The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald

Since this is actually a sequel to MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin, I’ll start with a bit of backstory:
     Princess Irene, the widowed king’s only child, has been raised in a manor house in the mountains which run along the periphery of the kingdom of Gwyntystorm. While humans mine the portions accessible from the mountains’ surface, a malicious race of goblins, and their cobs (domesticated animals), live not too terribly far below these humans’ scratchings. The goblins, led by their King and Queen, are planning to break out of their imprisonment under the humans; Curdie the brave, honest miner boy and the Princess Irene must thwart this without the aid of the adults, other than the princess’s “great-great-great-grandmother”, also named Irene, who lives in what the adults believe to be an abandoned tower along with her doves and pigeons, emissaries of her soul.
     This adventure brings Curdie to the attention of the king himself, who offers the boy a place in his court. Curdie refuses, preferring to remain with his beloved parents.

The Princess and Curdie picks up about a year later, when the elder Princess Irene summons Curdie to her tower, in order to task him with travelling to the capital of the kingdom, where things have begun to go awry. Curdie sets off for the capital, armed with a pure heart, his mattock and a magical gift given him by the elder Princess, the ability to tell a person’s inner nature by grasping his (or her) hand, and accompanied by Lina, one of the gargoyle-like goblin’s creatures1. Along the way, they collect a band of phantasmagorical creatures, from a meters-long snake with four near useless legs clustered at one end and rudimentary wings at the other, a tapir-like creature with a flexible nose more hard than Curdie’s mattock, to a ball-like creature which can only roll about.

They arrive in Gwyntystorm, only to find the city in a grave state of moral decay–greedy, lazy, corrupt and distrustful of strangers to the point of setting vicious dogs on anyone from outside the city. Curdie takes refuge with one of the honest city residents, only to be captured and tossed into a subterranean cellar to await trial…but little do they know that the underground holds no barrier that Our Brave Miner Boy cannot overcome. He and Lina work together to escape into what turns out to be the castle’s wine cellar. There they find a castle whose lower levels are awash with more filth and corruption2, save only the quarters in which the ailing king is tended by his faithful daughter, wise beyond her years.

The two, aided by the few remaining honest servants and town residents, begin to nurse the king back to health with wholesome bread and wine, and refreshing sleep unbothered by medicines3. However, the corrupt councilmembers and courtiers, having fled to the neighboring kingdom of Borsagrass, return backed by the (armed) forces of that kingdom…but are thwarted by the noble king, his stalwart colonel, and Curdie and Lina’s army of cobs….oh, and a housemaid with a penchant for pigeons.

Like many of the Victorian-era “children’s” books, these two do have a moralizing streak in them, although they’re not nearly so sanctimonious as, say, The Water-Babies; they’re closer to The Wind in The Willows in this regard. In MacDonald’s case, it’s more that he stops periodically to insert maxims of proper behavior for kids: true princesses are uneasy if they’ve done wrong but not had the chance to admit their fault and make it right, or children must respect and love their parents. Lina and her beastie followers are collectively another example; MacDonald strongly implies that they were all human prior to taking on these monstrous forms as a punishment for the evils they have done; in aiding Curdie, they are redeeming themselves.

What to read next? Well, C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series and Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series are a good choice for kids who love fantasies set in a slightly archaic world of legend, but don’t care for the multisyllabic Victorian vocabulary of this one. And for those who do, try The Wind in the Willows, for a slightly simpler take or William Morris and Lord Dunsany for a more complex one.

1Lina resembles nothing more than the ugliest of all wolfhounds, with a tail the size of a carpet runner and a lower jaw full of icicle-like fangs.
2moral and physical
3modern hospitals might want to make note of the ‘uninterrupted sleep’ and ‘good food’ aspects of this care, though somehow I doubt that wine will make it to the menu any time soon

The Terror by Dan Simmons

Arctic and Antarctic exploration isn’t exactly a walk in the park even today, with all our modern equipment, from motor oil designed to continue lubrication in below-zero (Fahrenheit) temperatures to nutritionally complete, long-lasting foodstuffs. However, at least those modern explorers and scientists know that, should they be lost in the frozen wastelands of the Polar Regions, their remains will be located and returned to surviving (and mourning!) family members. This was not always so in the Golden Age of Exploration…and that’s at the heart of Dan Simmons’ The Terror.

