Book Review: Almost Home

25 November 2010

Being that today is Thanksgiving, I thought my readers deserved a... Thanksgiving-related book review. :)

Almost Home: A Story Based on the Life of the Mayflower's Mary Chilton
By Wendy Lawton

Mary Chilton was but thirteen years old when she traveled with her parents on the Mayflower to the New World, leaving behind two sisters and many friends in Leiden, Holland. Mary befriends Constance Hopkins, and together with Elizabeth Tilley (a friend of Mary's  who also came from Leiden), they become an almost inseperable trio. But stormy clouds are on the horizon. Even after landing in the New World, Mary's world is still unsteady when both her parents die of the sickness that killed nearly half of the Pilgrims that first winter. Through all of this hardship, Mary's faith in God is amazing, and she knows that He will bring her to a place that she can someday call "home."

Oh, this is such a good book! Like I said in my plot summary, Mary Chilton's faith in God is amazing--she almost never wavers. It's truly an encouraging book to read, for if she can have faith in seemingly the hardest of conditions, how can we not have faith?

I pull this book out about a week before Thanksgiving every year and read through it again--that's how much I love the story. From the first day I picked it up, I refused to put it down. It's a great example of historical fiction (which is probably my favorite type of book) because many of the characters, like Mary Chilton, Elizabeth Tilley, and Constance Hopkins were ACTUAL passengers on the Mayflower. This was an element that I really enjoyed, because years ago I read the Dear America book about the Pilgrims (A Journey to the New World: The Diary of Remember Patience Whipple), and was sadly disappointed to learn that "Mem" (Remember) did not really exist. When I started reading Almost Home, I had already heard of and read about the Hopkins family, and so it was a delightful surprise to learn that they played a role in this book as well. (Ironicly, my mother was pregnant on Thanksgiving Day two years in a row, and so she always played "Mrs. Hopkins". :)

When reading this book, I often have this feeling of the amazing strength of the Pilgrims. They traveled out into the middle of nowhere, pushing through many trials, because of their faith. Any weaker Christian could think, "Oh, I'll just listen to the king of England. I'd rather do that than experience such hardship." But the Pilgrims didn't! And where would we be if they had not traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World? Would we still be in England, or would we be one of the immigrants who traveled to America a couple hundred years later? It really makes me think. By listening or not listening to God, not only are we affecting the outcome of our own lives, but the outcome of many other lives in future generations.

Sadly, many children in public school are taught nowadays that the first Thanksgiving was no more than the Pilgrims inviting their Indian friends over for dinner to thank them for helping them when they were starving. But it is SO much more! The first Thanksgiving was a thanksgiving to the LORD, in which the Pilgrims thanked Him for seeing them through in this new land and for never leaving them or forsaking them. It was a thanksgiving to the LORD for sending the Indians to help them. See the difference?

I'd like to challenge all of you, between cooking and having fun with family, to sit down sometime today and say a prayer of thanksgiving for all that God has done for our country. 


"I don't know where I belong, but someday--if it please the Lord--let me have a house to scrub. Someday, let me have a plot of land for planting. And someday let me unpack our linens and smooth out the wrinkles and lay them in a press. Someday... As Elder Brewster continued to talk with her father, she silently prayed one last request--And please, give me room in that someday garden to tuck in a flower or two. Flowers meant you planned to stay."

Yes... I'm back

22 November 2010

In this post, I don't intend to have any skipping around or "beating around the bush" so to speak. That's why I'm going to say my "big news" right here, right now:
I quit NaNoWriMo.
Yep, I said it. And now I shall explain.

At the beginning of the month of November, NaNoWriMo was fun. It was enjoyable, it kept me writing every day, and my book had never been better... until I realized something: by forcing myself to write almost 2,000 words every day, my writing was getting worse and worse. It didn't flow, it sounded terrible, and I threw in some chapters that were no more than space-fillers--they didn't connect at all the the central point.

Now, this may be my problem because I started out Nano having already written a little over 20,000 words for my book, Peril on the Sea (now much more fittingly titled Violets Are Blue). Don't worry--I didn't cheat--but to complete Nano (and win) I would have to make my book about 70,000 words long. And for me, that was hard. I should have been getting close to the end of the book (my personal word count goal is anywhere between 40k and 50k), and yet I had so much more to write to complete NaNo's goal. And that's where the space-filler chapters came in. And when my little sister, who has been reading this book a chapter a day (and eagerly begging me to write more so that she can read more) told me that she didn't like all those space-filler chapters, I finally realized what a waste it was to spend hours on end, sitting on my laptop and writing NOTHING. Stories come in all shapes and sizes; I was attempting to stretch Violets Are Blue beyond its capacity.

Another point: every morning (my favorite writing time is between 5:30 and 7:30 A.M.) when I would tell my dad my word count, he would ask me, "Well, are they ____ good words?" And I would be at a loss what to say. But my dad had a point. The one thing that always bothered me about Nano was their mindset that it doesn't matter what you write, it just matters how much you write. I'm sorry Nano, but I don't agree with you. If I'm going to spend my time writing, I'd like my writing to be the best it could possibly be. And I would so much rather write 200 good words than 2,000 so-so words.

So I quit. But, in a way, I didn't quit. My word count is 37,000 words, and I intend to finish this book before November ends. I feel no pressure to write, and because of that, my writing has never been better.
Because I took the time to step outside of Nano, take a deep breath, and start writing once more, my book was saved from going completely downhill.
And that's my story. Feel free to disagree with me--I understand that many of you love Nano, and will probably be gaping in shock when you read this post. And please understand that I do not hate Nano. Rather, I don't think that my circumstances with my book (i.e. having already written 20,000 words) really made Nano a good choice for me. 

Have a lovely Thanksgiving, ladies! (And speaking of Thanksgiving, keep your eyes open for a book review on Thanksgiving Day... :)
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