After reading Steve’s and Tamela’s thought-provoking blogs on why they don’t finish books, I decided to talk about the flip-side. I totally agree with all that Steve and Tamela said. I’m not among the camp that has to finish a book once I’ve started it. But what a delight it is to find a book that I not only want to finish, but that I wish would never end. Those are rare treasures that live on my bookshelves, friends I can’t wait to be with again.
So here’s why I finished your book—and plan to read it again and again and again:
From the first page I knew the story was powerful—and that spending time in it would be not just worthwhile, but wonderful. Your attention to the ebb and flow of the tale; to making it true to life and heart; to giving me a moment to catch my breath, then plunging me even deeper into the conflict; to the powerful and satisfying ending…it all wove the story together into a tapestry that I will revisit to catch new details and beauties and truths.
Old Truths Made New
The author of Ecclesiastes had it right: “there is nothing new under the sun.” Parenting, self-image, depression, money, marriage, faith, suffering and on an on. Everything that can be said about anything has already been said. Oh, but the way it’s said! That’s a game changer. Because the way it’s said makes everything new under the sun. And your book showed me that marriage is more about making me holy than making me happy; that I’m not the only writer consumed by fear and insecurity, for even famed E.B. White begged the mailman to give back the manuscript he just put in the mail for his editor; that sometimes my hard circumstances are God being a mother eagle, shoving fledgling me out of the nest to fly…and yet, if I falter, God swoops beneath me, catches me on His broad back, returns me to the nest and safety, readying me for the next shove out of the nest! Deep in my heart I knew all this already. But the way you said these things in your books…you made it new and powerful.
You pulled me into your story world, and your vivid descriptions position it not only in my mind, but in my senses. I breathe the lilac air and see the unicorn “move like a shadow on the sea”; hear the wind blowing in the leaves of the apple orchard and feel the crisp air on my face; recoil at the acrid stench of sulfur when the match is struck over an oil filled floor…. Your world was alive and permeated my imagination so that I can still see it when I close my eyes and remember the story.
Living, Breathing Characters
Your characters rang true. Not just in their strengths, but in their weaknesses. I hated to leave the heroes and heroines, and even found myself praying for them, so real had they become in my mind and heart! With each seeming defeat, I mourned. With every difficult step, I encouraged: “You can do it! Don’t give up! I believe in you!” And when they did, indeed, succeed…when they overcame all odds and stood victorious…pure joy! How my heart resonated with every “Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’” and with every step Hadassah took to face the lions. What’s more, these characters live on in my heart and mind. I still think about them, about what God did in and through them, years after I first encountered them. They have become a part of the fabric of who I am. And I’m richer for having known them.
And your villains, those full-dimensional nasties, haunted my dreams. From their chilling obsession with spiders to their dark malice as they gloat when evil seems victorious, I ground my teeth, fueled by the need to know justice would be done. My knuckles grew white as I gripped the pages where they mocked good or visited destruction and death on the innocent. I read on, desperate to see that there was, in this world you created, triumph in the face of evil. And oh! How I rejoiced when they got theirs! Hallelujah! The wicked witch is dead! Gandalf is NOT dead! The world is set right!
Lessons for Life
Your stories were wonderful stories. You entertained and uplifted, horrified and stunned me. You took me to the heights and depths and every emotion in-between. And when I reached “The End”…I was changed. My eyes were opened to new realizations about myself, my relationships, and my God. I wanted to walk in faith like Hadassah…to see marriage as a refinement…to persevere in the face of lies and ignorance like Atticus…to know suffering is a part of faith…to find my way out of fear like Kaylee…to know Yeshua intimately as did Yoni and Shimon…
Your book was more than just a great novel or a wonderfully crafted treatise, your book was a tool in the hands of a mighty and loving God. He took your words—words you pored over, deleted, recrafted, shaped, and revised—and used them as a master surgeon to cut away the dead places in my soul. To bring understanding and illumination. To chastise and uplift. To speak HIS truth into my weary mind and heart.
Yes, I read your book. And I finished it. And it perches on my shelf, ready to bless me over and over.
Books referenced in the blog, in order of mention:
Ecclesiastes, The Holy Bible (but then, you knew that, didn’t you?)
