Welcome to another installment of mini-reviews. There will probably be a lot more of these posts through the year, especially since I am trying to get in the habit of writing reviews for each book I read this year, whether it’s short and sweet, or longer in length. This installment is the first batch of mini-reviews of books that I read in 2022.
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
I had no idea what to expect going into Gilead, I didn’t even know if I would like it. However, I enjoyed this novel which is framed as a letter from an aging pastor to his young son. We go along the journey in learning more about the various people of Gilead, as well as the life of our narrator – John Ames – from boyhood to his position as one of the town ministers. I think one of the things I enjoyed most about the book is that the author doesn’t shy away from showing John Ames as a multifaceted man who struggles with his own doubts, and even has his own questions when it comes to theology. I appreciated that he doesn’t have all the answers, and even admits that there are aspects of theology – such as predestination, and the concept of hell – he doesn’t necessarily agree with the popular consensus. I just appreciated that we see a man of God who is flawed, but isn’t afraid to reveal it. I would love to go back and reread Gilead someday and see if there is anything else that I didn’t catch the first time I read it. 4/5 Stars.
Elsie’s Girlhood by Martha Finley
For whatever reason I continued my reread of the Elsie books. I don’t know why, they’re not good. They promote a version of Christianity that is extremely legalistic. In this one, we see Elsie grow into a young woman and experience love for the first time. Once again, I found Elsie’s father to be overly controlling and unreasonable, especially once she reaches adulthood. I also found her extremely naïve and I fully blame the fact that her father was so strict on her. I did not have the energy to do a fuller reaction review to this installment because I read it very late one night when I struggled to sleep. The ending is disturbing, especially since it seems a bit clearer that her relationship with Mr. Travilla was somewhat a grooming one. I can’t believe when I was a lot longer I thought it was sweet!!! As with the previous books, I am not giving it a rating.
Elsie’s Womanhood by Martha Finley
Okay, this was the last book in the Elsie series I picked up. I started it right after reading the previous book in the series. This installment was a tad bit better than the previous one, however I can’t get over the fact that Elsie ends up with Mr. Travilla who is her father’s age and best friend. I know it was a different time, but with how close they were, it’s hard not to view this as a grooming relationship. One aspect of this installment is that it does cover the Civil War and doesn’t shy away from exploring the feelings that characters would have experienced. However, I did decide that I needed to abandon my reread of this series. There are just a lot of other books I would love to read, and I can’t get to them if I’m spending my time reading this series. I will say one thing, I will never let my kids read these books, if they do, I will be having a lot discussions about legalism and abuse and racism.
The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson
I picked up The Golden Braid because I am trying to read some of the eBooks that I have had sitting on my Kindle for years. But I was also intrigued to read this retelling on Rapunzel. I have read some of the author’s other retellings and have liked them. I honestly did not know if I would enjoy this particular retelling, however, I really enjoyed it. I loved how the author not only retells the original fairy tale, but also uses a couple of elements from Tangled. I did find Rapunzel a little bit annoying at times, and I also had a hard time buying Gothel’s motives for what she does, but at the same time, I still felt it was a good retelling set in medieval Germany. I am looking forward to reading more of Melanie Dickerson’s retellings in the future! 4/5 Stars.
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
Lilac Girls was a hard book to read at times, but it makes sense that it would because it is dealing with the topic of war. I really liked this novel and it took me on a journey of emotions, of both grief and anger. I appreciated how the author depicts the lives of three different women during this time: an American who is on the Homefront, a Polish prisoner at Ravensbruck, and a young German doctor who has bought into the Nazi dogma. It was fascinating reading from Herta’s (the German doctor) perspective, it was angering to read how she convinced herself that the cruelty she inflicted on others was okay, and in some ways kept losing her humanity as long as she continued doing what she did. I do recommend Lilac Girls for fans of World War II and historical fiction, but it is not an easy read! 4/5 Stars.
Janelle L. C.