Friday, February 27, 2015

Book Review: The Chosen, by Chaim Potok

Book Review by Lorilyn Roberts

The Chosen was written in first person and the many themes were handled realistically and authentically. I felt like I was reading a memoir from the protagonist, Reuven. Chaim Potok writes in a matter-of-fact style with a smoothness that is comforting and reassuring. I could relate to and understand the protagonist’s problems as well as that of his friend, Danny Saunders.

The story was set during World War II in New York. Potok wove the war into the story to magnify the issues of faith, life, and death. Some of his references were very specific which intensified the meaning and drama of The Chosen, as if the name of the book had a double meaning; i.e., D-Day, President Roosevelt’s death, the subsequent discovery of the concentration camps, the horror of learning that six million Jews had been slaughtered, and the determination of Reuven’s father to give the Jews a homeland in Palestine. 

The conflict of Danny with his father was the most intriguing theme for me: Would it be possible to never speak to my father except when debating the Talmud? It seems improbable, but Potok did succeed in making me believe it was true. The lengthy passages about how the Hasidim sect began, the meaning of Apikorism, the finite differences in Judaism between Danny and Reuven, the intensity of the meaning of their Jewishness, and the biographical sketch of Reb Saunders’ history and family members (his genius brother and what happened to him) helped to create the realism that he and Danny never spoke to each other except when debating the interpretation of the Talmud.


Pokok took a complex theme (family relationships and faith) and wove the story into one that is universal, particularly for the Jewish people, who have suffered for thousands of years as God’s “chosen” people. I believe this type of book is important for the younger generation where so much that is written is fluff and superficial. I believe most adults tend to underrate what young people are capable of understanding and embracing. The Chosen has raised the stakes in challenging all of us to respect the difficult choices that some young people must make when dealing with family, faith, values, and destiny.

To purchase from Amazon, click here:

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Excerpt from Jordan’s Shadow by Robin Johns Grant





Yesterday over on the John 3:16 blog, Robin Johns Grant gave a little background about her latest novel, a YA suspense called Jordan’s Shadow. As promised, here is an excerpt. But first, a little background:



*~*~*~*


The Crosby family has a frightening problem. Is it psychological? Supernatural? Or something entirely unexpected?

In 1984, seventeen-year-old Rose and her fiancĂ© discover an injured girl with no memory. The girl, Jordan, is in Rose’s life for a brief time but leaves her world shattered.

Twenty-five years later, Rose Crosby’s daughter Ginny can’t understand why her relationship with her mother has fallen apart. Ginny could swear that Rose is terrified of her lately. 

Then one awful day, Ginny overhears Rose confessing that she truly is terrified of Ginny—because to her, every day Ginny grows more and more and more like Jordan, the girl who's been dead many years. In fact, she swears that somehow, Ginny is turning into Jordan.

Is Ginny’s mom insane? Is there a ghost in their house, threatening to possess Ginny? Or is the demon in Rose's past, forcing her to confront what happened on that horrible day in 1984 when Jordan was killed?

As a new girl in a small town, Ginny doesn’t have much of a support system. Her old girlfriends from Atlanta have drifted away, and the only friends she’s made are, strangely enough, guys. Alec Matthews is gorgeous, but is he really interested in Ginny’s well-being? And then there’s Max Ferguson, the recently-born-again science nerd. He’s definitely on Ginny’s side, but is he a little too strange?

Strengthened by a deepening relationship with one of these two, Ginny undertakes a mind-bending journey of discovery—discovery about faith, eternity, and love beyond the boundaries of space and time. She will put to rest a mystery that has haunted her family for two generations—if she can survive.



*~*~*~*


Ms. Shaw cooed, “Ben, why don’t we just let Rose talk right now? Rose, can you tell me what exactly you do think is happening?”

A long, long silence. When Mom started to speak, she sounded out of breath, gasping for air every few words. “I started noticing it a couple of years ago—or I don’t know, maybe even sooner. You know how girls change when they hit puberty. Overnight, she started looking so different. Not like the little girl I’d had. But that’s not what disturbed me. At first, I just had this nagging feeling that not only did she not look like Ginny anymore, but she did look like someone else.”

“Jordan?”

“Yes. The bone structure in her face, her height…she was so tall. The way her hair lifted away from her forehead—in fact, Ginny complained to me one day that she wished she could get it to lie down sleek and straight and I looked at her and saw that the fullness, the way it fanned back was just like Jordan’s. I mean…so many physical things. Her golden eyes—”

“Okay, but there’s probably a good explanation for her gold eyes, right?” said Ms. Shaw.


“What do you mean?”

“Well, I know you all said that Jordan’s eyes were very much like Livvy’s. Your sister would be Ginny’s aunt, so it would be natural for her eyes to be that color.”

“But Ginny’s weren’t always so gold like that.”

“Of course they were,” Daddy scoffed. “Or anyway…they were a kind of gold-brown, and I think she’s just using some make-up or something that makes them look a little different now.”

“Anyway, there were other things. The way her voice got so husky and deep, exactly like Jordan’s. The way she walks. The way she twists her hair around her fingers when she gets nervous.”

“Rose, that’s all complete garbage! Little stuff, that you could notice about anybody if you started looking,” Daddy said.

“I tried to tell myself that for a long time, Ben. And then one day I took Ginny with me to visit Mamma in the nursing home. When I had been visiting Mamma, she hardly even reacted. Never moved or spoke. But when I took Ginny, she knew her, too.”

