s honest struggles that Jesus revealed himself to Thomas. He will do that for you, too.

Being too self-focused makes every sorrow deeper, every problem bigger, and every slight more personal. It harms us and makes us forget God and others.

Never stop seeking; never stop walking with and toward him. Jesus invites us to keep taking steps toward him, even if every stepping-stone is in the shape of a question mark. As you continue to seek, don’t let theological information become a substitute for faith. Don’t let knowledge become a substitute for wisdom. And don’t seek God only for the answers he gives —seek God himself. Pursue an encounter with the God who loves you. Don’t settle for mere answers, my friend. Be satisfied with nothing less than God himself.

Every difficult, confusing season in life offers a choice. You can either surrender your questions and sorrow to God so he can use them, or you can surrender to bitterness and the enemy of your soul, who will use them against you. Don’t give him the weapons to hurt you.

The only quibble I noted or can remember is one phrase near the end of the book about “forgiving God if you need to.” God does no wrong, so He has no need of our forgiveness, and whenever I see that thought, it strikes me as a little pretentious. But what I think Jennifer is getting at is, don’t hold whatever God has permitted in our lives against Him. She speaks in the rest of this paragraph of trusting Him, being patient, and humbling ourselves before Him. As Jesus said, “And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (Matthew 11:6).

Because Jennifer has gone to the mat with these questions and wrestlings in her own life, her words are authentic rather than empty platitudes. And because she has sought the Scriptures and bases what she shares there, she can offer the only real hope we have: that God loves us, has a reason for everything He allows, will use it to develop us, and will give us the grace to go through it.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Faith on Fire, Literary Musing Monday, Carole’s Books You Loved), Wise Woman, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday)

What’s On Your Nightstand: September 2017

Nightstand82The 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 the last Nightstand was so long ago, yet September seems to have flown by. I don’t know how such opposite sensations can coexist. But let’s get to this month’s reading:

Since last time I have completed:

Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy, audiobook, reviewed here. A young man finds himself on jury duty for a prostitute accused of murdering a client and realizes she was a girl he loved and took advantage of in her youth and innocence. Realizing he set her on this path, he aims to help her, and in doing so is transformed himself. Didn’t enjoy this as much as I thought I would, but enjoyed Tolstoy’s storytelling more than his pontificating.

Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me by Kevin DeYoung, reviewed here. Excellent.

The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate, reviewed here. A woman moving up in her publishing career finds a mysterious old manuscript on her desk, and its story captures her. But unraveling the mystery of it may lead her to a past she wants to keep buried. Excellent!

The ESV MacArthur Study Bible. I don’t usually include my Bible reading here, but since I did finish this as a book, both my first time through the ESV and through MacArthur’s notes, I thought I’d mention it. I might share some of my thoughts on it at some point. I didn’t end in Revelation, by the way – I was in the Psalms when I received it as a gift so I picked up there and just finished there.

I’m currently reading:

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

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry along with a group led my Michele, which is greatly enhancing my reading.

Jane Austen: Christian Encounter Series by Peter Leithart

The Sea Keeper’s Daughters by Lisa Wingate

Up Next:

Love in Hard Places by D. A. Carson

The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

To Be Where You Are, Jan Karon’s newest!

I’m looking forward to some good reading next month. How about you?

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Book Review: The Story Keeper

Story KeeperIn The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate, Jen Gibbs has just moved up in her publishing career to work with the prestigious Vida House Publishing in New York. A competitive former coworker is there as well. The head, George Vida, has what’s called Slush Mountain in the conference room – a pile of manuscripts that for various reasons were not able to be returned to the owners. A cardinal rule at Vida House is that no one touches Slush Mountain.

So when Jen discovers an old manila envelope on her desk with a manuscript containing a hand-drawn cover, she can’t help but wonder if someone, perhaps her old coworker, is setting her up for a fall, making it look like she took one of Slush Mountain’s old manuscripts to peruse. But curiosity gets the better of her, and as she starts reading it, she’s drawn into the story of Sarra, a teenage Melungeon girl in Appalachia in the late 1800s. The Melungeons were a mixture of three races, European, African, and Native American, often with dark hair and skin and blue eyes. Unfortunately, they were also the subject of racism and suspicion. Sarra escapes a dangerous situation and ends up with an unlikely protector, Rand Champlain, a man from one of Charleston’s oldest families who is in the area to study the native flora and fauna.

Jen is thoroughly drawn in to the story, and she recognizes similarities in style and vocabulary to a famous author who is now a bit of a recluse. Should she risk her reputation at Vida House to follow this trail? Could she even get through to the suspected author to talk? He now lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains from which Jen herself escaped poverty, ignorance, and an almost cult-like authoritarian religious group. She had planned never to return there: can she face her past for the sake of this story?

Quotes:

All breath in evr’thing been given by Father God, Granddaughter…Not a one he ain’t mindful a. All lives be mattersome to him. Not a one oughtn’t be mattersome to us, same way.

Just a building, created by men, filled with bits of God’s Word torn from context and recombined like the pieces of a ransom note.

The truth was, I yearned, in a soul-deep way, to be Sarra. To ‘feel’ that God was so very close, so very concerned with my particular life, so very ready to protect and to love. Always nearby. Always listening. Always leading.

No matter how many wrong choices we’ve made in the past, we can always decide to make the right ones today. The past need not determine one moment of the future.

My thoughts:

I loved this book: Jen’s progression, the search for the mysteries involving the manuscript, the story within the story of Rand and Sarra, the setting of both a busy NY publishing house and then the Blue Ridge mountain area. Sarra and Rand’s story alternates between the two of them, and I thought Lisa showed great skill writing in their different voices as well as Jen’s – a modern city girl, a backwoods mixed race mountain girl, and a turn-of-the-century Southern aristocrat.

My only very small complaints are, 1), that a lot got wrapped up super-quickly at the end. I had thought, starting into the epilogue, that the story was heading toward a sequel since there was no way everything could be tied up in the last few pages, but it was. And, 2), one of the biggest mysteries was left a mystery, and that was something of a let-down. But those are small enough as to be almost inconsequential.

Otherwise, I enjoyed it immensely. A 9 out of 10.

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

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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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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)