The Week in Books 2008, No. 47

Harper Collins sent me an advance copy of Juliette Fay’s novel Shelter Me
, which will be released in December. The book is the story of a young mother suddenly widowed and her first year of grieving after her husband’s death. The greatest strength of the novel is the author’s ability to convey the depth of loss through describing the tiny moments that poignantly combine to create the magnitude of the situation. Those moments move the reader to more closely identify with and understand the character of Jane. At first Jane’s wounds draw her within herself, but as time passes, the love of other people begins to draw her back out, and she heals as she slowly allows others to shelter her.

Every time I saw the book’s title, I thought of the hymn “Praise Ye the Lord, the Almighty,” specifically the lines “Praise ye the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth, shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth…how oft’ in grief, hath not He brought thee relief, spreading His wings to o’er shade thee.” It was interesting to think about how Jane dealt with grief and loss without a relationship with God, and think of what things would have been similar or different had the author chosen to give her character a personal faith.

Because the character of Jane doesn’t have that experience, some of her choices seemed a little odd or hollow to me, but overall made sense in the context of the character. I thought the book would have been stronger if the author had developed more of the potential in Jane’s relationship with her mother, rather than focusing on a tangential relationship with a local priest, which added a lot of little spin-offs but didn’t serve to deepen the characters or move the story forward particularly, in my opinion.

Those observations aside, I think overall “Shelter Me” is a good book, and I’d recommend it with the caveat that there is some strong langugage and there are adult situations that might be off-putting to some, although they make sense in the context of the story and serve to explain things about the characters.

At long last I got my turn to read the second of C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy, Perelandra .
I suppose it says something about a book when people still wait in line to read a book written 65 years ago. As with “Out of the Silent Planet,” I thoroughly enjoyed Lewis’ work. The spiritual aspects of the trilogy are even more apparent in the second book of the trilogy, although I would say it’s not so much an allegorical treatment of God and spiritual things as it is a tangential way of looking at them. In “Perelandra” Lewis presents a way of considering the Trinity and spiritual truth from a different perspective that is illuminating. I found myself thinking about the ways in which Satan tempts us, the ways our limited view of life hampers our ability to trust God, and how subtly sin can infect our thinking. Because it was more thought-provoking, I enjoyed “Perelandra” more than “Out of the Silent Planet,” but would still recommend both although perhaps each could also stand alone.

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