Catherine Marshall’s writing career spanned over thirty years and included almost twenty books. Her final book, Julie, I picked up this summer to reread for two reasons. First, no matter where I find myself in my spiritual walk, Marshall’s books always increase my faith. Second, the main character clings to the dream I have also held all my life, which is to be an author. This third reread resulted in my appreciating Julie for other reasons too.
Like many who grow up in the Christian faith, Julie seems to take hers for granted and even questions it but also holds to it as her foundation. At times, her conflicts are universal. Like most young adults, Julie worries about gaining respect of those whom she admires, earning creative responsibilities at work, and doing the right thing by her community. As such, her struggles seem realistic and allow me to relate to them. Other times, in being the daughter of a pastor, the conflicts Julie faces arise from her religious values. Like many Christians, she must choose whether to stay honest in the workplace and whether to stay pure in romantic relationships. As such, Julie also serves as a role model. Even when Julie starts to grow in her faith, her revelations feel natural. A gentleman who befriends the family at first turns Julie off with his persistent philosophies, but eventually wins her acceptance because of his loyalty to her family through even the worst of disasters. Moreover, a young new pastor shows her that there are Christians who will embrace everyone and also provide help without any strings attached to those who need it.
From the very start, the world of writing is at the forefront of Julie. Her father, who has left his pastoral position for undisclosed reasons, accepts a publisher position in a small town. For the newspaper he runs to survive, her father needs the support of all the family. He initially assigns Julie to proofread copy. As malaria and other health issues inflict him, Julie’s father allows her to take on more and more responsibility. Her first news report contains no byline but eventually he begins crediting her work. One day, as he lays ill in bed, and so reliant on meager staff to put out the current edition, Julie even finds her poems being used as filler. Besides the thrill of being published, Julie also quickly begins to understand the ethical dilemmas anyone in the newspaper faces. When does one print copy simply to earn a buck? When does one refuse copy that could mislead or even the community? Most of the decisions we make in life reveal our deeper value systems. More than once, Julie sees her father face choices that could cause him his job. As an aspiring writer myself, this part of Julie has always engaged me.
Upon rereading Julie this summer, I also found myself appreciating for additional reasons. Instilled throughout is a strong sense of family, making this quite a likable tale. In addition, by being set during the Great Depression, and imbued with meticulous research about the historical Great Flood of Pennsylvania, historical fiction fans are sure to find much to like. Finally, Julie is recognized as in many ways being Catherine Marshall’s story. I enjoyed gaining further insights into one of my favorite Christian authors.
Catherine Marshall apparently passed away months before the novel’s revisions were complete. The job of finishing it was let to her editor and husband after her death. I’m glad the time was taken, for Julie is a novel to be treasured among Marshall’s other writings.
My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.
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