Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Leota's Garden - Francine Rivers

I love Francine Rivers. I truly do. I was hooked from the Atonement Child (to be reviewed soon) onwards, but this book was disappointing for several reasons. The first of these is the numerous logistical errors within the text. The dates make no sense. Characters are too old or too young to have lived through the historical events they supposedly lived through. Physical descriptions are altered. On one page, a young woman is described as tall enough to be a model, while a chapter later, she's supposedly the same height as her five-foot-tall grandmother. Eye colours change. The problems go on and on. Rivers is an experienced author, and ought to be beyond this type of error. As usual, she does create some wonderfully fascinating, layered characters, including Corban, an athiest university student who is drawn into this world of feuding mothers and daughters, and struggles to comprehend their Christian faith within the structure of his own sociological training. However, other characters are disappointingly two-dimensional. The main conflict of the novel, a misunderstanding between a mother and a daughter, is painfully forced, the daughter's errors in thinking so blatant her character seems unbelievably ignorant. Literally. I did not believe it. One might argue that the message is more important than the medium, and in the case of this novel, the message is excellent. Christian life and growth is compared to a garden - the heart and mind need constant care, pruning, and tending, just as a garden does. There are also questions of the value of life for the old and sick, and Rivers presents this with a great deal of intelligence and sensitivity. She offers up the lives of her characters for our examinations, their sins and triumphs, their faith and failures, and manages to teach without preaching. It is an overall wonderful story, that I believe would have benefitted from more editing time. For readers who don't care about logistical problems, this could be a wonderful read. In my opinion, though, a Christian message is no reason for the myriad of errors within this novel. Such a stellar message should not be wrapped in such substandard packaging.

Recommended for the message, not the medium.

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