[Review] The Librarian of Saint-Malo by Mario Escobar

Publisher and Publication Date: Thomas Nelson. June 1, 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction. Christian fiction.
Pages: 376.
Format: Paperback.
Source: I received a complimentary advanced reading paperback copy from Thomas Nelson and Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Christian readers of historical fiction with a time period of World War II.
Rating: Very good.

Link for more information about the book at Thomas Nelson.
To read a sample of the book @ Thomas Nelson-The Librarian of Saint-Malo.

Landing page for the book tour at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

Amazon link

Audible link

Barnes and Noble link

Christian Book link

Author Info:

Mario Escobar Golderos has a degree in History, with an advanced studies diploma in Modern History. He has written numerous books and articles about the Inquisition, the Protestant Reformation, and religious sects. He is the executive director of an NGO and directs the magazine “Nueva historia para el debate,” in addition to being a contributing columnist in various publications. Passionate about history and its mysteries, Escobar has delved into the depths of church history, the different sectarian groups that have struggled therein, and the discovery and colonization of the Americas. He specializes in the lives of unorthodox Spaniards and Americans.

Website [English and Spanish] / Facebook/ Twitter [Spanish]/ Goodreads Author Page

Summary:

Through letters with a famous author, one French librarian tells her love story and describes the brutal Nazi occupation of her small coastal village.

Saint-Malo, France: August 1939. Jocelyn and Antoine are childhood sweethearts, but just after they marry, Antoine is called up to fight against Germany. As the war rages, Jocelyn focuses on comforting and encouraging the local population by recommending books from her beloved library in Saint-Malo. She herself finds hope in her letters to a famous author.

After the French capitulation, the Nazis occupy the town and turn it into a fortress to control the north of French Brittany. Residents try passive resistance, but the German commander ruthlessly purges part of the city’s libraries to destroy any potentially subversive writings. At great risk to herself, Jocelyn manages to hide some of the books while waiting to receive news from Antoine, who has been taken to a German prison camp.

What unfolds in her letters is Jocelyn’s description of her mission: to protect the people of Saint-Malo and the books they hold so dear. With prose both sweeping and romantic, Mario Escobar brings to life the occupied city and re-creates the history of those who sacrificed all to care for the people they loved.

My Thoughts:

Another historical fiction story, All The Light We Cannot See, has the same setting of Saint-Malo, France. That story is mainstream historical fiction, written by Anthony Doerr, published by Scribner. Whereas, The Librarian of Saint-Malo, has been published by a Christian publisher: Thomas Nelson.

I have several thoughts about The Librarian of Saint-Malo.
1. Christian fiction has become varied in its books. Once upon a time Christian fiction books were one stream of writing. For example, clean romance with bible verses and praying sprinkled throughout the books. They were predictable. Christian authors are now writing books and telling stories that venture beyond the expected. Some of my favorite authors in Christian fiction who are writing these new types of books are Chris Fabry, Tosca Lee, Susan Meissner, and Lisa Wingate. What’s interesting is these authors do not always publish books through a Christian publishing company.
2. The Librarian of Saint-Malo is published by a Christian publisher, but it is not heavy with typical Christian fiction themes, at least not in the predictable way. The Christian themes running through this story are kindness, compassion, love, patience, faithfulness, self-control, and gentleness. As a Christian you will relate the examples of themes to Galatians chapter five. The Fruit of the Spirit chapter. Forgiveness is a strong theme in the book. The main character, Jocelyn Ferrec, will wrestle with this in the story.
3. Recently, I read another World War II book where the main character became romantically involved with a Nazi officer. I didn’t care for this. Actually, they were quick about becoming sexually involved. It seemed there was little thought about the decision. He was the enemy. I did not want to read another book with this type of storyline. I probably would have thrown this book against the wall if it had. I will not give anymore away about this book but will state I’m pleased with how the main character handled her body, mind, and spirit.
4. Christians are broken and imperfect people. Every Christian struggles with temptations, hard experiences, and suffering. Jocelyn is an imperfect person. She is real. She is a character who I can identify with. In The Librarian of Saint-Malo, I understand her weaknesses, temptations, fears, insecurities, dreams, and hopes. She is a person who has been brought to the depth of physical illness, grief, despondency, and despair. All the securities in life are stripped and stolen. The Librarian of Saint-Malo paints her as a true heroine and Christian. The story does not tell me the words, “Jocelyn is a Christian.” The story shows me through her character, actions, and responses. After-all, the bottom line in living out our faith as a Christian is not just the words that come out of our mouth, but it is how we live out our belief (especially our actions and responses.)
5. The antagonist, Lt. Bauman, in the story reminds me of the villain in Inglorious Basterds: Colonel Hans Landa.

My reasons for why I love this story:
1. The descriptions of France and the town of Saint-Malo are beautiful. I feel apart of the surroundings because they were described in vivid detail.
2. The people in Saint-Malo are a mix of those who are reputable and selfless versus those who conspire with the enemy. This brought an example of what it felt like to have a neighbor who is now the enemy. This is another reason for fear and anxiety. This also adds to the heavy mood of the story. The mood for this type of story is important.
3. I pulled several quotes from this story that are wise, moving, and memorable. For example: “Books don’t have owners; they’re free agents we just happen to hold for a brief time.” Page 9. “One flesh that desires and responds to another has no need of vision to recognize the beloved.” Page 23. “The power of words does not lie in the stories we tell but in our ability to connect with the hearts of those who read them.” Page 62.
4. The Librarian of Saint-Malo does not tell me the typical love story. It is realistic. It is a love of not just fiery passion but commitment. The Librarian of Saint-Malo demonstrates a mature and faithful love.
5. Jocelyn loves books. Books are a passion. Books are an escape. Books are beloved and trusted friends. Books are a source of security and comfort. I love stories with characters who love books.
6. The Librarian of Saint-Malo shows both internal and external conflicts.
7. Jocelyn does not sit idle while the war continues and the enemy lives in her town. She becomes a person unlike what she expected.
8. Throughout the story Jocelyn writes to a favorite author. While reading I wondered how this particular action would become apart of the story? What is the reason for it being there? I then began to understand another reason why she wrote to this author. Writing is a visceral action. It is a repetitive type action that has a deeper meaning bringing comfort and looking to something out side herself and away from the war itself.
9. Other favorite characters in the story are Celine, Pierre, Antoine, and Denis. They are secondary characters but each have a solid story.

Other themes in the story: courage, loyalty, bravery, shame, fear, good and evil, justice, intolerance, grief, dreams, sacrifice, honor, suffering, judgment, friendship, survival, war, peace, conformity, trust, and gratitude.

Final Thoughts:

Two places in the story where it snags for me:

1. In one scene in the story, Pierre gave Jocelyn information about his work, he confides to her during a party with other people present. I think this is strange considering he needs to be secretive.
2. [Several points in this one subject]
Jocelyn is a Huguenot but this will not be understood by the average reader.
She attends a Catholic Mass and the homily is on forgiveness. The word mass is not capitalized-it should be Mass.
Why did the priest use a teaching from the book of Tobit? I can think of Scripture from the New Testament or Psalms that could have been given. The priest seems to be out of touch with the people and delivers a homily that bounces off their heads because it is not what they want to hear and probably not what they should hear at this moment. I consider it inappropriate. The people need comfort and encouragement given in a few words they can cling to during this time of despair. It is possible the priest is an example of Christians who are out of touch with the people and are thus not helpful? I believe this part of the story needs clarity and development.

Giveaway [not hosted by this blog]

Enter to win a paperback copy of The Librarian of Saint-Malo by Mario Escobar! We have 5 copies up for grabs!

The giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on June 16th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Direct link: Librarian of Saint-Malo (gleam.io)

A video of before and after World War II, Saint-Malo from YouTube:

[Review] The Heritage of Anglican Theology by J. I. Packer

Publisher and Publication Date: Crossway. June 15, 2021.
Genre: Christian nonfiction. Anglican history in England.
Pages: 384.
Format: E-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from Crossway. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of Christian Church history especially English Anglican history. Readers of J. I. Packer.
Rating: Excellent.

Link to read the first chapter: The Heritage of Anglican Theology.

Link @ Amazon. It is available in e-book and hardcover.
Link @ Barnes and Noble.
Link @ Christian Book.

Author Info:

J. I. Packer (1926–2020) served as the Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology at Regent College. He authored numerous books, including the classic best seller Knowing God. Packer also served as general editor for the English Standard Version Bible and as theological editor for the ESV Study Bible.

This link is to several video teachings by J. I. Packer.

Several interesting articles:
Gospel Coalition article on J. I. Packer.
Christianity Today article on J. I. Packer.
Best J. I. Packer Quotes by Kevin Halloran

Summary:

The Anglican Church has a rich theological heritage filled with a diversity of views and practices. Like a river with a main current and several offshoot streams, Anglicanism has a main body with many distinct, smaller communities. So what constitutes mainstream Anglicanism?

Influential Anglican theologian J. I. Packer makes the case that “authentic Anglicanism” is biblical, liturgical, evangelical, pastoral, episcopal (ordaining bishops), national (engaging with the culture), and ecumenical (eager to learn from other Christians). As he surveys the history and tensions within the Anglican Church, Packer casts a vision for the future that is grounded in the Scriptures, fueled by missions, guided by historical creeds and practices, and resolved to enrich its people.

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1: Taking the Measure of the Anglican Mainstream
Chapter 2: The English Reformation
Chapter 3: Puritan Theology
Chapter 4: Richard Hooker
Chapter 5: The Caroline Divines
Chapter 6: Rational Divinity
Chapter 7: Revival Theology
Chapter 8: The Oxford Movement and Anglo-Catholicism
Chapter 9: Nineteenth-Century Broad Church Theology
Chapter 10: Anglican Modernism
Chapter 11: Early Twentieth-Century Anglican Theology
Chapter 12: Some Concluding Thoughts on Anglican Theology
Afterword: Further Thoughts on Anglican Doctrine

My Thoughts:

In the past year I’ve seen more information about Anglicanism than in past years. I’ve read information in online articles and books about Anglicanism. Tish Harrison Warren [American] is one of those authors. I’ve also read a few bloggers who have mentioned Warren and Anglicanism. When the opportunity to read The Heritage of Anglican Theology by J. I. Packer became available from Crossway, I was quick to request and read it. In the United States, Anglicanism is The Anglican Church in North America or ACNA. It was established in 2009. In the United States, Anglicanism is diverse, but on some issues they are in agreement. This book and review is not about the Anglican history in the United States. J. I. Packer lived in England. This book is about Anglicanism in England, the history of the Christian Church in England, and its outreach to the world. However, their history has an impact on Anglicanism in North America.

While reading The Heritage of Anglican Theology I took 25 pages of notes! This is one testament that shows how much I enjoyed this book.

Reasons why I love The Heritage of Anglican Theology:
1. Packer’s writing style is engaging and informative. He writes as if he is telling me a story while sitting beside me.
2. Plenty of pleasant surprises while reading this book. For example, a study of Puritan history. A study of Richard Hooker.
3. Packer’s aims for the book are perfectly met.
4. I enjoyed reading about the three streams of thought in Anglicanism. In the Anglo-Catholic and the Reformed streams, Packer explains the differences but is not overly critical. In the liberal stream of thought he is direct about his opinion but not lengthy.
5. The seven mainstream teachings of Anglicanism: Biblical, Liturgical, Evangelical, Pastoral, Episcopal, National, and Ecumenical.
6. The teaching on the Eucharist. It is a “glorious mystery.”
7. A wonderful teaching on Augustine of Hippo. In addition, Packer points out where Augustine was wrong about merit and justification.
8. The wonderful and beautiful gift of the Book of Common Prayer.
9. Brief biographies on the men involved with the different movements in Anglicanism. For example, the men in the Oxford Movement and Anglo-Catholicism.
10. The Modernism movement. I am glad he includes this belief. He literally began with English Christian history during the time of Henry VIII, and he concludes with the Modernism movement.
11. In the final chapters he has several points, but the most important is an encouragement for pastors to keep preaching the Gospel. “You can never get beyond the gospel in an absolute sense in your ministry.” Quote from chapter twelve.

I wish that I owned this book in hardcopy. This is a second reason for writing 25 pages of notes.
I feel as if I’ve taken a mini-college course in Anglicanism.

Favorite Quotes:

From chapter one: “All who attempt to practice Anglican theology see themselves-and ask others to see them-as seeking to hold to the mainstream of pure truth.”

From chapter two: “The Prayer Book is the great legacy of the Reformers. When it comes to worship and prayer. The key words that sum up what is intended are doxology, which means giving glory to God; didacticism, which means teaching people the path of discipleship; and dependence, which speaks to the fact that at every point the prayers in the Prayer Book teach dependence on God for all ability to please him in any way and all ability to practice good works to his glory.”

From chapter four: “The Bible must always have the last word.”

From chapter six: “We have to be critical of our own prejudices which means, first and foremost, that we must be aware of them in order to be critical of them.”

Bible Reading Update for May 2021

I read the following in May.

Daily devotional books:
1. Our Daily Bread.
2. Tabletalk.
3. And He Walks With Me: 365 Daily Reminders Of Jesus’s Love from Our Daily Bread.
4. What Really Matters from Our Daily Bread.
5. Jesus Calling: Morning & Evening by Sarah Young.
6. New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp.

In Bible Study Fellowship, I finished the study of Genesis. I read Genesis chapters 48, 49, and 50. Scripture was read from the NIV. Bible Study Fellowship will start again in mid September with a 9 month study of Matthew.

For the Psalms Saturated Reading Plan Version 3, I read Psalms 42-72. Scripture was read from NRSV.

I’m reading a 5 day chronological Bible reading plan that I first heard about from Tim Challies. In May, the Scriptures read were Ruth 1, 2, 3, and 4. 1 Samuel 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, and 31. 2 Samuel 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, and 24. 1 Chronicles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, and 21. Psalm 37, 120, 23, 38, 124, 59, 52, 54, 96, 106, 122, 60, 132, 89, 51, 32, 3, 63, 34, and 18. Acts 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, and 28. Romans 1, 2, 3, and 4. All Scripture was read from the NRSV.

Sometimes I read some of the New Testament verses from The New Greek/English Interlinear New Testament. Most of the time I prefer to read from the NRSV Artisan Collection/Journaling Bible.

Are you reading your Bible?

This is a Bible Translation chart. The chart is from Bible Translation Guide, courtesy of God’s Word to the Nations Mission Society, Orange Park, FL 32067.

Bible Gateway
All Scripture verses are linked to Bible Gateway.
I am a Bible Gateway Blogger Grid member.

(Review) A Long Obedience In The Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society by Eugene H. Peterson

Publisher and Publication Date: InterVarsity Press. May 11, 2021. First edition 1980.
Genre: Spiritual growth, discipleship.
Pages: 224.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of spiritual growth books.
Rating: Excellent.

Apart of the IVPress Signature Collection. The link is to the list at Amazon.

Amazon link for A Long Obedience In The Same Direction.

Christian Book link for A Long Obedience In The Same Direction.

The IVPress Signature Collection at Christian Book.

Link for more information at InterVarsity Press.

Summary:

Eugene H. Peterson (November 6, 1932 – October 22, 2018) was a Presbyterian minister and the author of several books including a paraphrase of the Bible titled The Message.
I’ve heard his beliefs were liberal. I’ve not read enough of his work to agree with this view. I do feel A Long Obedience In The Same Direction is a brilliant book.

A Long Obedience In The Same Direction was first published in 1980.
In my new edition, there is a “Commemorative Preface by Leif Peterson” and a “20th Anniversary Preface.”

From the Contents
Chapter 1 Discipleship
Chapter 2 Repentance
Chapter 3 Providence
Chapter 4 Worship
Chapter 5 Service
Chapter 6 Help
Chapter 7 Security
Chapter 8 Joy
Chapter 9 Work
Chapter 10 Happiness
Chapter 11 Perseverance
Chapter 12 Hope
Chapter 13 Humility
Chapter 14 Obedience
Chapter 15 Community
Chapter 16 Blessing
A Long Obedience-An Epilogue

In this book, Peterson explains what it means to follow Jesus. Because following Jesus requires a steady, dependent, and developing relationship in Christ Jesus.
Peterson uses Psalms 120-134 as the main Bible texts.
The Message is the choice of Bible translation unless otherwise stated. Once again, The Message is a paraphrase in modern, casual type language.

My Thoughts:

This is the first book I’ve read by Eugene Peterson. I do not have a copy of The Message, but I have read verses from it by utilizing Bible Gateway‘s online Bible.

I was drawn to purchasing and reading A Long Obedience In The Same Direction for several reasons. From the back cover it states this book is a “spiritual classic.” It refers to our “instant-quick fix society.” And “a deepening life” of Christian growth. These ideas intrigued me and I dug in as soon as the book arrived.

From chapter 1: Discipleship. The first paragraph in the first chapter caught my attention.
This world is no friend to grace. A person who makes a commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior does not find a crowd immediately forming to applaud the decision or old friends spontaneously gathering around to offer congratulations and counsel. Ordinarily there is nothing directly hostile, but an accumulation of puzzled disapproval and agnostic indifference constitutes, nevertheless, surprisingly formidable opposition.” Page 10.
For me, most of my family and friends are Christians, and they attend a church or parish every Sunday. During this lessening of COVID restrictions, some of them still watch services online.
It is rare to have someone I know antagonize, criticize, shame, or make fun of me because I am a Christian. But it has happened. Family seems to be the worst offenders. I wonder why? Is it because they feel more free and entitled to disapprove in an outspoken way?
Petersen explains further we are to expect this sort of thing. He reminds us we are “pilgrims” while living on planet earth. Earth is not the final destination but it is home for the temporary which is now. And, everything on earth is temporary. We are just passing through. The belief of “just passing through” doesn’t give us the freedom to not grow spiritually.

