I’ll get to the A-Z Reflection post soon, but now I’d like to share a book I’ve recently read.
First, let me ask you this: What do you know about Mennonite life and tradition?
I didn’t know much, if anything, so this book — a 1940s-era novel about love, Mennonites, faith, & betrayal — was a great learning moment. I enjoyed it so much, I wrote one of the longest book reviews, which I will share with you below:
CONSIDER THE SUNFLOWERS, by Elma Schemenauer
Tina’s father wants her to follow Mennonite tradition. He also wants her to marry Roland, a rich man, but she’s in love with Frank, a half-Gypsy who doesn’t share her faith. The novel pulled me right in with an extremely visual opening scene. Tina, her father Obrom, and Roland are trapped in a snowstorm when their truck gets stuck in a ditch. This in 1940 Canada, and winters are brutal. Not far from there, however, is Frank’s farm — Frank, the half-Gypsy Tina is in love with — and after much effort the trio makes their way to the farm.
By alternating the chapters from Tina’s viewpoint to Frank’s, the author offers glimpses inside the love they share as well as the obstacles standing in their way. For example: what would Obrom do if Frank asked for Tina’s hand? Get very mad. Also, Tina wants to follow tradition Frank is not keen on following. Aware of this, he wants to break it all off, as he and Tina weren’t that good together. Too many rules, angry words, accusations.
The author does a masterful job describing time and place. When Tina moves to Vancouver to work as a secretary, we see through her perusal of the Vancouver Sun, that Hitler still threatens to invade Norway. Germany and Italy to form alliance against UK. America remains neutral but for how long?
Also, in Vancouver, Victor Graft, a carpenter, enters the story. While Tina corresponds with Victor and sees him, her heart remains with Frank, the half-Gypsy back home.
Eventually, Tina and Frank find their way back to each other when she returns to Dayspring. The author’s descriptions of place and character are beautiful, with lines like: Frank with eyes so brown. She could lose herself in those eyes, follow their promises to the ends of the earth.
Theirs is not an easy relationship, and that is what captivates. Frank is an interesting but complex character. Having lost his mother as a child, he carries a certain burden with him, a situation complicated by the fact that he’d rather associate with Scandinavian and British than Mennonites in Tina’s community.
When they do become a couple, the tension only intensifies. We see Tina struggle to accept life on Frank’s farm as she hopes that even though he doesn’t accept her faith he will change.
The author leaves us with a sense of hope, beautifully accentuated by artistic descriptions. Be sure to read the timeline at the very end. It summarizes the history of Mennonites who emigrated from Russia to North America as well as those who came from Switzerland and Germany.
I very much enjoyed reading this novel and highly recommend it.
Consider the Sunflowers can be ordered from Chapters Indigo http://tinyurl.com/nsylp5j or the publisher, Borealis Press http://tinyurl.com/lfdo9pf . E-book coming later. More information is at http://elmams.wix.com/sflwrs.