Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 10, 2000
Hokey novella filled with questionable theology
The Promise: A Novella, by Maria I. Hodges. Nashville, Tennessee: Cumberland House Publishing, 1999. 109 pages.
Review by DEAN SARNECKI
Special to the WCR
I picked up the book because a) it was short, b) had big writing, and c) the jacket cover was creative and looked somewhat interesting. I learned a valuable lesson: It is what is on the inside, not the cover, that counts!
The premise was interesting. Take the age old story of the birth, life, and death of Christ and place it on the pen of an eyewitness.
This eyewitness, named Sara, writes this particular copy of the story in 1832. The story has been passed down from mother to daughter through successive generations and retold each Easter since the first Easter.
The context of the story is set in a town in the South in the present. A retired teacher, who never married and has no children, works in a mission using her skills as a teacher to help with the children and the single mothers.
Having no children of her own, she shares the story that has been passed on in her family for generations with the children at the mission.
One child in particular, nine-year-old Charlotte, catches her attention and is moved by the story one Easter. The teacher continues to mentor the younger child and reads the story of the "promise" of salvation as represented by the Gospel or Good News of the death and resurrection of Christ.
After a time, the mother and child stop coming to the mission and the teacher loses track of the young girl.
To say any more would give away the ending of the novella, which is entirely predictable and simplistic. The story of The Promise is written in simple language; appropriate for a junior high or high school aged student. It could easily be read by an adult in one evening.
I wish I could tell you why I disliked the book without giving away the story. Let us just say that the book is filled with questionable theology, a hokey literary device, and the story itself is told like a bad retelling of Scripture. While many would argue that getting people to read the Gospel story in a simplified form is good, it still has to be well told and true to the biblical heritage.
I cannot recommend this book. The author describes this as "a parable of the world's most wonderful true story" (jacket flap). Why read a parable when the real story is found in the Gospels by four very good writers!
(Dean Sarnecki is chaplain and religious studies teacher at Archbishop Jordan High School in Sherwood Park.)