Sunday, September 09, 2007
Essie Mae Laveau Jenkins is a 78-year-old sweetgrass basket weaver who sits on the side of Hwy. 17 in the company of her dead husband, Daddy Jim. Inspired by her Auntie Leona, Essie Mae finally discovers her calling in life and weaves powerful "love baskets," praying fervently over them to affect the lives of those who visit her roadside stand. When she’s faced with losing her home and her stand and being put in a nursing home, Daddy Jim talks her into coming on up to Heaven to meet sweet Jesus-something she’s always wanted to do. Once there, she reunites with Gullahs and African ancestors; but soon, her heavenly peace is disrupted, for she still has work to do. Now Essie Mae, who once felt powerless and invisible, must find the strength within her to keep her South Carolina family from falling apart.
Well here is another book that makes me go hmmmm... because it's supposed to be a Christian book yet there is so much contained in this story that is simply not Biblical. However, the fictionalized character of Essie Mae is a delight to read. I think it's important to note that what the above description from the publisher doesn't mention is that the love baskets that Essie Mae "powerfully prays over" also has voodoo rituals attached, only she calls it hoodoo. Essie would weave the hair of people into the basket in hopes of matchmaking. And in this story the hoodoo techniques always worked.
While I found some of her thoughts hilarious and her culture entertaining, this story contained quite a few weird theological moments...like when Essie thought they needed to help Jesus out when they were in heaven, and some of the things they did in heaven were "way out there". But this is a fictional story. So if you don't take it seriously and read it for mere entertainment you will enjoy the book. I'd love to believe that I will look young, beautiful, and get to make love to my husband in heaven, too, but that simply isn't so. And I found it odd that her voodoo practicing aunt was in heaven along with some other folks that practiced similar things. Like somehow that was irrelevant to their faith in Jesus? Hmmmm...I dunno.
The writing and characterization of the story was excellent, however, and I commend the author for her creativity and ability to engage the reader, but I don't think it should've been marketed as Christian fiction by a Christian publisher. But I'm only one opinion. If you can get past the warped theology and you are seeking a book that is compulsively readable, you'll like this story.
The Spirit of Sweetgrass was published by Integrity/Thomas Nelson and released in March 2007.