Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin. Harriet Beecher Stowe. 1852. 438 pages. [Source: Bought]

Dear Uncle Tom's Cabin,

I'm so sorry it took me this long to read you. You see, I blame The King and I. My only frame of reference to you was through that movie--and, well, let's be honest, that part of The King and I is hard to sit through. I didn't know you were better than that, and for that I do owe you an apology.

So why did I read you now? The Classics Club. I included you on my list in the first place because you came recommended from one of my best, best, best friends. I trust her opinion. So on the list you went. But it took the 'classics club spin' to prompt me to read you NOW. And the truth is, I was hoping you were the one--the one to get picked. (And no, I'm not just saying that.)

You're a rare gem of a novel. You are premise-driven AND character-driven--and dare I say plot-driven? The premise is simple: slavery is wrong for a million and one different reasons and there is no possible good defense to keeping it around. Some of the characters within the book are pro-slavery; some of the characters are anti-slavery. A few are confused or on the fence. Within your pages, these ideas do BATTLE. If you were just an idea-driven novel, you'd still be worth reading.

But you're not just an idea-driven novel. You're more than that.

You are definitely, without a doubt, a character-driven novel. Your characters LIVE and BREATHE. Uncle Tom. George Harris. Eliza. Miss Ophelia. Eva. St. Clare. Cassy. Emmeline. To name just a few. You might think, well, this book has an agenda--all of her characters will sound the same, act the same, hammer in the point--stick to the agenda: slavery is evil; down with slavery. And many of her characters--not just the slaves--are anti-slavery. There is an intense longing for freedom, for liberty. There is also anger and sorrow. But each slave is presented as an individual, as unique as can be. I really loved hearing each voice, learning each story. Every voice matters.

If I had to pick just one favorite character--and I don't want to, mind you--I would pick Uncle Tom. I loved Tom's faith. I loved Tom's reliance on God's daily-given-grace to endure. I loved Tom's hope. Hope that the Lord does indeed hear his prayers, see his miseries, care about him. Hope that the victory is the Lord's, that justice will be done. Hope that the Lord will see him through, that he'll be an overcomer, that heaven is HIS. I loved Tom's heart. He loved. He was compassionate. He was an encourager. He also forgave. He lived the gospel--day in, day out. He didn't just live it by example; he also spoke it. He was a seed-planter. Even when his words fell on "deaf ears," so to speak, he continued to hold true to the gospel. He didn't see sharing the good news of Jesus Christ as a waste of breath. He wanted to see others around him KNOW Jesus as he knew Jesus. Whether they were white or black, free or slave. He prayed for the salvation of Augustine, of Simon Legree, of Sambo and Quimbo, of Cassy. He knew that God can save anyone, no one was beyond God's ability to save. And because he believed so strongly in heaven and hell, he CARED. He didn't want to see anyone in hell. Tom is in many ways, a saint, just like Eva. Faith didn't come easy to Tom. It wasn't like he was all: bring on the suffering, bring on the pain, do your worst and I'll smile and grin through it all. He prayed for deliverance. He prayed for the suffering to go away. He prayed for better circumstances. He longed for freedom. Being a Christian didn't stop him from wanting, from needing. But he was content that the Lord was his lot, his portion, his reward. Near the end he proclaims, "The Lord’s bought me, and is going to take me home,—and I long to go."

As a Christian, it matters to me to see faith represented in fiction. And you do that so well. I wish there were more contemporary examples like you. Books with characters living, breathing the faith day in and day out--no matter how hard, no matter their doubts, no matter their weaknesses. Books that uphold that the Bible is the BOOK OF BOOKS. But. I'm getting distracted.

Plot-driven. Yes, you're plot-driven too. There are scenes with such intensity, such drama, such danger and peril that I was worried and on the edge of my seat. Sometimes your action wasn't so much physical as emotional. What a roller coaster of a book. My poor heart.

To sum it up, I LOVE YOU. And thank you for being you. I will do my best to encourage others to pick you up and read you. Oh. I also plan to come back and read you again.

Love, Becky

P.S. I've also reviewed you at Operation Actually Read Bible. I've included LOADS of quotes.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Paula Vince said...

I've been too nervous to read it for far too long, but have always wanted to, since it's been such a world-changing book, written by a humble, homeschooling mother to boot :) But something always put me off. I considered reading it as 2018's book that scares me, and your review makes me want to do it. Sounds like just the sort of faith-filled read we all love :)

Michelle Ann said...

Like you, I thought I 'knew it', Becky, but you have made it sound well worth reading. Another one for the tbr list!