In 1845, Sir John Franklin departed England in search of the Northwest Passage, a theory propounded by geographers and scientists of the day to the effect that there was a navigable passage up and over the top of what is now Canada1, and a geographic phenomenon most earnestly sought by the economic forces of the day for a variety of reasons2. No one from this expedition was ever seen again in their homeland. Their last confirmed position was near Beechy Island, though they almost certainly made it to King William’s (Is)Land.

In theory, Franklin and his backers did everything right. The commander of the expedition and the two men captaining the ships had considerable years of experience in polar exploration between them, not to mention maritime skills gained through a lifetime. The ships used, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, had been taken down to the Antarctic by James Ross a few years previously, and had in the interim been reinforced with iron sheathing and cross-grained wood planking to resist crushing in the pack ice, outfitted with steam engines and rudders that could be retracted into iron-sheathed protective wells to avoid being themselves being crushed in the shifting ice. The expedition brought three years’ worth of canned, dried and salted provisions for what was intended to be no more than a two year long expedition, not to mention each ship had a library of over 1,000 volumes with which it was presumed the crew could amuse themselves during the inevitable periods of being trapped in the ice.

Only of course it didn’t work out, and we’ll never be quite sure why. There are a few plausible real-world issues that contributed to the loss of both ships and all the men. All the problems that plagued previous expeditions worried at the heels of this one: inadequately equipped for a hostile climate, inadequate clothing, inadequate nutrition, inadequate transport, and so on. In this particular expedition’s case, however, their food and water supplies were almost certainly (and quite literally) stacked against them; not only were the supplies of drinking water piped through lead conduits, the canned food had been prepared in haste by a supplier himself inadequately prepared to provide such a large order, and the modern guess is that as a result, the cans were not only poorly sealed (with lead welding, yet), they were also contaminated with silent botulism.

Dan Simmons has put forth a theory of his own: a supernatural creature, inexplicable and unstoppable, that is prowling around the ships in the dark. All the crews of the two ships know is that it is vengeful and is somehow related to the mutely tongueless Inuit woman they found on the ice, with a similarly voiceless older Inuit man. As that second winter, the first off King William Sound, progresses, the creature encroaches further, the ice presses closer and the darkness is increasingly oppressive….and I’ll stop there. Gotta leave some suspense for anyone who hasn’t read this book but intends to.

The short version of my take on the novel is that Simmons could have left out the supernatural/religious element entirely, and it wouldn’t have adversely or even appreciably affected the novel3. Aren’t prowling polar bears enough? I don’t mind supernatural elements inserted into what would be otherwise a prosaically mundane work, if it’s done well and is made a critical component of the new work; I loved Simmons’ Drood. Even the suggestion that some of the crew members might have joined up with the local Inuit is not entirely implausible. It wouldn’t take much of a leap for the cleverer and more open-minded crew members to realize “Hey, if we make nice with this group of people that is not only surviving but thriving where we are dying, maybe we too will survive?”

That said, I’d still heartily recommend the novel to anyone interested in reading a well-written description of what it might have been like on that doomed expedition. Just skip the bits about the phantom whatever-it-is. Having read non-fiction about the Arctic (and Antarctic) exploration over the years, not least Fergus Fleming’s Barrow’s Boys and Ninety Degrees North, Simmons did get the historical part right, so far as I can tell. Even today, we have no real idea what precisely happened to Franklin’s expedition, though I believe modern scientists have found some traces of the Erebus and the Terror, but now as then, the basic assumption is “missing, presumed dead”.

1In fairness, there is a sea route twiddling through the islands scattered north of continental Canada. In the main, however, it is not navigable by anything larger than an umiak for more than about thirty seconds during a heat wave in August.
2While there was a certain element of the “Because it’s there.” drive that motivated all those European expeditions up Everest, seeking a trade route more convenient that slogging all the way down around Tierra del Fuego served as a more pragmatic reason. Of course, the Panama and Suez canals have obviated much of that…
3It’s not Simmons’ fault that I can’t help wondering why the British Navy kept giving their ships names like Erebus, Hecla, Fury and Terror. You’re going to the polar regions for Pete’s sake. Wouldn’t names like Tranquility or Tahiti been more cheering?

