Saturday, September 24, 2011

Christian Fiction Book Club: The Preacher's Bride by Jody Hedlund

Don't you just hate those hoity-toity book clubs where you have to get all dolled up and pretend like you know which wine pairs with which meat before you even get to even sniff a book in the air, let alone talk about it? Well, good news: we don't play that game here. Here at the Christian Fiction Book Club, you can show up as pretty as a picture (or as pretty as Lovely Lydia, our host for this month) or like I usually do: unshowered, hairy-legged, and still in my jammies. So... whether you're dripping in diamonds or drooping in your fave sweats... welcome!

As I mentioned above, this month's CFBC selection is being hosted by Lydia at The Overweight Bookshelf and features a romantic historical novel, The Preacher's Bride, by author Jody Hedlund.

Here's the sitch, as it appears in the blurb at the Barnes and Noble website:



In 1650s England, a young Puritan maiden is on a mission to save the baby of her newly widowed preacher—whether her assistance is wanted or not. Always ready to help those in need, Elizabeth ignores John's protests of her aid. She's even willing to risk her lone marriage prospect to help the little family.

Yet Elizabeth's new role as nanny takes a dangerous turn when John's boldness from the pulpit makes him a target of political and religious leaders. As the preacher's enemies become desperate to silence him, they draw Elizabeth into a deadly web of deception. Finding herself in more danger than she ever bargained for, she's more determined than ever to save the child—and man—she's come to love.


I'll be honest. I did not enter this book with a positive attitude. For one thing, it looked like a typical, Christian bonnet-book, to which I hold a bit of, ahem, prejudice against. And secondly: I hated the title.

When I see the word "bride" in a novel's title, I tend to expect a way-too-sweet, formula romance -- the kind that makes you want to go suck on a jalapeno just to temper the aftergag. But...

... that's not what I got with Jody Hedlund's new novel.

I got a thoughtfully written, emotionally straining, and sensually written story.

In all honesty, I enjoyed this book on so many levels that I actually felt some mild pangs of guilt about my preconceived ideas about brides and bonnets on this cover. It was a good book. It was a well-written book. It was a sensual book.

"A sensual book?" you ask. "About Puritans?"

Yep.

Hedlund translates the restraint of the Puritan culture so beautifully that even the most seemingly innocuous touches between John and Elizabeth seem almost scandalous; yet within the framework of that culture of innocence and restraint, those moments are written in alluringly passionate prose. It's been a long time since I've read such an innocently sensual book.

HOLD UP! This is, after all, a Book Club Discussion, not a regular review. So before I tarry any longer (and risk getting all hot and bothered thinking about those hand holds and long-moment glances) I'd better get after a question or two from the author's online Discussion Guide.

1. Elizabeth compares her physical appearance to the women around her and feels like a plain moth among beautiful butterflies. Why do women have such a tendency to compare themselves to others? What are the results of such comparisons? And how can we avoid the comparison trap?

Can I first say that I seriously wanted to clap when Samuel got married? Sorry, but that was justice, peeps. But to answer the question: ARGH! Why do we do that to ourselves? I made a note in my Kindle after one particular passage: How many women suffer from "look at me, I can't expect better." and end up with some loser?

What's sad is that, even in our modern society this still goes on. I don't know why we do it. -- Why I do it. -- Or how to avoid it. I suppose if I/we knew why, then I/we wouldn't do it. And then the therapists would all be broke, wiping down tables at Chilis. And what would THAT do to our economy, eh?

6. When Elizabeth lost her baby, she felt abandoned by God and by John. Have you ever felt abandoned by God or someone you love? How did you recover? What do you think of Sister Norton's statement, "Hardships are the Lord's greatest blessings to a believer. Without them we would love the Lord only for what He does for us. Our troubles teach us to love Him for who He is."

I miscarried a baby between my two girls. I felt abandoned, yes. By God, my husband, and the myriad people who said insensitive things. Sister Norton's words didn't bug me in the novel -- they came off as wisdom. And it IS wisdom. But looking at them here, imagining them spoken to me during my grief? Well, it seems a bit like Elizabeth just got Jesus Juked. Sometimes you just need someone to come along side you in silence or in agreement: "This sucks. I am so sorry this happened to you." When you feel abandoned by God in real life you don't need someone to tell you "Chin up, God will make this be awesome for you someday." Grief is big. It doesn't negate what you KNOW about God, it simply blankets it with what you FEEL about Him. When you feel abandoned, you need time, silence, friendship, and compassion. The words of wisdom, the graceful guidance, the merciful leading -- that comes later. But... it works in a novel and, therefore, I'll let Sister Norton slide by this one time. ;-)

TO READ, OR NOT TO READ; THAT IS THE QUESTION:

Until I read the author's notes at the end, I didn't realize that The Preacher's Bride was based on true story. It was gratifying to see a piece of history and a hero of the faith (and of Story) fictionalized with such finesse, and I greatly enjoyed the tension-riddled, but beautiful love story within The Preacher's Bride. I found this novel to be engrossing, sensual, and beautifully written. Read it, if you haven't. If you have, please join in on the Book Club discussion -- even if your legs are hairy and you smell funny, you are most welcome to join us!

