Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Waking Rose

Have you ever experienced the spell, the wonderful spell of a book so completely realistic and yet perfect, that you are utterly yielded to its magic? As someone who fell head over heels in love with reading ever since I learned how at four, I've read countless "good" books, many "great" books, and a delightful few "magic" books. Books that challenge and sift and inspire and offer a picture of deeper reality that leaves you relishing in the abundance of life truly lived. Of sacrifice nobly given. Of love freely chosen.

When questioned who my favorite authors are, I always admit Gene Stratton Porter, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and of course, Regina Doman. From the day I read all of Shadow of the Bear on my 13th birthday, I was enraptured with her talent. Memorable characters, endearing personalities, heroic situations, human struggles, plenty of suspense... her books have it all. And though they're "modern day fairy tales", they're peppered with the spice of very real characters with genuine struggles, lifelike (though dramatic) situations, and plenty of their own humor. I love a book that can have me laughing, then crying, laughing again, shivering in a few places... and these stories definitely do that. You instantly feel like you've made friends, like you know these unforgettable people. And at the same time, you're wishing you could meet them in the flesh.

One of the things I think I love most in her books is how her own love and obviously extensive knowledge of poetry is woven into the stories. This, and the exciting twists and turns of each plot make for books that you can -- and want to -- pick up and read again and again, getting something more each time. The poignant spiritual themes, without seeming forced at all, are what really make these stories radiant, and what put them head and shoulders above almost any other teen fiction today. Whereas your average "teen novel" (especially any teen romance) is shallow, sensationalized, devoid of commitment and full of immorality, Regina's stories are filled with depth, reality, sacrifice, and truth. Waking Rose especially carries an ongoing theme of redemption and purification.

I also appreciate her insight into human struggle. Her heroes don't have picture-perfect, seamless lives, but experience temptations and weakness. Their heroism rises from their going through and resistance of this temptation; their surrendering and growth despite their human weakness. Bear and Fish, for example, come from a very broken family life and troubled childhood, and Regina doesn't gloss over those facts and then have them come riding through, princes in the sunset, as if that past never happened. Each of them must come to grips with their past, and both are in need of healing and forgiveness in order let go of their brokenness. Their intense struggles directly affect not only their spiritual growth, but their relationships as well. I find this a very authentic yet hope-filled portrayal of the place that plenty of young people are in today... for those who have also experienced family division or brokenness in their childhood, Bear and Fish are a vision of what they can become with the help of God. Fish's title of the "wounded soldier" is particularly fitting. And yet, he's a faithful soldier. That's what counts. As Mother Teresa so comfortingly reminded: "God does not call us to be successful, but to be faithful".

The Fairy Tale Novels have become quite popular among homeschooled teen girls, and without wonder. I'm sure every one of us who've read them can identify in some way with either Blanche, Rose, or perhaps both at times. Blanche... intuitive, prudent, yet fearful and sometimes reluctant. Rose... vivacious, warm, headstrong, impulsive. Both facing the normal challenges, rises and falls of young womanhood, plus the growth and lessons of their own stories. Both learning to reach outside of themselves; though that means very different things for them sometimes.

Many of the books' sub-characters are fully as memorable as the main ones. Particularly in Waking Rose, Rose's best friend and college roommate, and the endearing group of gentlemanly and boyish, if somewhat eccentric "Cor guys" are unforgettable.

It was after reading Waking Rose that I really realized one of the big potentials of these books. Eric Ludy, husband of Leslie Ludy (author of Authentic Beauty), has some excellent "Lessons on Manhood" articles in her book. In one, he explains about a book that heavily impacted his life, and his understanding of masculinity and strength. It was The Scottish Chiefs, a novel based on the true story of Scottish war heroes William Wallace and Sir Robert the Bruce. He testifies that the book left him with a new and powerful vision of manhood. And it was a book written by a lady. Eric says, "It was a woman with a correct vision of manhood that lit the flame of willingness within my heart to become all the God desired for me to be." (Emphasis his)

I'm convinced that Regina's novels have the exact same potential. Her masculine characters are strong, gallant, chivalrous, and yet very real. I know many other girls would join me in confirming that they exemplify exactly the kind of strength and values we hope and pray for in a future husband. I hope many, many young women continue to read these stores and treasure the beauty of pure romance and modern-day femininity that they depict. And I hope many, many young men also pick them up and catch hold of a vision of authentic masculinity fashioned after the ultimate manhood of Jesus Christ.

A glimpse of genuine femininity. A vision of authentic masculinity. A glimpse of pure, innocent romance and sacrificial love. The power of a few determined to fight evil. These books have the power to offer my generation a real wake-up call. And I hope we hear it.


sis said...

Great post Claire! Thanks for using my picture! The book was just sitting on Sarah's lap at the place where she was reading it and I dropped a bunch of flowers onto it and snapped a picture on a blur/misty setting.

P.S. When are you going to finish putting up pics of the vacation?

Mary said...

Have YOU ever read The Scottish Chiefs? If you haven't, I recommend that you do. (If you want to borrow it, just let us know!)

Mary K.

Anonymous said...

this has got to be one of the most lovely reviews of a book that I've ever read. I was literally on the point of tears when I got to the part about the "wounded soldier" and staying faithful in the midst of that. Your emotionally moving violin and piano music in the background might have had something to do with that too! :-) You have picked up on so many themes in Regina's books about manhood and masculinity that I knew were there, but which I wasn't sure many other people noticed.

I am honored that such a touching, deep, insightful, beautiful book review should be given to my wife's books. Thank you.

-- Regina Doman's husband

Amanda D. (Lady Rose) said...

Happiness, sorrow, fear, excitment, thrill, joy, hope, despair, doubt, belief, anxiety, relief, contentment, exhilieration, laughter, tears: "Waking Rose" provides the perfect whirlwind of emotions that every book should have.

regina doman said...

I'm truly honored. I would love to post this. Thank you!
Peace and good

Claire said...

Veronica: Thanks! And thank you for the great photo... it fit more than perfectly. By the way, Sarah pointed out that since it is her lap in the photo, all three of us had a finger in this post. :) About the vacation pictures... hopefully soon!

Mary: No, I can't say I have. And I'm sure you're right -- I probably should! One of these days I'll plan to ask you for it!

Mr. Schmiedicke: Your kind comment made my day. And since I'm sure Mrs. Schmiedicke gets plenty of her inspiration from you, thank you!!

Amanda: I can only say... exactly.

Mrs. Doman (Schmiedicke): You are more than welcome, and deserve every word. I'm honored by your posting it!

Amanda said...

Okay, V, Sarah or Clarie, what was the quote at the top of the page??? Very curious to find out.

God Bless!

deb said...

A good author that I am encouraging more women to read is Fanny Burney.(sometimes called Francis) She wrote in the 1700's and was a big influence on Austin. She is a very lovely writer that I think that you will enjoy.