Mary, Called Magdalene by Margaret George

At that, [Jesus’s mother] let out a laugh. “Wrong test!” she said, shaking her head. “The rabbis in Jerusalem know better.” She turned to her guests. “Last year, Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem to probe the scribes and rabbis at the Temple about fine points of scripture. So I can appreciate how your parents feel, Mary, to have a child suddenly go of on his own. But no one wins a scripture contest with Jesus.”

Well, I suppose no one would, now could they? Never mind the fact that at the time to which Mary is referring, Jesus hadn’t yet had his bar mitzvah.

First the disclaimers. I hope my more secular readers and those from a non-Christian background will forgive me for the phrasing in this review; please keep in mind that, in this case, I’m reviewing the work of fiction by Margaret George, not the Bible itself. This does not constitute an endorsement of the religion, but simply a review of a book I found diverting. Also (with another round of apologies), I haven’t read any of the many other books about Mary Magdalene, and this review is not intended to be a survey of the literature. I would only hope that this novel might pique someone’s interest in reading more about her. Oh, and if you’re coming to this novel after having read The DaVinci Code, keep going. The two are completely different.

Mary Magdalene is one of the more prominent women in the New Testament, but none of the more widely accepted books of the Bible say much about her. Was she a prostitute? Mentally ill? Apostle to the apostles? The fact that she was the first person to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection should indicate something…but what1?

Mary, Called Magdalene is (surprise, surprise) primarily about Mary Magdalene, though necessarily includes a great deal about Jesus. The book begins with her childhood, in a particularly observant Jewish family, holding themselves apart from less strict families at home and while traveling. The first portion of the book, when Mary was a child, sets the stage for her later life: on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, she not only befriends a girl from a more lenient family but in an escapade with Keziah, runs off to meet others en route to Jerusalem. It is here that Mary first meets Jesus, he a tween but even then a particularly eloquent and charismatic boy, as evidenced by his convincing the stern Nathan, Mary’s father, to permit her to stay overnight with a strange family.

As so many children do, she grew into an adult, married, and had a child…but unfortunately, she became plagued with demons2, and it is here that Jesus appears, again. The wedge was driven in with Mary’s filching an image of one of the gods of previous religions, rejected utterly by Jews of the time; in this case, it was a little ivory statuette of a goddess, which served as a channel directly between the deity herself and Mary. Over the years, other similar spirits came to Mary, to the point that she was no longer able to function as a wife, a mother, and a member of society. As this was regarded as a religious issue, she first went to a rabbi gifted in driving out such creatures for treatment; when he proved unsuccessful, Mary retreated out to a desert cave to wrestle alone with her possessors. Stumbling out of the isolation, crazed with her inner demons (and probably also things like dehydration, sunstroke, and hunger), she meets Jesus, who drives out the demons himself…and it’s here that Margaret George veers from conjecture about what the life of a woman at the time might have been back into what little we know of Mary from the New Testament.

Overall, I must confess I felt something lacking in this novel. It could just be that there is comparatively little written about Mary Magdalene, relative to some of the other women about whom George has written novels. Certainly, there’s comparatively little written about her, relative to the men mentioned in the Bible, contemporaneous with the protagonist here. But. But. And a very important But. This is a work (indirectly) about an important religious figure; I’d bet that novels about Mohammed, no matter how well written, no matter the doctrine followed in the text, would similarly redact off readers who belonged to Islam. Perhaps that’s the important thing to take away: I too found the first half or thereabouts of the book, when Mary Magdalene was a child and youth, then raising a family and battling her own demons, more interesting. After she became a follower of Jesus, what interest I had in the book dropped off, perhaps because it then became inevitably about him as much as her.

I do appreciate the little touches that humanize this figure, little less mythological than Helen of Troy. Her anguish at being ripped from her daughter. Her despair at being called a ‘loose woman’ and ‘harlot’ after spending forty days and forty nights alone unchaperoned in the desert with several of the men who similarly became followers of Jesus. Not so sure about some of the details surrounding Jesus himself–here, both Jesus and his mother doubted his mission/nature until the former’s final arrival in Jerusalem–but then this book isn’t, strictly speaking, about Jesus. Thankfully. Or it would be about four times the length, and that’s impracticable to bind.