Serena's Rating:

This month's Christian Fiction Book Club is being hosted by Lydia at The Overweight Bookshelf. Be sure to link up your discussion questions over there! Thanks for dropping by!









18 comments:

  1. Serena~ great comments on Jody's fabulous book. It is a beautifully written story :) I agree with your thoughts! Have you read The Doctor's Lady yet? Also excellent :)

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  2. Rel -- this was my first trip into Hedlundland, but I was impressed! I'll have to get to The Doctor's Lady... someday! My TBR pile is... excessive right now!
    ~Serena

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  3. Wow Serena. I love that you shared a bit of yourself with this review. GREAT honest discussion. *hug*

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  4. PS Thanks for that link on the Jesus Juke. I totally just learned something and now what you mean now.

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  5. Serena- I loved your thoughts on this and that little personal insight about grief...

    This book was one of my favorites last year...;)

    and I second Juju- **hugs**

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  6. hear hear for the unshaven, funky-smellin, jammie wearing readers this morning! I too appreciated your personal grief insights. You said, "Grief is big. It doesn't negate what you KNOW about God, it simply blankets it with what you FEEL about Him. When you feel abandoned, you need time, silence, friendship, and compassion. The words of wisdom, the graceful guidance, the merciful leading -- that comes later." Such a true statement! Thanks so much for sharing.

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  7. Still in my jammies at 10:36 this fine Saturday morning and reporting for book club.

    Serena, your statement about grief is quote worthy...and your personal insights show me YET AGAIN we have a lot in common. Seriously, one day we need to meet somewhere for coffee.

    This book is still free on Kindle as of this morning, so anyone who wants to read it after seeing our book club discussion can pick it up. I haven't read it yet, but I'm excited about it. Like you Serena, my TBR pile is huge.

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  8. I think Sister Norton's advice is something we need to be reminding people of at all times, not just during their grief. I'm currently going through a season of grief with a dear friend and I can't imagine saying that to her right now or anyone saying that to me right now even. But I know what she is saying is true, and it doesn't give me too much grief because I had been told something similar to that before all this happened.

    Oh and Samuel, I can't tell you how much I wanted him out of the picture!!!

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  9. I too wanted Samuel out of the picture! That is one of the things I disliked about the book or I guess I should say the era...Christians were so mean to each other! Or I should say "so-called" Christians, because I find it hard to believe that true believers would treat each other so horrible. But then again, I'm pretty sheltered and know that today there are "so-called" Christians just as evil and filled with hate. Gah! Don't even get me started!!

    BTW, I haven't seen a link up yet for the book club?

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  10. Thanks so much for sharing and nice use of the Jesus Juke. I always find it hard to figure out what to say to a friend that is grieving. I guess it just takes listening to the Holy Spirit to know what they need to hear, or don't need to hear. Easier said than done though.

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  11. Thanks for all the hugs and sweet words. I hope you'll all stop by Lydia's place and leave a comment -- and like Joy mentioned, the book is free on Kindle at amazon, so there's no reason to wait to get this book in your library, even if you don't have time to read it right now! Enjoy!

    ~Serena

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  12. Serena you completely nailed it! My best friend lost her father suddenly to cancer when were in university. Every time the anniversary rolled around I would panic: "Oh no! What could I possibly say or do to help?" What she really wanted was for me to do nothing, be silent, and just listen to her talk through her emotions. No grand gestures or inspirational spoutings-just hold the tissues, grab a pillow for punching, and stock some good chocolate. Amazing post as usual my friend!

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  13. I appreciated your openness Serena. I had a very hard time reading the scene with Elizabeth and her loss.

    Samuel deserved everything he got. He reminded me of a few people I've known over the years. It's incredibly rude but I have written most of those people off because of their antics. Samuel was truly out for only one thing and it wasn't love!

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  14. Is the book club over? I can't find anything recent about it.

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