Saturday, July 16, 2011

Never the Bride –review part 2

Never the Bride
by C. McKay and R. Gutteridge

BIG FAT SPOILER ALERT: this entire review is full of SPOILERS. Read only if you want the book to be spoiled or if you have already read it. If you missed it, part 1 of this review is spoiler-free.

I wanted a story where a woman learned to be content in God, and ended up not being married, because honestly romance and marriage is emphasized entirely too much in the Christian community. I ordered this story with the express hope that it would not be a temporal romance, but an everlasting spiritual romance with God. The book synopsis asks “Can she turn over her pen and trust someone [God] to craft a love story beyond her wildest dreams?” and for a brief moment in the book it seemed the love story would indeed be with God, but then she got married to some random guy God had been trying to set her up with the entire story!

Which leads to complaint #2: “the one.” The story gives the impression that there is one person out there God has created specifically for you if you are simply willing to allow Him to lead your life. The problem I take with this spiritual fool’s gold is that romantic people will use it as an excuse to marry some lame wad they have no business being in a relationship with, or they will be on an eternal quest for the Holy Grail of Perfect Spouse. It is also used as an excuse by “Christians” to divorce the person they are currently married to, because “s/he wasn’t The One God intended for me to marry.” Then there is also the fact that it makes it seem like there is something wrong with those singles who have been so for decades, trying to find someone worth marrying. I have heard the complaints of some Godly singles who say they are sick of people telling them “Get right with God, and He will send you The One.” God can send you a spouse whether you are holy or not. He doesn’t need you to be holy and perfect in order for Him, an All-Powerful Being, to do whatever He pleases.

Romance stories are all well and good when people know they are fiction and people know there is no deeper spiritual meaning to it, but when a spiritual lesson is added to a story, more care should be taken to make sure unfounded and harmful clich├ęs aren’t propagated.

(By the way, this explains the complaint I had about God being an author of confusion in part 1 of this review. God is trying to set Jessie up with some random dude, and so when He made Himself corporal, He took on the appearance of the dude He is trying to set Jessie up with. As a result, when Jessie sees the dude, she thinks it is God, and reacts to him as such. It creates confusion that an omniscient God would obviously have known would ensue. It is chaotic, and not something God would do.)

Ultimately, the lessons Jessie learned were sound ones, to a point. God does make a point of telling Jessie her marriage won’t be perfect and that He is only sharing her with her new husband (which, if one spends too much time dwelling on God “sharing” us, it can actually create a headache). The manner in which she learned the lessons was highly questionable, and not very scriptural. If McKay and Gutteridge are as good of story-writers as I suppose they might be, I imagine they could have just as easily created a scripturally sound story without sacrificing the truth of who God is.

I was left with the sense that Jessie’s character was a bit stupid, but she wasn’t a devote follower of Christ (hadn’t been to church in 14 years, and didn’t spend much time studying her Bible to glean a better understanding of God), so I suppose stupid can be labeled as ignorant.

*I acquired this book from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers*

Never The Bride -review part 1

Never the Bride
by Cheryl McKay and Rene Gutteridge

The story is a humorous one about Jessie, a 34-year-old 11-times-over bridesmaid with an obsession to get married. She keeps journals (a closet-full) detailing her desires for marriage, engagements, and everything thereof, but has not found Mr. Right yet. Her most notable romance is a non-romance crush she has had on a lifelong friend, Blake, who of course knows not a thing of her romantic feelings for him. Amidst her romantic obsessing, God steps in, quite literally, to try to direct Jessie in His plans for her life. It becomes a big question of whether Jessie will be able to surrender her life and obsessive tendencies to God and have faith that the Ruler of the Universe knows what He is doing.

So I ordered this book with exceedingly low expectations because there was a specific ending I wanted, but I was almost positive the ending I wanted would not be the ending I got (note to self: don’t read a book if you are only willing to accept 1 particular ending).

That being said, I will start with what I liked about the book. I must say I finished the book in one sitting, which shows it was an intriguing book. Even though I wanted to hate the book, I found myself smiling in amusement at many parts. I am sure Jessie’s character was also relatable to some people (I’m not particularly obsessed with marriage except to joke with friends about going “husband shopping,” so I can’t quite relate).

I found a good many of the interactions with God to be compelling, and now have a desire to go read the Bible on the beach (the one time living in FL is actually a convenience). Call me sentimental, but the idea of a romance with God totally does it for me (romance in a strictly platonic sense, if that isn’t too paradoxical of a statement). The character growth in the story was rather well-presented, and made it more than two-dimensional. Over all, it was a well-crafted, light piece of work with some spiritual lessons that were appreciated.

Preexisting bias for a particular ending in place, I give the story 1/5 stars for spiritual satisfaction, and 4/5 for an otherwise engaging piece of work.

I have all sort of spoiler-worthy complaints about that story, but I will save those for part 2 of this review. I have 2 non-spoiler-worthy complaints instead.

The one that isn't spiritually related first (save the best for last?):
First part that really peeved me is when God (in the novel) said “Things never happen the same way twice,” which is in fact a direct quote from Prince Caspian (the movie). It certainly doesn’t come from scripture, since scripture says there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9), and God is quite willing to do things the same way. So not only did she quote Prince Caspian (the movie), without referencing it, as if she is trying to pass the quote off as some original line she came up with, but she felt the need to quote Chronicles of Narnia, but didn’t even make the effort to actually quote something CS Lewis wrote, but quoted flipping HOLLYWOOD! That’s like a major biting of one’s thumb at CS Lewis there (because Shakespearian insults are so much better than modern ones). Seeing as how CS Lewis is my favorite author, I was not pleased.

This would have been a little less bothersome if a simple reference to where the quote came from had been made. A simple “‘Things never happen the same way twice,’ God said. I smiled in amusement over his stealing a quote from a movie” (the story is told in first-person narrative). Anything!

Spiritual complaint:
The characterization of God at parts throughout the story really bugged me. At times, He had something wise to say, and I appreciated that, or when He would point out a character flaw of Jessie that particularly hit home with me (like when she flat out told God she’d rather spend time with someone else). However, and that is a big however, I really disdained how God was characterized as making Jessie’s life confusing –this becomes apparent the further you get into the story. He would ask her to do things, and when she did them, sometimes it led to results that left Jessie in a position of having been confused. The Bible tells us God is not an author of confusion, but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33), and if a character of God is written that would lead even the most holy of Christians, let alone a Christian such as Jessie, into scenarios that lead to chaos and confusion, then that is not a true representation of who God is.

I am all for authors taking poetic license in a story, within reason, and that is why the idea of God turning corporal for a person in a story did not bother me: poetic license. I just think too much poetic license was taken at the sake of sacrificing God’s true character. Personally, I would rather a book that only sells 200 copies and stays true to Who God is than a story that sells 200 thousand copies but takes the liberty of crafting God into a character mold unfitting of Who He truly is. God is not a product to be shaped and molded into what you like simply so you can sell more books.

That being said, I’ll make a separate post detailing all the spoilers that detail what truly made me rate the book a 1/5 spiritually. As is, this is an obscenely long blog post as is.

*I acquired this book from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers*