Christian Reading Challenge

I just finished "Things We Couldn't Say"  by Diet Eman, published in 1999.

The book, "Things We Couldn't Say" is simultaneously hopeful and fearful; the author can lament the situation while resting in the love of God.

Diet Eman and her fiance, Hein Sietsma, watched from the beginning on Nazi occupation in the Netherlands, wondering, "what is starting here?" to  "what can we do?" to "what *SHOULD* we do?"

Diet Eman is in the company of Corrie Ten Boom - in fact, at one point they were in the same prison camp.  If anything, Eman was more involved in the Resistance Network than Ten Boom was.

Why did she do what she did?

As a Reformed Christian, Eman's philosophy of the resistance was based in her faith in God and that faith spurred her into action.  At her most exhausted and in her moments of deepest fear, it was God that carried her.

She wrote: 

When I opened the book [the Bible] that night at the end of February 1945, it said, "Being exhausted, yet keeping up the pursuit" (Judges 8:4). Even after what I had said of wanting out, even after that humiliation, the physical exhaustion, the deep despair I felt, those words were my new marching orders. The next morning, I swung my rucksack over my shoulders and was off again.

 Most authors put the "why I wrote this book" at the beginning. 

 The author puts her reasons for writing in the postscript - she wanted to forget. When Corrie Ten Boom come to the town Eman was living in (Grand Rapids, MI) Eman began being convicted that 

...every time I opened the Bible something like "Tell the great things I have done" stared me in the face. Then a pastor who knew that I had been in the same prison as Corrie asked me to speak to his church. I wanted to scream, "No, I want to forget," but I didn't dare. So I went, but it was very difficult.  (Diet Eman;James Schaap. Things We Couldn't Say (Kindle Locations 3502-3504). Kindle Edition.)

Friends and family began to encourage her to write her story as a sort of therapy. She needed to write and the world needed to know.

All those years between WWII and when she told the story, she kept her diaries and letters and those of her fiance, Hein.  She shares those notes and fills in the blanks with her memories.

We read along as Diet goes from an innocent child, to a young woman in love with a young man, and then she becomes a confused Dutch woman unsure of what to do in the face of an invading force and then she launches into the Resistance.

Diet spent months in a Nazi prison camp, where she wrote:

And also, I forget to see that this all happens with God's permission. I keep on staring at the injustice which our country and people are suffering, but I forget that you bring your trials on this earth because you deem this necessary, otherwise it would not have happened. (location 412)

 Why does it matter?

As I write this review, I'm listening to the radio.  I am writing with the memory of last Wednesday, when a mob of people stormed the Capital Building. The President has been banned from a couple of social media platforms and an entire social media network (Parler) has been removed from app stores and has had their website taken down by their ISP.  Senator Ronis in "facebook jail" for unknown reasons.  

Reports of people who were merely present at the protest - on the fringes, *NOT* part of the mob who stormed the gates - being turned in by grandchildren and getting fired from their jobs.  For peaceful assembly!

Diet wrote:

What will this year bring us? Peace? Liberty? Reunion? Lord, you know it already! This time last year, when we were all together, we would never have thought that all this would happen! But you knew it. And we still have to give you thanks, for in some way this is necessary for the big plan you have for this world.

The Biden Administration is about to begin. I watch who is being "cancelled", who is being fired, and who is being silenced.

 My husband posted:"When you tear out a man's tongue, you are not proving him a liar. You're only telling the world that you fear what he might say."- George R.R. Martin

This book is a "must read"

 The book has a tragic story, but the way that's it's written catches at the heart.  Going back and forth from Hein to Diet, reading their diaries and letters, one can see how each person reacts to an event (the queen of the Netherlands escaping to England)

Reading the book, while watching our own current events unfold is unsettling.

Read it...think on it...and (I think) be prepared to ponder where your own "line in the sand" will be.

About Deacon King Kong

James McBride wrote “Deacon King Kong” in third-person narration, hopping back and forth between characters.  Set in 1960’s New York City, the story begins with an act that makes so sense. The story ends about the same...making no sense.

As the book goes on, you do get the feel of the back story – living in Black New York City. You see the business of dealing or using drugs, getting “stuck” in this life with no way out. 

