Thursday, September 20, 2012

Surrender Bay: A Nantucket Love Story by Denise Hunter

Part way through reading Surrender Bay by Denise Hunter I flipped to the back of the novel and  read a series of comments by the author.  That side trip totally changed my perception of the novel.  On the surface, this is the romantic story of young single mom Sam who returns to the Nantucket house she has inherited following her estranged step-father's death.  The setting for both her happiest childhood memories and years of sadder, lonelier memories, Sam now sees the property as something to sell, then use the proceeds to guarantee her 11 year old daughter a better life.  What she does not count on is the presence of Landon, childhood friend and first love, who will not let her quietly retreat back to Boston.  Sounds like the typical romance, right?  Readers could read the whole story that way and be satisfied, at least somewhat.  Landon is admirable, Sam's daughter adds depth to the story, and a cast of neighbors round out the story.  However, I think many readers will be disappointed in Samantha who seems to be stuck in the past and in a narrow, destructive view of her present/future.

Had I not read the back of the book notes, I would have been stuck there, wondering why I was reading another of the countless romances I've read over the years. Having long ago captured the best prince charming for me, I really don't gravitate to simplistic romances, finding them, well, too simplistic.  But I did read the notes at the back and Denise Hunter's revelation that she had been asked to write Surrender Bay as an allegory about the love that Christ has for us, the love that never gives up, the love that looks beyond our past and sees our future with Him.  Having read that, I began to see Samantha in a different light.  She wasn't just a young woman with a wounded attitude; she was all of us, still bent on living life our way, still denying that we need God in our lives.  Samantha's daughter and the troubled past represent the burdens we all keep trying to push down in our memories.  Or maybe we're trying to fix them in our own ways.  Sam's sometimes rash and dangerous actions stand out as so wrong, but who doesn't have our own "dangerous" choices?  If reading this story as a pure romance, Landon would have been too perfect, but as I read more of the story, I thought less of him as an actual character.  Instead, I saw his actions as ones we seen in Christ's life and in his promises to us.  As he puts his own life in danger to save Sam and her daughter, the parallel is even stronger.

As an English teacher, I've read and taught allegories over the years.  Although they often make for strong lessons, even avenues for discussion, they have never been a favorite literary form.  Unlike Christ's parables which capture the profound essence of his word in simple stories, too many allegories seem contrived and rigid.  Surprisingly, I think Surrender Bay tells a powerful story of surrendering the past to the Lord who only wants our unconditional love. I received my copy of Surrender Bay from a blog-hop give-away.  My copy was published in 2007, but last week I saw new paperback editions at the bookstore.

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