4 days ago
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Literary Tourism - Virginia
Most of my experience in Virginia has been in the Washington D.C. area. It's quite a lovely state. Most of my literary experience in Virginia has been with a series of novels about a high school that trains female spies. While those books are fun, they didn't really meet my goals for the project. But thanks to my book group, I have visited Virginia through prose.
The Cross Gardener by Jason F. Wright
John is born on the side of Route 11 in the Shenandoah Valley when his mother gets into a fatal car accident. John is shuffled through a few different foster families, but finally finds home on an apple orchard with a good father who has adopted two other sons. John's life is constantly impacted by death. His oldest brother drowns while on a school trip. His father dies of lung cancer. But worst of all his wife and soon-to-be born son die in a car accident traveling home from the county fair. John and his daughter, Lou Lou, are left to cope. In John's struggle to grieve, he meets a man who calls himself the Cross Gardener. He maintains roadside crosses and asks John to help him. Along the journey John learns to have faith despite his sadness.
The sense of place in this book is excellent. When doing research for another book the author loved the Shenandoah Valley so much that he moved there. The descriptions are accurate and detailed. (I looked it up.) John's love for his home mirrors the author's passion for it.
I liked the book. You may have guessed by the title that it is Christian literature. It's refreshing to find literature that extols virtue as a virtue. The language was clean. The characters were all people doing their best to live a good life - religious or not.
I have a few criticisms. First, and this is mostly for Christian literature in general, it was melodramatic. It was trying too hard to make me feel things. I felt like I was being manipulated. Second, the characters were pretty hollow. Third, at times I felt like I was reading the summary of a story while at other times the author gave me every minute detail that I didn't need. Fourth, the symbolism was overt. I prefer a little subtlety.
But overall it was a good book. I felt uplifted and surprised at the end, and I liked the peaceful tone of the Cross Gardener.