Encountering God


A surprisingly winning long-distance love story.

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The story of a Christian relationship, revealed in a series of letters.

Johnson’s account of his parents’ courtship and marriage opens by characterizing it as “a look into the life of two western farming communities in the late 1930s as seen through the eyes of two evangelical Swedish-Lutherans,” which might strike many readers as unpromising material for a gripping story. But through judicious quotations from his parents’ letters, couched in his own contextualization and observations, Johnson manages to create a quietly captivating picture of two deeply religious people gradually learning about each other. Walter was a farmer in Colorado, and Margaret was choral director and English teacher in North Dakota, and the initial spark of chemistry between them when they met at a church outing prompted the correspondence. Letter writing didn’t come easily to Walter, who confessed up front, “I do not know how to start one, I have trouble finishing them and I do not know what to put in between.” Margaret comes across as a more forceful character from the start, and their letters are full of topical references (as when Walter talks about freedom: “Our nation fought the revolutionary war to gain religious and political freedom. We fought to free the slaves from their bondage. Theodore Roosevelt fought to free us from the bondage of great trusts being organized at that time”) as well as abundant quotations from Scripture. The biblical quotations never feel forced or browbeating; rather, they convey a remarkably delicate impression of two strong-willed and very different personalities, growing steadily in affection for each other. Johnson smoothly fleshes out this epistolary skeleton with his own theological observations. These interjections (such as, “Helplessness and hopelessness naturally follow when we focus on the failures of others and concentrate on causes that we can do nothing about”) could easily have felt like interruptions, but Johnson makes them work, and the result is a moving glimpse into a very different time and place.

A surprisingly winning long-distance love story.

Pub Date: June 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-941733-33-2

Page Count: 186

Publisher: Living Parables, Incorporated

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2015



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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