10.26.2005

On "Jordan's Bend" - Sara

Just finished reading "Jordan's Bend" by Carolyn Williford for our church's monthly book club. I am not a fan of the Christian Fiction genre, so I picked this one up not so eagerly. But I figured since it was published before I was born, there might be some redeeming qualities to it.

It's an interesting story of a 14 year old girl living in the Tennessee River valley during the depression with her family on a generations-old family farm. Enter Roosevelt's New Deal and the TVA's plans to build a dam, resulting in a lake - yup, you guessed it, right over their family farm.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a book that was not formulaic or predictable. Neither did it offer political commentary as many modern authors would be tempted to slip in. It portrayed in a very genuine manner the struggles a teenager has with her faith, her God, and her own self when life serves up hard times. She comes to realize that the land, her beau, nor even her venerated old Granny Mandy are her supporting foundation, although she attempts to use all of these in some way as her connection to God. Many of us have tried to substitute one thing or another as a real relationship with God only to find it empty and useless.

Fire and water show up repeatedly in the book, water obviously through the river and the TVA's dam project. It is essentially the source of all problems. Contrast this with the foxfire Granny Mandy uses as an object lesson for faith in the "unnatural world" (spiritual world). {By the way, I had never heard of a foxfire before and had to get out Webster to figure out what this was. It's a luminesent glow created by rotting debris and fungus. If you've ever seen this, I'd be interested in hearing about it.} Fire also shows up in a rousing recitation of Longfellow's "Prometheus' Fire" by the main characters younger brother - which reignites the fire in the locals' hearts, reminding them of who they truly are and thus helping to rebuild some broken relationships amongst the town folks. Fire, or rather a burn, brings a character "back" from a several week spell of just sitting in her rocking chair after hearing the news her family would have to relocate due to the flooding. All these allusions to the power of water and fire reminded me of the many references in the Bible to God being an all consuming fire, going through the refiner's fire, the chaos of water/waves being swept over the Psalmist, Gen 1:1, etc.

I'm glad I read this one - except for one point. The strong Southern dialect used throughout the book seeped into my head, and I catch myself inserting the verb "be" infront of just about every other verb. So I don't "be recommending" it for it's ability to teach proper grammer. Another bonus is the fact that this book is very clean - no language, scenes, or themes that caused me to blush (something that cannot be said of many modern Christian-labelled books). So pick this one up, it's a fairly quick read, and cook up some cornbread. I think you'll find it delightful and edifying.

5 comments:

  1. Steve,

    Have you read Gilead by Marilynne Robinson?

    I'm about 1/3rd through it, and it would meet the above description thus far. It is a cup of cool water in a Left Behind world.

    And, I've lived in the South 10 of the last 12 years, and while I now "mash" instead of "press" buttons, boil water on "eyes" and not "burners", realize that people who say cruel things are being "ugly" not "mean," and find the second person plural "y'all" a very useful term, I have never heard anyone put "be" in front of a verb! ;-) But, then again, I've never lived in rural TN.

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  2. OH, and I forgot, to call someone a "mess" is fairly complimentary here!

    Rejoicing in the fast-vanishing world of regional dialect!!!

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  3. Sorry for the confusion, Ken, this was my wife who read this one. I didn't...

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  4. Anonymous10:24 AM

    Sara,
    As Ken said, you won't get lots of points here, in the South for putting "be" in front of all of your verbs. But, in my opinion, anyones' language improves with a little more drawl and the addition of "ya'll" but that is the opinion of one member of "GRITS" (girls raised in the south).
    Margaret in VA

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  5. Margaret -

    I'll admit those GRITS have some charm and poise that us Northerners lack. I confess to being quite culturally illiterate when it comes to things Southern - namely grits, crawdads, cornmeal mush, iced tea, and of course, hurricanes. But then again, I bet you've never had the joy of spinning donuts on icy parking lots, skiing through the eerie silence of a snow-laden pine forest, or wearing sweaters for 6 months of the year (I love sweaters!). Steve has a great "hymn to Winter" from the perspective of a Minnesotan that is hilarious. We'll try to post it.

    As for the drawl and "Ya'll", well that only made sense to me after I studied the second person plural in Spanish and Latin. Maybe there is something to that after all...

    Sara H

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