Aug 2, 2015

July Book Reviews

Elsie Dinsmore, Book 1
by Martha Finley
Originally published in 1868, The Elsie Books (28 in all) were a beloved national bestselling series for girls and women alike, making Martha Finley one of the most renowned children's authors of her time. Book sales at the time were second only to Louisa May Alcott (Little Women). The series started with  Elsie Dinsmore at eight years old and followed her through adolescence and into adulthood. Elsie's character, full of humility, compassion, and truthfulness pointed towards Jesus and it was no secret that Christian morals and teachings were central to the Elsie Books. In a generation when Christian truths were publicly applauded and admired rather than ridiculed and silenced as they can be today, The Elsie Books were a great avenue for showing a godly example for girls of all ages. 

Elsie is a sweet 8-year old in Book 1 of the series. She lives with her estranged father's family since he is in Europe and has not made any effort to contact her. Her aunts and uncles (who are her age and slightly older) tease her and think she's odd for the way she tries to be truthful and loving even in the hardest of times. She finds friendship and encouragement from the servants of the house along with a few other close friends who come to visit a few times throughout the story. And when her father returns home, she feels lost in how to act since he seems distant and harsh in his sudden presence in her life.

I liked this first book of the Elsie Dinsmore series. I had not heard about the books until the past few years and was curious about them. And from what I heard about them, they reminded me of one of my favorite books that is also about a girl and how she grows in godliness (Stepping Heavenward), so I thought I'd add it to me To-Read book and get to it eventually. I ended up finding it at a garage sale a few summers ago and finally got to it this month. I was a bit irritated with Elsie's character, though I can say overall, I liked her. It was just that a lot of the things she said (especially when talking about the Bible) were so wordy and knowledgable, it was hard to imagine an 8-year old really saying it. That said, I know the wealthy, educated children during the 1800s were a great deal more advanced than now, but still, it was a bit hard to believe at times. Along with that, she was also very emotional, crying at the slightest thing. I can attest that I can be the same way, but it just got a little annoying reading about her crying fit in practically every single chapter. But I suppose this made her more believable as an 8 year old. That said, I still admire Martha Finley's tale of a girl who is living each day desiring to praise God through her life. I can appreciate this amidst the small things that bugged me. I may look into reading a few more of the books to see how her story develops, but it was not a must-read for me. I think it would be a nice book for a grade school girl to read, especially since the context is so wholesome and encourages good behaviors without sounding preachy or legalistic. 

The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Kim Edwards
One fateful winter night in 1964, Dr. David Henry delivers his own twins. The first is a healthy boy he and his wife name Paul. The second is a daughter born with Down’s Syndrome, which in those days was a grave diagnosis since heart defects are common in these children and lack of medical advances made short life expectancy a grave reality. In a rush to protect his wife Norah from future heartbreak associated with caring for a child with special needs, he sends his nurse, Caroline, to drop the little girl at a nearby institution. Caroline instead takes the little girl, named Phoebe, and disappears with her. She cares for her and later fights for her rights in as a student in the education system that saw children with special needs as useless.

Wrought with emotion, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is written from the perspectives of David, Norah, Paul, and Caroline and conveys the emotions and experiences each of them undergo as a result of that fateful night.  Told over the span of two decades, different historical events are interwoven between the story.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter was a definite page-turner. I haven’t swallowed up a book this fast in a while. It’s easy to follow and full of suspense, making it hard to stop after a few chapters. It also dives deep into the issue of grief, which was pivotal to the book. Each of the characters of the Henry family grieved Phoebe’s supposed death in a unique way, bringing a realness to the story.

Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul
Jennie Allen
A prayer of surrender changed the course of life for Jennie and her husband. They let go of expectations and dreams and told God they’d do anything He wants for them. And the adventure began. Anything is a beautiful blend of the first year after Jennie and her husband prayed this prayer along with her thoughts on how we can let God have anything in specific areas of our lives. It also includes a Bible study in the appendix that I thought was an excellent addition to the book. 

Jennie is honest and raw in the pages. She doesn’t pretend that everything was perfect once they prayed their anything prayer. Instead, she explains the sometimes confusing seasons of waiting and wondering what God is up to. But in the midst of all the change that occurred in the lives after praying this prayer of surrender, they each could attest that God was in control and He was loving through it all.

I loved this book and will look back at it for reference in the future since Jennie explains things so thoughtfully. Her desire to yield everything in her life to the Lord is inspiring and in-line with what the Bible teaches about trusting God in verses such as Proverbs 3:5-6 (“Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall make your paths straight”)

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Elle Alice