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Saturday, March 14, 2009

My review of The Passion of Mary-Margaret by Lisa Samson - a bit long and personal, but so true.


Mary-Margaret accepts a calling that surpasses her wildest dreams . . . and challenges her deep faith.

When Mary-Margaret Danaher met Jude Keller, the lightkeeper's son, she was studying at convent school on a small island in the Chesapeake Bay. Destined for a life as a religious sister, she nevertheless felt a pull toward Jude-rough and tumble, promiscuous Jude.

After sojourning as a medical missions sister in Swaziland, Mary-Margaret returns to the island to prepare for her final vows. Jude, too, returns to the island, dissolute and hardened. Mary-Margaret can hardly believe it when the Spirit tells her she must marry the troubled boy who befriended her all those years ago, forsaking the only life she ever wanted for a man she knows she'll never love.

My review:

The description above should say...for a man she knows she'll never love "that way" because she did love Jude and had always cared about him. She'd been attracted to him, too, just not to what he had become. This is not an easy read due to heavy subject matter. Theologically I am not sure I agree with some of the things Mary-Margaret believed either. But I felt the passion of the character to love and that is what kept me reading. Lisa Samson has penned a very deep, provocative, and though-provoking novel that will make you think about many, many things you may not have considered before. Also, there are so many layers to things that we never see. Most of us only see the surface, but don't take the time to dig deeper. This story peels off all of the layers and exposes the heart of the story, which is that any person and any situation can be redeemed if loved the way Christ calls us to love. Now THAT is my kind of story.

The interesting thing about this story in particular is that my mother was also a nun who didn't make her final vows. Mary-Margaret ended up in the convent when her only caretaker, her grandmother, died when Mary-Margaret was only seven. Ironically, my mother's mother died when she was only seven as well. And all of this happened in the 1950 and early 1960s, which is when my mother left the convent and met my dad a year later and they got married and eventually had me. Is that a trip, or what? So as I slipped into Mary-Margaret's skin for a good portion of the story, I felt like I could have been my mother, who was a Franciscan nun who lived her life for Jesus. Ironically (there are plenty of ironies here) my mother decided not to make her final vows because after teaching inner city preschool children, she realized she wanted to be a biological mother, probably because she lost her own. Same with Mary-Margaret. Is that weird, or what? So I could see that, too. I understood the main character as if it were my life. That is powerful writing.

On to Jude. He was an incredibly realistic character. I know this because as a social worker I have met many, many wounded children who grew up to be a mess because of their childhood abuse. He was portrayed perfectly, with all of his issues and pain laid bare. The self-destructive nature and his losing his will to live was so true-to-life. Bravo to Lisa Samson for writing a character so well that he seemed totally believable and like a real person to me, even more than Mary-Margaret. And as horrific as his story was, I'd known many, many people with very similar stories who ended up just like him. Only Jesus can heal pain that entrenched and make someone whole again. But He uses flesh and blood people to do it. Most people refuse to get close enough to such despair to even try help. Jude needed time and patience, and not just someone to rescue him from himself, but to truly love him for who he was, past present, and future. Mary-Margaret did just that. What really tugged at my heart was when they discovered they both had never felt truly loved before until they loved each other. Wow is all I can say to that. It's enough to melt your heart.

This is an amazing story with a lot of details not found in most CBA fiction. I loved that. The author was not afraid to tell the truth. I loved that even more. Using the setting of the nuns, the faith, and the church worked for this story, too. So while I don't agree with some things, they were clearly a necessary part of the story and done very well. I am in awe of this author's ability to naturally lead you to hell and back again and change your view of things. For that reason I highly recommend this book. But it's not for the spiritually squeamish. If that describes you, don't even try to read this book. Something this deep and insightful is only for people who are willing to look beneath the surface and take in the bigger picture. Hopefully, they will also feel led to do something about it.

Because all who believe in Christ and truly love Him are called according to His purpose. This story reveals just how complex and other-worldly His purpose often is. It also shows how He often brings the faithful full-circle until He finally says "well done" to them. Those are words we all want to hear, amen?

The Passion of Mary-Margaret was published by Thomas Nelson and released in March 2009.


Amy said...

Wow what a great review Michelle! Thanks for sharing about your personal story..(I do that all the time in reviews, lol)

I really LOVED this book and I think you captured the reasons why so was a gritty authentic honest portrayal of life and the power of the love of God (ultimately)

Kim said...

Excellent review, Michelle! And wow...what similarities! This was a powerful book, but not for the weak hearted.

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