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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Swept Away by Mary-Margaret's Passion

A few months ago I posted about the type of book that moves me. The Passion of Mary-Margaret by Lisa Samson not only moved me, it completely swept me away. I don't even know where to start. I'm still speechless. This book was artistic, spiritual, poetic, and deep with resounding psychological elements. All the qualities I love. The looping saga covered from 1930 to the early 2000s in the life of a scarred young orphan girl who longed to be a nun, yet was willing to submit herself to God's plans, wherever they might take her. And oh the places they took her! To the dregs of humanity, to the far reaches of Africa, and to the hidden places of the heart. I have no doubt that this book will stay with me and forever change the way I view the world.

I don't even want to spend this post reviewing the book. Suffice to say out of five stars, I give it a ten. No, what I'd like to talk about today, is how this book affected my life. First of all, it served as a clear spiritual wake up call. As a young women, I had a very merciful heart, concerned with social justice, outreach, and missionary work. Orphans, homeless, AIDS patients, prisoners. I took very seriously Jesus's instruction that "what you've done for the least of these, you've done for me."

But years of mothering small children, supporting my husband's calling, and participating in local church  ministry have forced me to focus on more immediate concerns. I'm not going to feel guilty over this, because my theory is you can do it all, just not all at once. On the other hand, this book served as an exquisite reminder of this avenue of ministry, and I will be looking for ways to become more involved in the near future. I now find myself at a stage in life in which my children and I can minister side by side, and I look forward to doing so and guiding them in this manner.

Thank you, Mary-Margaret, for encouraging me in this way. Yes, I'm talking to a fictional character. Read the book, and I promise you'll think of her as a real person too. Besides, Mary-Margaret is by no means opposed to conversing with others of questionable reality.

The next thank you goes more appropriately to the author, Lisa Samson. This book helped me in my own quest to refine my calling and direction as a writer. Since the new year, I've been struggling with this question, "Can I write romance novels?" I've had some encouragement to try this route since it's a solid market and a good starting place for new authors. I didn't want to be prideful (surely Sister Mary-Margaret would not approve) and say that I'm somehow too good or too educated or too literary to write romance novels. I have great respect for romance novelists. So I gave the romance genre a fair try for a few months.

But reading this book on the heels of several romances, the difference really hit home. This is the sort of book that feeds my soul. The sort of book that challenges and provokes. That looks at both the most astounding beauty and the most disturbing ugliness in life. That makes you uncomfortable and forces you to a deeper understanding of God and self.  This is the sort of book I love to read, and this is the sort of book I long to write. Romance novels hold their own special niche and offer much enjoyment and encouragement, but God did not design me as a romance novelist. Romance readers like to know where the book is going. By the end of chapter one, they want to know who the hero is. They want their guarantee of a happily ever after. They read to escape and enjoy. Pretty much the opposite of me, I would say.

Romance novelists love the craft of writing. Give them a set of standards and conventions. A set of directions, rules even, and they can add their own flair and come up with something new and exciting. But I'm not a follow the rules kind of gal. Don't give me a table full of art supplies and then force me to follow a set of directions. I'll feel stifled. Sad even. Give me the supplies and just say, "make art." This is what Lisa Samson did in The Passion of Mary Margaret. She followed her own instincts and wrote a phenomenal work of art. I can only pray that someday I can write something close to this amazing. But one thing I know. I'm not a paint by the numbers kind of gal. I owe Lisa Samson much thanks for reminding me of that fact.

In addition, this book gave me ideas for improving my own current historical manuscript. Which, by the way did I mention, has a main character who longs to be a nun, but God has other plans. Little wonder this book was like food to my soul, leaving me inspired spiritually, emotionally, and artistically. I can only hope and dream that someday someone will say the same of my writing.


  1. I adored this book too. And it's one I felt compelled to lend to my Catholic friends, who also adored it. It's not often we have a novel we can discuss, but each and every time we've gotten together in the last year, this book has come up--usually brought up by her, as something reminds her of it.

    I too could on and one about awesome Mary-Margaret is, but I'll leave it at this: I plan to reread it. Given how little time I have to dedicate to "non-work" reading, that's really saying something!

  2. That's a great idea, Roseanna. I have some Catholic friends who would love this too.

  3. I, too, loved this book, Dina...Mary-Margaret's story is still lives in my heart.

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  4. We do share taste in books, don't we Karen.

  5. I'm not surprised at all. I've loved all the Lisa Samson books I've read and they stay with you long after you're done. Quaker Summer is a great wake up call. I'm sure 'Mary Margaret' is too-- your remarks prove it. Thanks for the recommendation, Dina!

    I think pursuing women's fiction is a great idea for you! Seems like a perfect fit.

  6. Deb, I want to check out all the Lisa Samson books now!

  7. Oh, and a little follow up for everyone. After writing this, I remembered that I did organize two outreaches to a facility for juvenille offenders last year. We did dances and dramas for them. The whole family went to one, and all but the youngest to the second (minors had to be performing in an actual piece, and he wasn't the second time). Anyway, I guess I forgot about it because we didn't get to mingle with the kids there very much. A few stayed after on their own for a few minutes and talked and prayed with us, though, which was very cool.