It is wonderful that one of the first chapters is titled “Repentance.”
Psalm 120 is a Psalm about getting tired of the ways of the world.
Pages 23-24 explains the difference between repentance and emotion. Repentance is more than feeling sorry for sin.
“It is deciding that you have been wrong in supposing that you could manage your own life and be your own god; it is deciding that you were wrong in thinking that you had, or could get, the strength, education and training to make it on your own; it is deciding that you have been told a pack of lies about yourself and your neighbors and your world.” Page 23. “Repentance is the most practical of all words and the most practical of all acts.” Page 24.

I love it that Petersen talks straight (a term my dad used). Petersen gets to the point; and makes what he is saying honest, clear, and concise.

My favorite chapter is 11. “Perseverance.” Psalm 129 is the focal passage.
“Perseverance” is not “perfection” and it is not “resignation.”
My favorite quote from the book is in this chapter and on pages 126-127.
“Perseverance is not the result of our determination, it is the result of God’s faithfulness. We survive in the way of faith not because we have extraordinary stamina but because God is righteous, because God sticks with us. Christian discipleship is a process of paying more and more attention to God’s righteousness and less and less attention to our own; finding the meaning of our lives not by probing our moods and motives and morals but by believing in God’s will and purposes; making a map of the faithfulness of God, not charting the rise and fall of our enthusiasms. It is out of such a reality that we require perseverance.”
I plan to write this on an index card and memorize. I love it!

A second favorite chapter is 12. “Hope.” Psalm 130 says, “Help, God-the bottom has fallen out of my life! Verse 1.
This chapter is on suffering. We are to expect suffering as Christians. Suffering is going to happen. It is in suffering we are near the depths of the cross.

The subtitle of the book is “Discipleship in an Instant Society.” Where does this tie-in to the topic of the book?
The world believes happiness is to be expected. The world believes if we are suffering we should hide it or hastily cover it. The world believes in “quick cures.” It believes in intelligence and determination. The pull yourself up by your bootstraps motto. Petersen sets the reader straight. Suffering is to be expected. We are to persevere despite hardship and suffering. We depend on God with a “child-like trust.”

The last chapter is 16. “Blessing.” Psalm 134. It is actually a chapter on praising God. Thanking God. Worshiping God.
“Grace and gratitude belong together like heaven and earth. Grace evokes gratitude like the voice an echo. Gratitude follows grace as thunder follows lightning.” A quote from Karl Barth. Church Dogmatics.
I love it that the book ends with praising God.

A Long Obedience In The Same Direction is a book of comfort, encouragement, strong teaching, praising God, and maintaining a solid course of Christian direction.

Scripture links courtesy of Bible Gateway.

(Review) A Timbered Choir, The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997 by Wendell Berry

Publisher and Publication Date: Counterpoint. 1998.
Genre: Poetry.
Pages: 216.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Poetry readers.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon

I learned about Wendell Berry from an author I follow, Sarah Clarkson. At one time, she recorded video messages on Facebook to her followers and would often choose a poem of Berry’s to read. I then began to explore what books he’d written. I’ve read Hannah Coulter. This is the first book of poetry of Berry’s I’ve read. He has become one of my favorite poets.

Further links on Wendell Berry:
Poetry Foundation
Ereads
Berry Center

Goodreads author page with the list of Berry’s books.

An excerpt of the first poem in the book which is one of my favorites.

My Thoughts:

When I read a poem I do not try and figure out what the poet is trying to articulate through words. I think about how the poem effects my emotion or heart. Music has the same influence. Wendell Berry is a poet who speaks to my heart.

The first poem I love is the first poem in the book (page 5) and also in the above video. It is a poem that refers to quiet and solitude. These are often included in his poems: quiet, stillness, solitude, calm, and peace.

Often the poems are about taking time to examine nature. To sit or stand and observe. To take in with all the senses what is in the environment. Our society is busy and on the go. Our eyes focus on the loud; those material objects that distract. For example, cell phones. I believe it takes great patience, determination, and discipline to pause for thought, and to turn-away from that distraction and towards stillness.

When Berry is in the “woodland” it is a worship experience. The brightness of the sun, the color of the leaves, the effect of the wind are a cadence.

The last poem is another favorite.

1997
VII
“There is a day
when the road neither
comes nor goes, and the way
is not a way but a place.”