Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"A Bride in the Bargain" Book Review

Much like a mug of Seattle-based Starbuck's Coffee, I found Deanne Gist’s novel, “A Bride in the Bargain” rather addicting. Also based in Seattle, in the time period of the Washington Territory, Mrs. Gist uses lively and believable characters, rich and scenic descriptions, and a great combination of turmoil and romance as a perfect blend...rich as a good cup of java.

July 8th, 1866 Miss Anna Ivey arrives in port at Seattle’s Puget Sound. (On a personal note, 103 years plus 7 days later, I also arrived in Seattle, all 8 pounds of me, but that’s another story…). She is greeted by men that look like hungry vultures; all having waited for months for their mail order brides, most of which did not arrive. She is looking for her new employer, a lumberjack named Joseph Denton, whom she believes hired her as a cook for his logging crew. What she finds is a tall, handsome tough guy with a soft side, who thinks she has come to be his bride. It seems their “contracts” with the middle man don’t exactly match up. Neither do their personalities, most of the time!

If Joseph doesn’t get married soon, his land is in jeopardy. However, Miss Ivey is certain everyone she loves ends up getting hurt so she has vowed never to marry. They are both stubborn and head strong and find themselves in quite a quandary. But, he does need a cook and she owes him the money for her passage to Seattle…so there is an agreement worked out for the time being.

Though you can likely see where this story is headed, there are many detours along the way that keep you turning the pages, captivated by the relationship between the characters and intrigued by their complex personalities. The dialogue is witty and engaging, and there is much to love about all the main characters in this book.

Placed in the rugged Pacific Northwest, the land and the lumber are some of the characters brought to life as well. In some ways, the taming of the wilderness, and the settlement of the land, parallel Anna’s and Joseph’s relationship. The people and the terrain play off of one another and both are important to the story. Both draw you in and make it hard to leave.

If you enjoy historical romance, you will certainly find “A Bride in the Bargain” a solid read. Though it is a Christian romance novel, I would like to note that the story has no deep theological issues that are wrestled with. Christianity is more of the tone of this time in history and is part of the foundation and underpinnings of the character’s lives. This is the kind of story you read solely for the enjoyment of getting swept away!

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At the Intersection of Creation and Evolution: A Dream

The alliterating story below is based on a dream I had several years ago. Please contact me for permission to reproduce.

Darkness devours me.

I am enveloped in emptiness.

Are my eyes open or are they closed? I strain against this shroud of night and still see nothing.

What is this place?

An image illuminates in front of me. A large, leafy tree streaks past and vanishes.

It deserts me to the darkness again.

In a moment, more images appear. A rapid succession of snapshots and thoughts clamor before my eyes and mingle in my mind.

I see seedlings. Several supple shoots have emerged before me and then swiftly stream away.

“The first trees on earth were not seedlings”, my mind observes. “They were not created as small insignificant saplings.”

That thought is rapidly replaced with a vision of a man.

He’s maybe 30; he is muscular and needs to shave.

He fades away.

In his place I see an infant.

A tiny bundle of pink skin upon a soft blanket flickers briefly in my brain.

“Man was created with age,” is the next statement I hear. “Adam did not begin his life as a baby, he began as a grown man.”

The voice seems like my own.

The thoughts do not.

Reeling before me now is a blur of rivers, forests, mountains and even layers of the earth. It is like a movie rushing rapidly before my retina.

The soundtrack of this epic is proclaiming a peculiarly plain concept:

“The earth was created with age. Creation and evolution are not in total opposition. There is a reason that science finds the earth to be quite old: it was made that way.”

Thoughts continue to tumble through my mind; pictures parade before me. I listen in amazement to what seems to be puzzlingly profound and yet rather apparent all at once.

“Adam was created as an adult. Trees and plants were made fully grown.”

I suddenly feel quite certain that, if I were to chop down some of the trees that had been spoken into existence, I would find a range of rings running through their trunks.

“The earth was brought to life with age built into it… just like Adam. He did not begin life as an infant. The earth came into being with what it would need to sustain the life that was created. It was old when it was young. The world was
made with maturity; it was also produced with purpose.”

These thoughts are thrilling. Why had I not seen this before? It seems so simple. Obtusely obvious. Had others not observed this correlation? If they had, why wasn’t it being candidly conveyed?

In the span of thirty seconds I have been ravaged by a radical revelation. I feel the weight of its worth resting on me; it is tantamount to tangible.

I am neither a theologian nor am I a scientist. I don’t claim that the ethics of evolution are completely compatible with the Bible’s account of creation. But certainly Science can come concurrent to creation and affirm our faith with facts.

Of course, the Omnipotent Originator of the Universe is exceedingly elusive to what our mind could ever envision. Above what science could ever extensively elucidate.

Accordingly, creation is confounding too. Each diverse discovery deems it more marvelous to grasp. Many scientists have reluctantly relented to the theory of Intelligent Design.

That’s why, alongside those facts, we also need faith.

Lying inexplicably at the intersection of those two essential elements is an exceptional endowment: the intermittent insight of our dreams.