The Power of a Good Romance

 A good story well-told is a powerful thing. Story can bypass the regular channels of intellect and observation, cutting to the chase of emotional and spiritual connection; it can provide beauty, relief, even epiphany. Because story, like all good art, can touch the soul as well as engage the mind. Story can speak of things eternal – like hope and joy and love. And the best story-telling can do all of that in and through the nitty-gritty of real life, never ignoring or denying the pain, suffering, failure and struggle that mark our days on planet earth. 

I began to understand these truths most deeply while our son-in-law was in the midst of an extremely difficult journey that led to his death three years ago. Watching him suffer, and watching our daughter and their three sons share in that pain, there were days when I simply could not imagine how life could ever again be good and rich. And on those days, I turned to story to help me – to remember that suffering is not all there is, that death does not have the final answer, that the power of Love is stronger than anything else in this life.

And the story-telling that spoke most clearly into that time of darkness was romance. Good romance, not dimestore fantasy. I read and/or watched everything that Jane Austen ever wrote and the BBC ever produced from that writing. I lost myself for a few minutes or a few hours; I let the harsher realities of life  sit in the background for a little while. And I allowed myself to enter into those stories of trial and error, of personalities rubbing against each other in misunderstanding and false expectation. And most especially, I celebrated the resolution that always came at the end, when clarity and sanity were recovered and Mr. Darcy or Edward Ferrar or Mr. Knightley spoke their hearts and found reward as Elizabeth Bennett and Elinor Dashwood and Emma Woodhouse happily said, ‘Yes.’

Now I add Michael Kent to the list. And Sarah Hughes. “The Dancing Priest,” by Glynn Young, is a romance for today, a tale very well-told indeed, and a beautifully wrought reminder that, “God is not dead nor doth he sleep.” I suppose this story is to be categorized as ‘Christian fiction.’ But for me, this book far out-classes most of what I’ve read in that genre. (Admittedly, my sample is small.) It does have specific references to conversion (for this is a love story on multiple levels) and uses some of the lingo of the evangelical world here and there. But basically, this is a rousing good romance, period. A great read for just about anyone, Christian or not. A great story that is told through characters who are complex and interesting, and settings that vary widely. The lead players are each loaded with back-story and fascinating friends and family, all of whom add depth without distraction.

I had the wonderful experience of reading this story aloud as my husband and I took long car trips over the last few weeks. We were both hooked immediately and looked forward to turning on the Kindle whenever we set the cruise control. If I had to guess, I’d say that at least a dozen times, I had to stop reading for a moment to control tears. The story is that gripping, that real.

And here’s my armchair analysis of why that happened: this story, this romance, is a brilliant reflection of the Great Love Story that centers our universe, our life. For that’s what the Christian faith surely is – the greatest love story ever told. And those of us who follow after Jesus find ourselves – even in the middle of our messiness or our pain –  we find ourselves caught in the grip of a rousing good romance: the God of the Universe, the One who took the downward journey to Bethlehem, who walks with us through the good and the bad, the beautiful and the messed-up – that God of very God waits for each of us to say, ‘Yes.’

“The Dancing Priest,” captures the imagination and the heart; it tells a beautiful, complex story that is just plain fun to read. At the same time, this very particular story mirrors for us The  Story that claims and centers us as human persons. We who are created in the image of God, who are called into relationship, who are wooed and won, restored and rescued by the lover of our souls. Read it – I promise you, this romance will grab you and not let go. 
 
Picture legend:
Top: The California coastline, just north of Julia Pfeiffer State Park on Highway One, surely one of the most romantic views in the entire world.

Middle: The chapel at the New Camaldoli Hermitage, two miles above highway one near Lucia, CA.

Bottom: the reflection of the ‘trinitarian chandelier’ in the same chapel, shining up from the stone floor.
 

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Comments

  1. Oh Diana – I share you love of story and often do exactly what you have done – just lose myself in the story. Jane Austen (and those lovely videos) were my gentle escape too.
    I just finished reading Glynn’s book. I could never have said it as well, but I felt the same way. It is a beautiful story.
    I love the analogy you’ve drawn. Life can get very difficult, but He comes riding to our rescue and all is well.