Overall, though, I’d call it an interesting take on a footnote woman from the Bible, comparatively neutral…although that withstanding, I’m sure that someone out there’s redacted off about it from a doctrinal (however peripheral) standpoint. Writing comparatively non-denominational fiction about pretty much any religious fiction is going to cause people to react that way. It’s not purely about Mary Magdalene–I would have appreciated more of the detail that went into George’s first two books–but, perhaps necessarily, the second half is concerned as much with Jesus as with Mary.

As for what to read next….try Margaret George’s other books. There are several, and they’re all bricks; I think George is just shy of Gabaldon’s total page count by now. Her later books are similarly about historical women. Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent may be another possibility; it’s not about Mary Magdalene, but rather a little-known daughter of Jacob.

Smithsonian article

1Yes, yes, I know. Scholars of the ‘official’ New Testament and the later works have talked this to death.
2Bear with the author here; she’s going by what the New Testament called it, not what actually happened or what modern medicine would have called it.

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama

Mr. Hyder Ali, recently retired clerk, has decided to open a marriage bureau to keep himself occupied and out of his wife’s hair. He and Mrs. Ali clean off their front porch–they are fortunate to have a house of their own with a bit of land around it–uncommon in many Indian inner cities.

While this may sound odd to acculturated Americans, for whom the dating service is the norm, and participants in same are looking for partners on their own behalf, a matchmaking service isn’t so far-fetched in India. Arranged marriages are serious business in India, where it’s still accepted that the parents will select a spouse for their children, dowries are still crucial to a girl’s marriageability and caste is still a dividing separation between groups on a par with religion. Standard procedure for marriage brokers at the time is to accept payment upon completion of a successful union, but Mr. Ali decides to reverse that business practice. He charges a much smaller up front fee and provides a list of possible matches from his files of potential candidates, from whom his customers may select possible candidates. After that, they’re on their own; he makes no guarantees other than that they will find someone. Well, the lists he hopes to have soon…and to his surprise, he does well.

Well enough that he soon has more business than he can handle, and must start looking for an assistant. Several applicants respond to his ad, but in the end it is his wife who strikes up a casual conversation with the young woman who proves right for the job…not to mention right for one of Mr. Ali’s clients, though inadvertently, by Mr. Ali’s own marriage bureau. As the story progresses, Aruna takes an increasingly central position in the book, at least equal to that of the Alis–her family, her concerns, and in the end, her love.

There are a few serious notes. The Alis’ servant confesses that her grandson has a brain tumor and the family is scrabbling to pay the hospital fees; in a land without health insurance as Americans understand it, this is a serious matter even if the family may take their child to a government hospital. The Alis’ son, Rehman, is arrested and imprisoned as the result of his political activism on the part of poor farmers whose land is being purchased at below market rate by a rapacious corporation; without other resources, these ill-educated farmers will have no other recourse or income once their farms are sold.

A very pleasant book to read; it is perhaps predictable–I guessed who was going to marry or reconcile with whom easily enough–but an interesting glimpse into a society strange to me by someone who is a member of that society. (not that people who aren’t part of what they’re writing about CAN’T create good accurate tales, mind. Indeed, sometimes gifted writers who are outsiders have the distance to better describe the alien society.) In many ways, it reminded me of Alexander McCall Smith’s Mma Ramotswe series or perhaps more accurately Nicholas Drayson’s A Guide to the Birds of East Africa; there’s no mystery, but rather a romance at the center of this book. It’s a world in which the predominant cultures are very different from that of many (though not all) residents of the United States: clothing, cuisine, religions, marriage traditions, family structure.

While I would not compare it to Jane Austen, but rather Smith and Drayson, that should not be construed as dismissive! As with those two books, it’s as much an interesting peep into a strange place and culture for most Anglos in the United States as it is a sweet romance. Lightweight and uncomplicated, this is several steps above your average beach reading or chicklit. And he’s written sequels!

A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd

Shell Talent is fifteen, dreamy, and innocent as few her age are in the United States are today. But then this is Ireland in the early ’80s, and she’s led a relatively protected life by current standards.

Her mother is dead, and her father, poor and alcoholic, is unable to provide what his family needs, either financially or emotionally. Shell, short for Michelle, is responsible for most of the housework after her mother’s death, helping her two younger siblings feed and dress themselves and the same for herself.