Marriage: Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
Writers and fear: The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes
Mother eagle: Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowan, James Reimann
Unicorn: The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
Wind/crisp air: The Winnowing Season by Cindy Woodsmall
Match: Out of Time by Alton Gansky
“Miss Jean Louise”: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Hadassah: A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers
Spiders: Web of Lies by Brandilyn Collins
Dark malice: Shade by John B. Olson
Wicked witch: Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
Gandalf: The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkein
Kaylee: Words by Ginny Yttrup
Yeshua/Yoni: Rabbi Yeshua by Randy Ingermanson (not yet published)
Oh my goodness, Karen–what an invigorating, inspiring, and LOVELY blog. My heart is quivering with the excitement you just riled up in it! You nailed it and reminded me that, yes, this is what a great book does for me as a reader–and this is exactly the type of story I, as a writer, want to create. Thank you so much for this absolutely fantastic piece of writing.
Karen H. Phillips
Karen, here are my rereads:
(No particular order)
To Kill a Mockingbird
Pride & Prejudice
Peace Like a River
All the Harry Potter series
The Bible, obviously
I’m sure there are more, but these came immediately to mind.
All the above are timeless in their themes, characters, & stories, & I’m fascinated with each for very different reasons.
Beautifully written, informative, inspiring.
Thanks Karen, Yvonne
Heather Day Gilbert
For me, it’s all about characters. Unless it’s Agatha Christie–then it’s all about plots I can’t always see coming, no matter how many times I’ve re-read it. That’s why I love classics and return to them so often. My mind is populated with people like Farmer Gabriel Oak and Scarlett O’Hara…then Ender from Ender’s Game…and the list goes on. In Christian fiction, I love characters with believable problems and a touch of the supernatural–like A SOUND AMONG THE TREES by Susan Meissner, or TALKING TO THE DEAD by Bonnie Grove–also examples of books with unpredictable twists and excellent prose. Hoping to write among those ranks some day.
Inspiring, thank you. I want my stories to move people’s hearts 🙂
I love “visiting” Mma. Ramotswe in Botswana through Alexander McCall Smith’s wonderful series– I eagerly await each new book, although I do not usually read a series so enthusiastically. These characters seem more like friends.
Wonderful, Karen! Encouraging, invigorating, inspiring. Thank you!
Karen, I read this earlier today, and I didn’t know how to respond. I love how stories move you and the references you made to books that did that for you. Like Lisa mentioned, I hope one day my stories move people to think about them, to even be changed by them (in good ways, of course), stories that stay with them beyond “The End.” Thanks for sharing this post today.
I have a secret: I happen to like YA books. The book Ditched: A Love Story by Robin Mellom has been on my “to read” list for quite a while. I read recently it in two days and turned around and read it again over the next two days. I’ve never done that before, but the quirky teenage tale of love run amuck captured my attention and wouldn’t let go.
Peter, I’m right there with you! In fact, you reminded me of one of my all-time favorites: MANIAC MCGEE by Jerry Spinelli. Wonderful book!
My husband has read the Anne of Green Gables series, Heidi, Where the Red Fern Grows and Tales of the Kingdom by David and Karin Mains, out loud to me and our kids more than once. Some stories are too good to not be shared again and again. Timeless treasures do much more than entertain and amuse.
Quotes from Anne of Green Gables litter a small book I keep of beautiful phrases.
I LOVE reading books that pull me in and never want to let me out again. I hate that they come to an end. I read slower in the last chapeters as I don’t want to say goodbye. A recent author whose novels have captivated me this way is Laura Frantz. Her descriptions are so vivid, I can imagine in my minds eye each novel setting even now, months after reading each book. The stories and the characters live like movies in my mind’s eye. It’s how I hope to write one day with stories set in NZ. To transport the reader here to a land they’ve never visited, in a time no contemporary living soul has witnessed, and yet have them imagine it so vividly… THAT is my goal. And if Laura can do it…. I can at least attempt it. Haha 😉
And the other great news from this post… Randy Ingermanson has another book coming???? AWESOME!!!
Great one, Karen! Gets me really pumped up!
This was lovely, Karen, thank you. Well worth revisiting on a regular basis, for any writer.
Thank you for your inspiring blog. It gave me goosebumps, made my heart beat faster, encouraged me, and set me on fire to write..
You are SO appreciated. Thank you.
Sonia (from England). xx
Your passion in this post made me tear up. Thank you for reminding me why I write, and encouraging me to delve deep into what the Lord wants to teach me as I write for Him.
(quote)Your book was more than just a great novel or a wonderfully crafted treatise, your book was a tool in the hands of a mighty and loving God. He took your words—words you pored over, deleted, recrafted, shaped, and revised—and used them as a master surgeon to cut away the dead places in my soul. To bring understanding and illumination. To chastise and uplift. To speak HIS truth into my weary mind and heart.(unquote)
THIS is what I want ppl to say/think/feel when they read my stories. Happily, it’s also what some total strangers have told me after they’ve read my stories. (for some reason, I discount it a little when my friends say it to me)