Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mine is the Night by Liz Curtis Higgs

It was a joy to read the second installment of Liz Curtis Higgs' retelling of the story of Ruth and Naomi just days after finishing the first novel Here Burns My Candle. Everything was fresh in my mind and the two books flowed together so well.  Set in 18th Century Scotland, book one ends and book two begins as Lady Marjory Kerr has lost everything - her two sons, her wealth, her home, and her title after foolishly aligning with Bonnie Prince Charles against the King.  With nothing but a few coins, she intends to return to her home village and seek shelter with a distant relative, Anne whom Marjory had neglected for years.  Marjory has released both her daughter-in-laws to return to their Highland homes, but Elisabeth refuses to abandon her mother-in-law.  Together the two women arrive at Anne Kerr's simple home unannounced and unwelcomed.  But forgiveness is in Anne's heart and the three women piece together a simple plan of survival.  Marjory who has always lived a life of luxary begins to accept the responsiblity of caring for herself and others as she teaches herself to cook and keep house.  Anne continues to earn a meager living as a lace maker, and Elisabeth seeks work as a tailor's assistant and dressmaker.

While it might seem earning a living as a dressmaker is not a strong parallel to the gleaning work done by Ruth in the Bible, the story becomes very believable when the Boaz counterpart, Admiral Lord Buchanan, offers Elisabeth not only work, but respect and a chance at love.  Without the Ruth, Naomi, Boaz parallel, this story would have been a successful historical story laced with romance, but Higgs has made it a much deeper story.  We see the great power of forgiveness through Anne, the village minister, and the villagers.  We see, of course, the strength of Elisabeth (Ruth) and her love for her mother-in-law, but we also see the great transformation of Marjory (Naomi) as she puts asunder her society-dominated past and seeks an authentic life pleasing to God.  And most impressive is the wide reaching blessings that come from Lord Buchanan, a man who does not see his wealth as gain earned by his years in the King's navy. Instead he handles all he has as if he is dispensing God's gifts as God wants.

As in the first book, Higgs' purposeful research into Scotland's customs, foods, dress, and even their holidays make this first rate historical fiction.  As I read, I could feel the glooming (twilight) approach, the mist fall, and the call for a warm fire and a bowl of hot broth, with perhaps a bannock or two. 

Customs change, history changes (which one of us can readily explain the War of Roses?), yet important things do not.  God still provides the example of loyality, love, and forgivenss.  The Living God of Naomi is the God that Ruth came to love, and he is the same Living God that Marjory and Elisabeth embraced, and He is the same God that Liz Curtis Higgs and other Christian fiction authors hope readers will meet and know.

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