As the book begins, a new curate has come to town, to serve under the priest of the parish: a young man, new to the priesthood. The absence of her parents, literal in her mother’s case and figurative in her father’s, combined with the restrictive1 Catholic social environment of Ireland at the time leaves Shell at a loss as to how to deal with maturation. Not understanding the ramifications of what she’s doing–this is about the time the scandals of priests’ behavior with children in their parishes–Shell strikes up a relationship with Father Rose. She thinks little enough of that, as she doesn’t see him that way; rather she and her best friend, Bridie, both have a crush on the altar boy, Declan, who reciprocates.

When Shell’s relationship with altar boy Declan goes beyond mere friendship, she becomes pregnant. She does her best to conceal it, as indeed she must in the Ireland of the time. To heighten Shell’s social problems, her best friend, the prickly Bridie, had fancied herself to be Declan’s girlfriend, insofar as they were allowed to be at that time and in that place, and left Coolbar over the summer, purportedly to help her aunt and uncle with their B&B well away from Coolbar.

Shell’s baby, a girl, is stillborn at Christmas and the three children bury her in a nearby field. It is at this point that the subsequent and worse wave of scandal breaks, when a baby boy is found, dead from exposure, in a nearby cave. Shell’s father confesses to leaving the baby there in order to protect Shell from the repercussions of the death of what he believes to be his child; one night, while in a drunken stupor, he came into the children’s bedroom and mistook Shell fro her mother Moira, though in fact he passed out before anything happened. No one listens to Shell’s protestations of the truth of the matter. Meanwhile, the community of Coolbar believes that Father Rose is the father of Bridie’s child; their acquaintance was noted, and the combination of his offering Shell a ride home and a teasing note of Bridie’s referring to Shell’s infatuation with “him in his robes” clinched the leaping to conclusions.

It is only when Shell manages to convince Father Rose what has happened that the truth comes out. The police open the makeshift grave in the field and find exactly what Shell claims there to be. At first it is believed that the two infants are twins, as who would think there were two separate illicit pregnancies in a town the size of Coolbar? After a forensic examination, it is revealed that the boy is about five weeks older than the girl, but they are related…and Shell realizes that it must be Bridie’s baby.

Shell imagines a possible sequence of events: All the Quinns’ stories were fabrications. Bridie, five weeks farther along than she, was sent away to have her baby and, hitchhiking home to attempt a reconciliation, finds only an empty house–the family had gone away for the Christmas holidays. Believing herself abandoned, Bridie herself left her baby in the cave where Declan most probably spent time with her, and left the village for good.

A somewhat veiled book about a girl simultaneously dreamy and rooted in a reality of poverty, Dowd’s text adds to the layers of concealment; she never spells out what Declan did with the two girls though the two babies give a pretty clear idea of who did what with whom and when. As with Bog Child, it’s an interesting glimpse into another time and place, and one that left me glad to have grown up where I did. What a pity Dowd died before she wrote more books! Overall, I’d probably suggest it to teens whose reading level has advanced beyond, say, Dessen or Marchetta, as Dowd’s writing is a bit more complex and circumlocutory than the majority of the modern American writers.

1as opposed to more liberal versions

Eskimo Parish by Paul O’Connor

Priests in the lower 48 may have to deal with bad roads, bad weather and poor attendance at services, but count your blessings: at least you don’t have to deal with a team of malemutes which has taken a dislike to one another. Your car doesn’t pick fights with itself while you’re waiting for traffic to ebb. Parishioners in northern Alaska, even today, must perforce miss Sunday service if the leads freeze over before you get the boats in the water but while the land’s still too soft to support snowmobiling.

This is one of those odd little books that, so far as I know, garnered minimal attention when it was first published and has sunk like a stone in the intervening decades: it’s a partial autobiography of a Jesuit priest who felt the calling to serve the indigenous peoples of northern Alaska at a time when this was something of a Terra Incognita, even to the indigenous peoples of southern Alaska. It’s a diverting read today, as much for the opportunity to read that specific Jesuit missionary viewpoint as it is to read a description of life in northern Alaska in the 1930s and 40s.

In 1930, Paul O’Connor felt the calling to serve as parish priest for the Catholic indigenous peoples in the northern portions of the Alaska territory. For his first few years, he served as an itinerant priest, travelling by dog-sled in winter and boat or airplane in summer when the tundra was too soft to travel by sled. In many ways, this would be merely the memoir of a priest serving any far-flung rural parish–he visits the sick, anoints the dying, performs baptisms and marriages as needed–if it weren’t for the fact that he is traveling between parishioners by dogsled. Well, and serving what is in many ways an alien culture to his readers, and to himself. He remained for sixteen years, and upon his return home wrote a memoir.

