In 1967, the year I was born, Catherine Marshall wrote the novel Christy based on the life of her mother. Since first being introduced to the book by my dad, I have appreciated the fictionalized biography of Leonora Whitaker for its perfect blend of both doubt and faith. This summer, as part of my devotional time, I picked Christy up for a reread. Immediately, I fell back in love with it again, as only one can with the best spiritual classics.
After I experienced my second miscarriage and a crisis of faith, Catherine Marshall became one of my favorite authors. As an adult, I regularly reread her books, Christy being no exception. On this most recent read of Christy, I even found myself bookmarking passages that caused me to ponder and reflect—there are so many of them! For example, there’s the moment when Christy laments to Miss Alice, “I don’t belong here.” In response, Miss Alice talks about how the two of them grew up in an Ivory Tower. “Then when we get our first good look at our life really is, and a lot of us want to run back to shelter in a hurry.” This leads to a discussion of why does God allow bad things to happen, a question that I have asked at times throughout my life.
One of these reasons I picked up Christy again this summer is that my involvement in animal rescue has pushed me to become more aware of how life really can be. There are times when I have to shut down my computer, because the abuse and neglect and sadness is so rampant. At those times, I find myself asking the same question as David, a pastor at the same mission as Christy: “How can we deal with evil?” David’s question lead to a discussion of what real faith and real love of God is. While these examples out of context might seem like sermonettes, somehow Catherine Marshall makes them feel to me like real-life drama. In doing so, she not only accepts my doubts as valid, but also arms me with new hope and inspiration.
As with all beloved books of mine, I could write several more paragraphs about all the reasons that Christy will forever remain on my bookshelves. For example, once I decided to become a teacher in my thirties, this moving story of how a young woman left the comforts of her home in North Carolina to teach at a mission school also struck a chord with me. Although I’m not an avid-romance reader, I also enjoyed the brewing romance, as David asked Christy to marry him but she wondered if her future was bound up with his or if her destination with the country doctor.
Thirty-five years after its publication, Christy is still in print and still inspires readers. All my personal reasons aside, there’s also the fact Catherine Marshall wrote a dramatic story about a teacher who learned much about the mountain people: their clannish ways, their difficult lives, their fervent superstitions, and their simple wisdom. Even better, real people and real events inspired her tale, and so serves to remind us the impact we can have on others if we only dare.
My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.
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