Ms. Shaw’s voice sounded sharp for the first time. “How can you possibly know that? Your mother can’t talk.”

“She did when she saw Ginny. She called her Jordan. She hummed the song that Jordan used to hum. Mamma saw it, too.”

“That’s when all this started, I guarantee you,” Daddy declared. “Carla Remington’s brain was completely fried by that stroke. She’s said maybe five words since she had it, and they never make sense when she does.  But all because she spit out the name ‘Jordan’ when Ginny came in the room—”

“It wasn’t only because of that. That was just confirmation.”
“Look, Rose…why doesn’t anyone else see what you see? Why doesn’t Anna recognize her? You don’t, right, Anna?”

“I…I can see a small resemblance…maybe. To tell you the truth, I can hardly remember what the girl looked like. But I don’t think my memories are all that relevant. I just want to know what Rose thinks. What do you believe is going on with Ginny? Are you saying you think Ginny is possessed?”

Ginny felt dizzy. She pressed her hand against her forehead and fought the urge to get up and flee the room.

“I don’t just want to know what Rose believes,” Daddy said. “I want to know what she plans to do about it.”

“What?”

“I’m scared to death about all this, and not just because it sounds so bizarre. I’m almost sure she’s been trying to poison Ginny.”

Mom’s voice sounded strangled. “Ben, you’re not…surely you don’t think I made Ginny sick? That I would ever make her sick on purpose?”

“Not the Rose that I’ve known all these years, no. But this one, the one that’s filled with all these delusions…yes, I do.”

Ginny started to shake her head. She wanted to shout at him to be quiet, he didn’t know what he was talking about. She pulled herself to her feet and jerked open the door of Max’s room.


*~*~*~*



Robin Johns Grant published her first novel, Summer’s Winter, in 2014, and her second suspense novel, Jordan’s Shadow, has just been released. Summer's Winter won a bronze medal in the Romance - Suspense category of the International Readers' Favorite Book Awards, and Robin was named 2014 Author of the Year by the Georgia Association of College Stores.

Family and friends are happy that Robin’s imagination is finally paying off. She’s always had way too much of it. She started making up stories before she could write them down (dictating them to her mother) and always had her head in the clouds. She was obsessed with books and movies like Harry Potter and Star Wars and did a lot of crazy fan stuff, which helped her dream up Jeanine and Jamie’s story for Summer's Winter. It’s a romantic suspense novel, but as John Granger (author of The Deathly Hallows Lectures) said, it’s also “a romance-thriller about fandoms…and explores the important intersection of literature, spirituality, and imagination.”  

As a Christian, Robin can’t help but explore spirituality in her writing, but wants to do so in a way that reflects the awe and wonder of God and eternity.

With a degree in English, several non-fulfilling jobs under her belt, and a mid-life crisis coming on, Robin returned to school and earned a master's degree in library and information science. She now has her best day job ever as a college librarian, which keeps her young by allowing her to hang out with students.

With her wonderful husband Dave and formerly feral felines Mini Pearl and Luna, Robin lives in Georgia.  She is also surprised to find herself part owner of a pit bull named Pete, who showed up as a starving stray puppy at her mother's house.

Keep up with Robin at these sites:

Amazon (read about and purchase her books): http://amazon.com/author/robinjohnsgrant
Website and blog:  http://robinjohnsgrant.com





Tuesday, February 10, 2015

How Do I End My Memoir?

I received this question in my email today from a reader and it's a great question to consider, so I share it here for those who may find my advice helpful.





Hi, I am emailing you to ask for your help, please, as I have a huge respect for you and your work.

I am an artist who is trying to write a memoir, but struggling with the ending.

My story is obviously true, based on my losing my dad in the summer. He took his own life.

The whole event was like a film. It didn't seem real, the build up, the actual event, and the aftermath. 

I feel I also need to share this event as self-therapy more than anything as I am still struggling to come to terms with what happened.

I know how to start my memoir, the middle, but it's just the end - how do I finish it? What's the point to it? 

Do I finish it on the one-year anniversary, for example, when I will return to where it happened and finish up my feelings, and how I haven't ended it all myself, which was going through my mind when I stood at the spot where it happened last June? 

I really don't know, I am so stuck on how to end it and not make it a pointless book, but I just don't know how.

I appreciate it. You are probably very busy yourself, but just a moment of your time and a reply would be so hugely appreciated. I can't even begin to tell you how much.


Thank you very much and I look forward to hearing from you.

*~*~*

Here was my response:

Dear _____

The ending is the redemption — if you haven’t figured out how God used this event in your life to teach you more about your heavenly Father, then I would stop and spend some time in prayer. Here are some questions to ponder:

1. What have I learned about God’s sufficiency?
2. Am I closer to God because of this painful experience?
3. How has this impacted my life for the future?
4. How can I help others who might be faced with a similar situation?
5. Have I let go of my anger, my unforgiveness, my sin, my false expectations of my father, and given my heavenly Father first place in my life?
6. Do I love God more, enough to let go and move on with my life?

Think about these things. A memoir must first be written to you — to work out your own salvation, and then you can help others work out theirs — for God’s glory and your healing.



I will add here, writing a memoir can be one of the most gut-wrenching undertakings you ever do and should be bathed in prayer. God can teach you much about grace and joy, even if you never publish your memoir. To read my award-winning piece on how to write a memoir in twelve easy steps, click here.