I am an avid fiction reader and easily become lost in the world and life of the characters in the books I read. I picked up The Blackberry Bush at a local Christian bookstore. After several chapters, I was left waiting for the book to get started. I read through to the end, and was never gripped by the story or brought into the lives of its characters. I was hoping for a story of redemption in the end, but the theology was so vague I couldn't even cheer for the characters when the seemingly found God. Phrases like, "I'm convinced that our "goodness" (my church friends call it "holiness") comes not from effort but by yielding to this infinite love and goodness that God keeps piling up for us." There is never repentance for sins, and the fallen nature of men is ignored and replaced by the thought that we are good when we tap into the spirit within us. As a mature Christian, I can see this as false, but I would be wary about recommending this book to a young person or someone new to the faith.
It didn't take long to read this book, but it won't leave me for a long time. After I finished it, including reading the questions and author comments, I wanted to immediately reread it. However that can wait until I've shared it with friends. I'm looking forward to more from David Housholder.
The Blackberry Bush had a unique literary style in the way the author crafted the story. The author's approach to storytelling was also unique and engaging. At first I found the story a bit challenging to follow due to the many points of view, but then I started to see a flow that made sense. The use of a narrator was a bit odd when the author could have merely used the omniscient point of view, however, when I saw Angelo as an angelic being in the story then it fit better. It kind of gave a heavenly perspective to the set up of the novel.
I always enjoy reading WWII era fiction and reading about all of the things pertaining to the war in Europe and the aftermath that followed. I clearly remember the time when the Berlin Wall came down because I was in college and it was highly publicized. It was a pretty exciting time in world history. In my mind I can still hear President Reagan's speech when he challenged the communist regime and said, "Mr. Gorbechov, tear down that wall."
Overall, I enjoyed this story. Again, the style was different then I am used to, but the content of the story itself was interesting. It was almost like reading a diary, only in this case it was multiple diaries all blended together. The author's intent seemed to be showing how things are all connected in the spiritual realm even though we don't always understand what is happening in the here and now. I found that to be the greatest strength of this book. On the flip side, there were some loose ends at the conclusion of the story that I would have liked to see tied up, but that was probably not the author's intent. Regardless, I still enjoyed the book.
Two babies were born on Nov. 9, 1989, Kati in Bonn and Josh in California. The Berlin Wall was crumbling. Fourteen years later the two are on flights at the same time, flying in opposite directions, switching continents.
Kati is not beautiful like her favored older sister. She doesn't have perfect hair. She's skinny and looks like an awkward boy.
Josh doesn't fit into his family. He cannot live up to his father's expectations. "...[I]t's impossible to please the judges in life. Eventually everyone eliminates you. How can I check out of this game and still stay involved in life?" (139)
Though they have common roots, their lives do not cross paths until they are both twenty one. Then everything changes. Kati knows, "...for the first time in my life, my world has shifted into balance...as if I've been walking tilted, and now I'm standing straight." (152) And Josh realizes, "Only by abandoning all attempts to meet others' expectations can you truly hear the voice of the Spirit and be freed to pursue what God would have you uniquely do." (167)
This is a haunting book, portraying the physical world as it overlaps the dream world and the world of visions and truth. In some ways the story seems so simple. In other ways it is so deep I wonder how many times I'd need to read it to mine its depths.
Interwoven through the narrative is the "backstory", the lives gone before that make us who we are today.
Another main theme is the blackberry bushes seen in each of their hometowns, at her school and at his surfing beach. Housholder says the bushes take over, just like darker parts of human behavior. They represent the thorny thicket that entangles us when face impossible demands.
My favorite theme is balance. Josh's had a favorite painting given to him by his Oma - Vermeer's Vrouw met Weegschaal (Woman with Balance). He feels balanced when he is smooth on his skateboard. Kati feels balanced when she is working with her Opa's tools. A nation lost its balance on 9/11/2011.
A Christian theme runs throughout the story as imperfect characters come to grips with their spiritual heritage and express their own faith.
Another issue Housholder addresses is the teen cultures of today. Josh is part of the sports culture, outdoor oriented, and more conservative. Kati is part of the "scene" culture, with tattoos and studs.
The discussion questions (provided on two levels) help readers pursue important topics posed in this literary work. A couple include: Does everything happen by chance or your life have a bigger plan? How has the tapestry of our past influenced who we are and will become?
It is hard to explain this novel. It is beautifully written. It lingers in the mind. It makes you want to think about your dreams and your parents dreams. It stimulates your faith that God has a plan. He has been working in your life and will yet work more. You just need to read it.
I received a copy of this book from The B&B Media Group on behalf of the publisher for the purpose of this review.
This is a book that everyone needs to read. There are so many things that are quote worthy that my copy has pencil markings all in it and page references marked in the back.
As if the story was not compelling enough the author has been gracious enough to include a section of questions. If you are looking for an excellent book for a book club this is it! You will not be disappointed in the storyline nor will your group have a shortage of discussion regarding the topic.
This is a coming of age story of sorts for two very different people separated by a continent. They are connected by the faith of their grandparents and a story that connects them in ways they never would have guessed. An old story of love, treachery, betrayal of all sorts and the prevailing evidence of God's grace and forgiveness. This story comes together in the third generation and with it comes the finality of God's infinite love and power of restoration.
Join the journey that spans three generations. Be pulled into the story and discover the truth that resonates within the pages. Open your eyes to the back light of your own story - - Allow God to reveal to you the same power in your own life.
The book opens with this quote on page 16, "Walls are real, yet they always come down. Creation and Nature never favor walls. They start to crumble even before the mortar dries."
It ends with the following quotes: "But faith and blessings will always find a way to be fruitful and multiply./Faith like water, will always find its way back to its Source. Carry it, and it will carry you. Receive it from others, and pass it on to them." So profoundly simple: The spiritual foundations we build now will impact other generations, even if for a moment they seem lost.
Finally on page 171 and 172: "It takes a crown of thorns and truly good heart to destroy the wounding of the thorns of life./Curses are meant to be broken./Evil and brokenness are never even any good at being evil and broken. the Pharaoh always ends up at the bottom of the Red Sea. The evil dictator must die by suicide. Good is simply good at being good. And prevailing."