I will come to the perseverance of Ginny in a second, but those conclusions are not what I immediately think of. First I will divert toward my experience as I read these 26 or so pages.
This chapter flits through a huge spectrum of situations. We see Ginny zipping up, up and away from Blue on a flight to Afghanistan only to be back in New York City with 6 pages left in the chapter. Along the way she meets a Princetonian idealist writing his master’s thesis while doubling as the refugee camp driver, people from many other nationalities, and the womanizing director of camp operations. Ginny deftly steered the womanizing Rupert away from his basic instincts and into his more professional duties. Those professional duties required a response to the risks that finally struck close to home.
Whew! So fast from one thing to the next makes for quick, easy reading, but it is quite the flight. With each of these chapters, especially one like this I am puzzled. The character and situational development is so shallow how is such a book successful? Part of that vantage point is surely because I am concurrently reading Charles Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit. The meticulous character depth of Mr. Pecksniff and Mr. Pinch causes Ginny and Blue to pale.
Still, in the recent months I have read books by Crichton, Ludlum, Hugh Howey, Philip K. Dick, Dan Simmons and even Joy Jordan-Lake. Those books are not Dickens level books, but they are on a different tier than Steel. The glaring difference is the genre (other than Joy Jordan-Lake), but even so I have been through many books by authors such as Francine Rivers, Lynn Austin, Nicholas Sparks and Madeline L’Engle. Steel’s writing style remains on a different plane than these more romantic authors. If I were to write a book like Blue I think that I would not send it to the publisher as it stands; it would not be up to my own standards, nor do I think the publisher would accept it. They have though, so why?
The main reason the publisher accepts them is because they sell. I was startled to find on Wikipedia that Danielle Steel’s 800 million copies sold places her as the 4th most prolific novelist of all time. At the time I read that page1 only Agatha Christie, William Shakespeare and Barbara Cartland exceeded her. No wonder I have seen these books in mountain chalets, in Kenya, on free book stands and in the hands of my patients…and now me!
That does not really explain why they sell, but is just another way of saying they do. I think part of the answer lies in the accessibility of the work. Steel dances across situations that people in some manner identify with tying it with humanitarian facets all infused with a good feeling. It has just enough conflict to effect a story line, but not so much that it stays dark for long swaths. According to Janice Harayda Danielle Steel writes at a 4th-5th grade level2. So accessibility, easy reading level and familiarity.
What do I identify with in this chapter?
Help for the weary or chasing windmills? Perseverance in action
The first thing that really came to mind derived from the discussion between Ginny and the Princetonian idealist as I have called him. Steel has him saying, “…he was full of innovative new theories and naive ideals about what they should be doing there and weren’t.” Ginny does not try to convince him, but having a different perspective thinks, “…sometimes it [is] just about helping the locals survive the hardships that they faced, not teaching them a new way of life or changing the world.” Ginny was supporting while the fellow from Princeton was chasing windmills. Both have their roles, but first-world collegiates may not be the best problem solvers for little understood third-world cultures. Ginny was fulfilled by meeting the very present needs, rather than hunting an ideal that can bring its own difficulties in tow.
Ginny wanted to give the troubled “solace and hope.” She taught the locals that they were important to Ginny by being there. This is very good, but having been through many books on missionary lives and participated in missionary life (Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Romania) I fear Ginny’s motivations insufficient. To be driven by God’s call to the poor and then by being able to teach those downtrodden that God is real, sees what is going on and cares (even if it does not always eliminate the hardships) a lasting comfort can be provided. Too, many will crumble under the weight of what Ginny sees. Ginny has not crumbled, but it is clear from the responses of others that crumbling is common.
The life Jesus walked was an example of one who met very present needs while preparing to meet the biggest one. He was able to fix immediate and long term struggles. As a Christian we would do well do come alongside people in their struggles like Ginny did rather than merely study problems and preach at them. The one who extends a helping hand, is present in the struggles and sympathetic to the extent their personality and means allows will be listened to when more important things arise.