Like Eva Alvey Richardson’s book about her teaching experience in Alaska, Arctic Mood, it’s a book set in a place about which few Americans1, whether from the territory in question much less the lower 48, knew little at the time of the book’s publication. It’s a reasonably sympathetic tale, though readers might do well to remember who the narrator is, and the time in which the book was written: there’s no little amount of missionary zeal explicit in O’Connor’s narrative, not to mention condescension towards the “ignorant savages”. (I can’t help but wonder what the indigenous peoples thought of these men and women who came with a strange religion or educational agenda, though they seem to have been reasonably amiable about it.) Just for the record, the Bruce Publishing Company was not exclusively (or explicitly) a religious publishing company–rather it was a small imprint which concentrated on business, education and religion. In fairness to O’Connor, his agenda is, not surprisingly, concentrated on bringing the Word of God to a people who’ve had little opportunity to hear it otherwise; he does seem to appreciate the local culture.

The white man and his inventions for decimating time are to [the Eskimo] a source of philosophic wonder. When you tell him with pride that you can cover in an hour by airplane a distance that would take him a week to cover with his dogs, he will only answer with a noncommittal grunt “Eeee?” (Yes?)–if you do not speak Innuit. If you know his language he wil ask laconically, “Chin?” (Why, what’s the rush?). To him the impatient hustle is the white man is a puzzle. You inform him, quite readily, that it is to save time and he will ask you why you want to save time.

1a territory at the time of the book’s publishing, Alaska didn’t become a state until 1959

Light Across the Prairie by Norman King

Perry Wheeler is an energetic and earnest young newspaper reporter, who finds Des Moines not enough of a challenge. He quits his promising position at the newspaper there and buys a one-way ticket to the town of Batesford, where he’s sunk his life’s savings into the town newspaper, the Batesford Bugle.

Things turn out to be a bit more complex than simply running a newspaper. The previous owner made ends meet by taking on side jobs of whatever the townspeople wanted to print–handbills, fliers, leaflets, whatever they needed. On a more personal note, Wheeler has become enamored of Miss Melita Pomroy, a pretty girl who came to the station to meet her father, on the same train as Wheeler…but who proved inappropriate for the third, and possibly most important, issue in the book: Wheeler is a Christian, and a particularly devout and evangelical one, who holds dancing, drinking and strong language to be sins.

To his horror, Wheeler discovers that, at least in his eyes, this is the sort of frontier town more typically found in the secular B Western movie: all the inhabitants are yokels and the main business street consists of saloon, lumber yard, saloon, grocery and dry goods, saloon, barbershop, saloon, hotel, saloon, hotel with a saloon, livery and saloon which doubles as a dance hall. Not only is there no chapel or other place of (Christian) worship, when he inquires after same, or even a Christian hostelry at which he might rent a room, the politest of the townsfolk are uncomfortably silent and the outspoken jeer.

His efforts are a success from Wheeler’s perspective on a number of fronts. He revives the Batesford Bugle. Despite alienating Miss Pomroy, he befriends her younger sister Leota, who proves more suitable. He puts the ladies’ father in his place with a bit of fancy legal work through friends back in Des Moines. He wins over a crude but good-hearted member of the community by consoling the devout doyenne of the family on her deathbead. While the town has not got a chapel by the end of the book, it’s clear that he’s won the town into righteousness by the virtue of his example and strength of his will.

The general tenor of the book should come as no surprise to anyone who so much as picks up a copy. It was published by Zondervan, a prominently evangelical Christian publishing house on a par with Bethany House in terms of overtly Christian agenda; the former produced the Left Behind Series while the latter publishes Janette Oke and Beverly Lewis. While there’s clearly still a market for books such as this, I suspect that many readers will be left thoroughly sympathetic with the townspeople; while they’re presented as a singularly unpleasant stiff-necked example of the ungodly life, not everyone appreciates being harangued by someone they perceive as holier-than-thou. Zondervan’s not merely got an agenda with this book, but seems to have completely missed out on the significance of “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”