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ZERMATT by Frank Schaeffer


by Frank Schaeffer

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-7867-1259-7

The last of a trilogy (Portofino, 1992; Saving Grandma, 1997), this set in 1966, about the mixed-up childhood of Calvin Becker, whose parents were missionaries working to save the Swiss.

At 14, Calvin Becker has more to get over than most preachers’ children: His father Ralph isn’t just a preacher, but a missionary—and in one of the most inhospitable corners of the entire globe: Switzerland. Reformed Presbyterians of the strictest hue, the Beckers consider Lutherans to be only slightly better than Catholics, and they’ve spent more than a decade in the Alpine wastes trying to save them both. It’s not the easiest place to save souls, and Ralph would frankly have preferred to preach to the Hottentots or Zulus, who have been known to convert en masse, but his wife Elsa is the daughter of the mission board director, and this may have been the reason behind their assignment to the tepid but temperate northern climes. As both the baby of the family and the only boy, Calvin is very much under the domination of his mother and two sisters, but he’s starting to chomp at the bit somewhat in an early-adolescent kind of way. Last summer on vacation, he let an English girl kiss him once, and this year he’s taking lessons from Eva, the hotel maid, who brings him breakfast in bed and performs un petit service at the same time. It’s a crisis in the making, of course, but just as Calvin’s corruption is about to be discovered, he’s saved by his father—who at precisely the right moment suffers a nervous breakdown and renounces his faith.This takes the pressure off Calvin, but it creates a dilemma for him as well: How can you rebel against a rebel? Calvin has to find a way of converting his father so that life can get back to normal. Sort of.

An amiably diverting account of domestic chaos, but nothing more.