Monday, March 23, 2015

Book Write-Up (Loosely-Speaking): Where Trust Lies

Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan.  Where Trust Lies.  Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2015.  See here to buy the book.

Where Trust Lies is the sequel to Where Courage Calls, which I wrote about hereWhere Courage Calls is about Beth going to the Canadian West to teach children in a mining community.  Where Trust Lies is about Beth returning to her well-to-do family and going on a steamship cruise.

My reading experience of Where Courage Calls was not that good, as I explained in my review.  I was not always following what was going on.  I picked up that there was conflict between two groups, but I was not entirely sure who the two groups were.  Maybe my problem was that I was going through the book too quickly because I was in a hurry to finish it, or my bad mood was hindering my focus.  In any case, while my reading of that book was not positive, the book did have snippets of spiritual wisdom that I appreciated.

One of the Amazon reviewers who gave Where Courage Calls a low rating speculated that perhaps Where Courage Calls was largely written by Janette Oke’s daughter, and that this would explain why it is not as strong as other Janette Oke books.  Let me say, though, that I just finished Where Trust Lies, which was also written by Janette Oke and her daughter, and I really enjoyed it.

On some level, Where Trust Lies has plot elements that are in other books and stories.  A well-off woman goes to an economically poor region and then, changed by the experience, interacts with her well-off family.  Kidnappers gain someone’s trust then hold him or her hostage for ransom.  Sometimes, in books, movies, and TV shows that have these plot-elements, the plot is executed in a manner that really grabs me as a reader and generates suspense; sometimes, that is not the case.

Where Trust Lies, in my opinion, did execute the plot well.  I could identify with Beth after her sister Julie was kidnapped: wanting to be with people, yet wanting to be alone.  Beth’s mother, far from being an upper class snob who disdained Beth’s occupation in the West, was a woman of spiritual wisdom.  My favorite passage in the book is something that Beth’s mother says to Beth as Beth’s mother remains fairly calm in the crisis: “It’s something so personal that perhaps only God’s Spirit can speak to your heart in His own way” (page 281).

That passage appeals to me because it highlights how personal faith and one’s experience of God is.  Yet, although the book does not emphasize church a great deal, it does acknowledge the importance of community.  Beth gives Julie a good speech about the importance of family as Julie tries to pull away from her family to be with her new “friends” (or so she thinks).  After Julie is kidnapped, family and friends pull together their resources to help find her; Edward, a mountie and friend of the family whom Beth dislikes and sees as pompous, contributes his expertise to the search.  And Jarrick, Beth’s love interest, points Beth to God’s comfort, and later says that she could do the same for him when he has a crisis.

The book was not always interesting, but what made it good was the discussions about literature and spirituality.  Beth is plodding through Herman Melville’s Redburn, and she talks about it with a new “friend,” Nicky.  Nicky says that he likes adventure stories, whereas Beth says that she likes stories in which she can take her time and appreciate the plot and the characters (and my impression is that, by and large, Where Trust Lies aims to be the latter kind of book!).  Beth is disturbed by the scenes of poverty and suffering in Redburn, and she has a discussion with Nicky about the importance of helping others; Nicky, by contrast, lives by the rule that he needs to grab what he wants as quickly as possible before anyone else grabs it, and he wonders why God does not help the suffering himself, if God is so concerned.

I also appreciated how Beth tried to reach out to the lonely.  One teenage girl, Victoria, was reclusive and a bit morose, and she was rebuked by her mother for that.  Beth reached out to Victoria, though, and asked Victoria about Victoria’s areas of interest.  Beth also figured that Nicky needed a friend.  Julie, too, reached out to the two young women who would later kidnap her, and Julie after that horrible experience wondered if she would ever trust anyone again.  Beth reassures Julie that Julie was right to reach out to the two young women.

In Where Trust Lies, Julie is kidnapped, and people pray.  Nicky is one of the kidnappers, and Beth prays that Nicky might have a change of heart, which he does.  That is well and good, but I wonder about the times when there are no happy endings.  Where is God then?  Jarrick raises the possibility to Beth that Julie may have been sold into slavery, and Beth is surprised that this happens in the world.  Beth also reads about suffering in Redburn, and, although I have not read the book, I doubt that all of the sufferers in that book had a happy ending.  If God is a caretaker, as some in Where Trust Lies believe, where is God for the sufferers who do not find a happy ending?   That is a question that I cannot answer, because I do not know the answer.  I do believe in the value of prayer, however, and of helping those who are disadvantaged.

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