  2. Diana – you review brought me to tears. I think of it as a story I had to tell — and that it touched your heart like this is wonderful. Thank you.

  3. Well. Then we’re on the road to being ‘even,’ because your words brought deep tears at several places, Glynn. Thank you so much for them. I am so glad you had to tell this story. Now, please keep on telling it. I’m dying to know if Sarah and David reconcile with their parents. (And I don’t know nearly enough about their mom…) And the wedding – a few details might be nice. And what happens to Jimmy? You see what’s happening here, don’t you? You’ve created a franchise! Go, Glynn!!

  4. Sweet Linda – yes, life is often difficult, thorny, painful and filled with heartache. But then there is also joy and satisfaction and wonder and beauty – and how else can we explain any of that without some understanding of a loving Creator who seeks us out? That’s why Glynn’s story is a good one. Because it walks us through the tough stuff and shows us the beauty beyond. Thanks for coming by. I always appreciate your kind words.

  5. A great review of a great book. The book was a companion on a family vacation over Christmas. At times I felt guilty, stealing away to a deck chair so I could spend time with Michael and Sarah — instead of my own family! 🙂 … I couldn’t help it. The book just pulled me in, and as you say, never let go.

  6. Your digest of the Dancing Priest has me wanting this book. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on a good romance story well told.

  7. Diana, I just love how you integrated your review into your life story. If I hadn’t already read Glynn’s book, I’d be rushing out and buying it. Now I’m thinking of reading it aloud to my husband when we take a trip together the end of the month.

    take care, sweet friend!

  8. Great recommendation. Thanks…I bought it.

  9. I love the way that you described story. I love the way that you approached this review. Very special. I look forward to reading this book.
    Amen.

  10. Wait. Did you just compare Glynn Young to Jane Austen? I finally downloaded my copy and am anxious to begin. Sounds like I’m looking forward to a good cry!

  11. It is such a great story, isn’t it? You tell of the power so well, my friend. You’re pretty good with spinning the words too, you know? Your words awaken the deep. My heart aches fresh for the loss you and your family have suffered. Love to you, lady. May your new year be filled with stories.

  12. Diana – Thank you for this post – I so agree about the power of a good romance…

    it is a mirror of God’s love…

    Blessings

    Anne

  13. thanks to each and all for your kind words on this review. and if it helped some of you decide to buy this book – GREAT.

    I had been wanting to write about the healing powers of romance for a long time – and Glynn’s book fit. So thanks for that, too, Glynn.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Hi diana,

    Am a huge Austen Fan so feel like i already know you.. always feel that heaven is going to be a place where i get to meet people like Ms Austen and Mr C S Lewis, Ms Alcott and all those amazing incredible authors who with their words have somehow made Gods love all the more real and tangible in a way that art only can… thank u

  15. I’m back from my Christmas trip and was happy to find your post on this. Years ago I was turned off by badly written Christian fiction, notably romances. It’s taken a few good authors to tempt me back. So I’m delighted to get your review and recommendation of this book. It sounds like one a thinking Christian reader could appreciate!

  16. I absolutely LOVE good stories and, if your review is anything to go by, this looks wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Sarahx

  17. Oh boy, do I want to curl up in front of a fireplace a read a great story. And you, my dear, are a wonderful teller yourself. Thanks for this great post.

    Fondly,
    Glenda

  18. Diana,
    Thank you. You’ve added fuel to the fire that is burning under me to download this book. I will! It’s next up!

  19. I can’t wait for Dancing Priest to arrive — I ordered it from Amazon a couple of days ago.

    I know what you mean about the power of story and its ability to transport you into the realm of hope and joy again. I’ve been reading a lot of fiction during this difficult time — I just finished Cutting for Stone, which took me breath away.

    BTW, my favorite Rohr book so far, by far, is that one about the second half of life. Wow. I just loved it.

    I hope you are well, Diana. I know you’ve been busy getting your mom settled into her new place. Praying for an easy transition for you all.