Well, here goes! This is Friday number 1 in my Steel saga. This entry will roll out on Black Friday as we Americans call the Friday after Thanksgiving. I’m going to try and give each chapter a theme and the theme for this chapter will be Crash! Hopefully you won’t figure I have crashed or put a black Friday veil over your impressions of me. After all I am a Sunday School teacher and follower of Christ. Why would I read a book by Danielle Steel? Doesn’t the Bible say we will have to give account of everything done in the body? Yep. It does.1 So how do I account for this?
Well, look at this post down near the end and I think you can see why I jumped in on this book. I might jump back out, but if I do I will let you know.
A series introduction
I have not done a review like this before and am slapping it together on the fly. The first thing I had to decide is what in the world to do with summaries? Do I come right out and say what happened? Do I need to wave the “Spoiler Alert!” flag? Well, maybe I am waving it right here, right now. I will give a synopsis. It won’t have all the details but I bet you’ll get the gist.
I am going to take this approach because I want to be able to address the way her characters live their lives. I want to point out those realities they face, the struggles that are so real and how I think they can be handled from a Christian world view. I also want to draw parallels with real people we come in to contact with.
Much of this is about not judging a book by its cover…or its author. I want to see what it says.
So let’s crash right in with a synopsis of chapter 1
Have you ever gotten a bit out of your element only to find that element to have became your own?
Well, that is how Danielle Steel introduces Ginny Carter. As the book opens Ginny is bumping along a rough and tumble trip back to the US. We learn that for the last 3 years she has been in the wilds of a Peace Corps type life. The brush strokes Steel uses to craft this woman of 40 years include shadows of a something lost–a something which preceded the humanitarian service into which she has made her escape.
What was it she had lost? Was it her beauty, popularity, love, career, or something else? As we learn she had been that quintessential “All-American.” She was as some say, “Living the dream.” At least she was until a certain day toward the end of the year. That day she loathed, especially not wanting to be in America for the anniversary of December 23rd. This intention was thwarted, however, when her replacement in the field came late.
As chapter 1 nears its end we learn the events of December 23rd. When all had been going so well her husband of a few years had his alcohol sneak up on him. He was not a problem drinker, not abusive, nor sneaky. It was just a party where extra alcohol became part of an accidental mix. Those drinks did not show themselves until their car flipped head-on into an on-coming truck. Ginny alone survived, but after a month in the hospital took a neck brace out the door for another 6 months.
As this first chapter drew to a close Ginny was beginning to ask herself if life was worth it all. Should she take steps to join her dead family?
Three other characters make their way into this chapter. The most engaged was the younger sister Becky who while sympathetic with Ginny’s life-crash has her own weighty things to address. Their dad is in the later stages of Alzheimer’s and her husband feels that Ginny needs to “get over it and move on.” Becky is not immune from these feelings but cares deeply for her sister as well. How will she deal with this? What will happen to Ginny?
What do I see of Ginny?
- She is heavily, heavily invested in the memory of her husband and child
- Ginny faced loss and she reacted by running
- She ran physically choosing an alternate life-course
- She ran mentally by burying herself in her work
- She rejected her formative human connections choose other, more short term, albeit valuable ones
What about Becky?
- She is positive, sympathetic and wants to help
- She knew when her sister was getting back to America and called right away to see how she was doing
- Becky took care of Ginny’s whole house
- Becky is diligent at home
- Becky cares for their ailing father
What about Alan (Becky’s husband)?
- He is aware of his wife’s moods recognizing she is pensive after her phone call.
- He disapproves of his sister-in-law’s avoidance of what he considers her duty to help with his father-in-law
- He was not as compassionate or understanding as Becky
- Alan was troubled by what seemed to be unfair
What can be made of this?
One of my very first notions was to tie my own sense of things to her sense of things. If I found myself in a situation of such loss I am certain my strength would derive from my understanding of who God is. When I read a book like this I could be inclined to discard it thinking that as Ginny did not emphasize God as her strength she has missed the boat. Over and done.
That is a terrible reaction. It is an indifferent one and like heaping lack of interest onto a suffering person. Is it not better to think, “Many in the world have problems like this. How can I come alongside and sympathize with their grief?” I may be confident of my own answer and it surely can have value to them, but the delivery of that message is best tucked in as part and parcel of interest in the person.
Am I, are we like Ginny running from our troubles or burying ourselves in work? I am a teaching physician and a couple of times I have seen residents (doctors in training) go through divorce. Many times they throw themselves hard into their training, their studies, their work. I think it helps them keep their minds off the home front or loss of it. Ginny was like that. Most don’t run off to third world humanitarian projects, but the pattern is similar.
Do you know of any who turned their backs on all that is familiar to them? Maybe you know why and maybe you don’t. It would be to the advantage of all to treat them like Becky treated Ginny. Stand by them. Becky held things together for these three years and while facing the very real issues of a sister who seemed to have skipped out on important family things did not write Ginny off. Think about the military around us. Many have had deployed spouses with family badly disrupted. The deployed person has their struggles as does the one who remained behind. Becky is a good example of sticking with a loved one despite unlovely reactions.
Could it be that you or I are like Alan? His reaction is also not unfamiliar. Getting over a thing and getting on with life, helping with family duties, etc. was his reaction. Is it as compassionate as Becky? Certainly not. Is it entirely off-base? Nope. It is probably not like Becky could just tell her sister what she had better do. Neither could she really tell her husband to discard those “terrible, uncompassionate thoughts.” So Becky is a great example of how to go about things. Is she a Christian? Seems not. Does she have excellent traits? Yep. Can many of us learn from a thing like this? Sure.
Remember how I got this book? A patient gave it to me. She described the book as fluff. Is it? Well, maybe, but a whole lot more than just fluff can be taken from it if one lets the thoughts dissect what is going on. Even bad examples (Alan) can be used to turn us toward better relationship health. Of course, God is still there. He is still interested and present. He does not helicopter us out of our troubles, but he will walk beside us right through the middle of them. Jesus was called a Man of Sorrows and one familiar with suffering. Ginny’s struggles would have made a lot of sense to him.
Other entries in this series