When I reached the halfway point in the book, I realized that I kept picking it up for no other reason other than I had committed to read it in a “reading challenge.”  After finishing the story, I still cannot discern the main message.  I can pick out several possibilities, but only one that has any sort of closure.

About the story

The basic story begins as the main character (Sportcoat) shoots a drug dealer and sets off a comical series of mishaps that ricochet throughout the book.  From undercover cops, to mob bosses, to drug distributors, to preacher’s wives…they all interact in some interesting and improbably ways.

This book received an astonishing number of outstanding reviews – including Oprah and Barack Obama. This does not leave me with much confidence in their tastes in books.  But so many recommendations leave me wondering if I wandered off into the twilight zone.

I read enough fiction books that keep me reading to find out where the characters end up and what their lives look like.  “Deacon King Kong” had so little character development that I had little or no interest in them.  What does Sportcoat like?  Other than King Kong (homemade adult beverage) I’m not sure what he wants.

Not Recommended

I did find that they book requires so little brain energy that if a reader wants “cotton candy for the brain” (not very filling with no nutritional value) – Deacon King Kong might fit those taste buds.

James McBride has written a number of other books (I have not read any of them so I can’t compare) and I don’t think I will read more of his works. 

Nor would I recommend Deacon King Kong. There’s just not enough character or plot development, no closure on the big story lines and too few interesting plots.


Why?

Once in a while you come across a book that you just cannot figure out why you still pick it up. I put "Deacon King Kong" in my "WHY?" category.

Some fiction books keep me reading to find out what happens with a particular character. Does he survive? Do they find love? Does she enjoy life?

None of the characters in this book catch my attention.

The main character is Sport Coat --AKA Deacon King Kong, as he says he is a deacon at a church and his adult beverage of choice is a homemade concoction called "King Kong"

Sport Coat talks to his dead wife (she talks back), shoots a local drug dealer, unknowingly acts as a gardener for a mob boss's mother, thwarts a hit man (three times) and drunkenly moves through life without a clue.

The story line moves between Sport Coat, a local drug supplier and the mob boss. I am not sure how they intertwine.

I'm 80% done with the book and I'm not sure where it's going and the only reason I pick it up is because I put it in my "published in 2020"

Barack Obama named it as one of his favorite books of the year...this does nothing for my estimation of Barack Obama.

This reading challenge helps organize reading patterns and introduce new books and genres that you might not ordinarily read.

Here are the "rules" - how it works.

I'll get a bit of a jump on it, I'll start with the light reading list and move on from there.

The light list:

  • a book published in 2020 0r 2021
  • a memoir or biography
  • a classic novel
  • a book by or about a pastor or a pastor's wife
  • a book about a book of the Bible
  • a book published by Zondervan
  • a book with the word "gospel" in the title or subtitle
  • a book about a current social issue
  • a book for children or teens
  • a book about theology
  • a book about Christian living
  • a book of your choice

the first book I'm planning was published on March 3, 2020, "Deacon King Kong"

The year is 1969. In a housing project in south Brooklyn, a shambling old church deacon called Sportcoat shoots - for no apparent reason - the local drug-dealer who used to be part of the church's baseball team. The repercussions of that moment draw in the whole community, from Sportcoat's best friend - Hot Sausage - to the local Italian mobsters, the police (corrupt and otherwise), and the stalwart ladies of the Five Ends Baptist Church.

DEACON KING KONG is a book about a community under threat, about the ways people pull together in an age when the old rules are being rewritten. It is very funny in places, and heartbreaking in others. From a prize-winning storyteller, this New York Times bestseller shows us that not all secrets are meant to be hidden, and that the communities we build are fragile but vital.

After that, "The Things We Couldn't Say"

Things We Couldn't Say is the true story of Diet Eman, a young Dutch woman, who, with her fiance, Hein Sietsma, risked everything to rescue imperiled Jews in Nazi-occupied Holland during World War II. Throughout the years that Diet and Hein aided the Resistance--work that would cost Diet her freedom and Hein his life--their courageous effort ultimately saved hundreds of Dutch Jews.