Friday, February 26, 2010

Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows


I wanted to love the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  The title is clever.  The letter format is interesting (I want to write letters like these!) The writing was generally good.  The story of a post war authoress, Juliet, learning what happened on occupied Guernsey Island was intriguing.  The book isn't a difficult read and is pretty engaging; I read the whole thing in one evening finishing just before 1 AM.  I wanted to know what happened.  I wanted to know where the characters went, how they grew, and what happened to them.  Some seemingly unimportant details are in earlier letters that set up events in later letters; this is done better in some instances and seems added back in later in others.  In this way the book succeeded and I could recommend it.


The more I think about it, and I *am* thinking about the book, the less I can recommend it.  Why is there only one reason why a man and a woman who are "devoted to one another" not "in love with one another" and "not to be married"? Why?  Can't we think of a more creative reason?  [frustrated] 

And, then, the big reason.  The way Christians, particularly conservative, *predestinarian Christians and doctrine are portrayed in this book keeps me from recommending it.  The one self-proclaimed Christian in this book is self-prideful, imprudent, and generally judgmental.  Her letters to the main character are, spiteful, not loving, and painful to read.  Her behavior as described by other islanders *is* inexcusable.  It does make me consider how I deal with others so I am a witness for Christ pointing others to Him rather than judging them.  Sadly, I don't think that's the lesson the authors wanted me to get.

I think the lesson they wanted me to get was that God cannot have predestined things and that He is not sovereign.  Despite the fact that the whole story happens because Juliet is written to by a man who happens to own one of her former books - in some ways a "sovereign" appointment.  There were atrocities during the Second World War.  No one denies this.  Man treated man inhumanely and there are descriptions of this treatment: of the slave workers brought to the island; of islanders who tried to help them; and of the concentration camps.  Absolutely terrible, I completely agree.  However, the authors attempt to indict God on this issue.  If he is sovereign, if he predestines, then he cannot be good.  But, in my opinion, they have taken the doctrine completely out of its theological context and judged God even as the above witless "Christian" character judged them.


This is a small portion of one letter toward the end of the book, but it spoiled the satisfaction I had had in the story to that point and I cannot, in good conscience, recommend the book.  And, I am sad about that.

1 comment:

  1. It is a well-written, engaging, funny, heart-warming, educational book. But, like you, I find myself sighing at parts of it. Not enough to put it down, but enough that I want to talk about it, to help me work through my thoughts. So, thanks for sharing yours. Thoughts, that is =]


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