Saturday, October 3, 2015

British Friends, A British Author

British Friends, a British Author
We had visitors around this time last year. Our British friends, the Fox family (Frances and her husband Ian and younger daughter Hannah) were coming to the United States and could they spend a day with us? How exciting. Yes. We looked forward to it. They would join us at church, Sunday dinner at our house, and later tea.

Karen, Frances, Hannah  2014

I know Frances from our early days of home teaching. (We've been writing paper letters for 25 years.) She found me when L'Abri in England pointed her my way. In those days everything was done through the mail - for us: air-mail. Frances wrote asking about Parents' Review. She was one of my first subscribers in 1991. She was reading and learning about Miss Charlotte Mason when I was. Her two girls, Rachel and Hannah and my own, corresponded for a time. Our girls are now young women who keep in touch the modern way, through Facebook.

A happy meeting of  friendship-afar:  Hannah  - Yolanda 
When Frances read my description of the book, Linnea in Monet's Garden in Parents' Review, she didn't just buy the book. She decided to go to Monet's garden in Giverny, France while on holiday. France is a hop, skip and a jump from where the Foxes live southeast of London. Later, Frances wrote me about their visit to Giverny and I put her experience in the magazine under the title "The Foxes in Monet's Garden." Cute? Those who have Parents' Review will find it in Fall-1994 - with a picture of Linnea drawn by my daughter Sophia - whose reading the of book and imagination had to suffice.

Knowing that Frances would spend a Sunday with us, and that I would be teaching a Sunday School class for mothers that morning, I asked Frances if she would share in class. She wrote me one last paper letter before flying to the United States, that she would be happy to. (We correspond on paper -still.) I hoped the ladies would find, not only our discussion interesting, but certainly her accent as well. It was my plan to talk about the moral value of stories. When the day came I asked Frances some questions in class about the author Patricia St John - pronouncing this author's name Sinjun - like the American Injun, as Frances had corrected me politely in private. Anyway, my pen friend contributed beautifully and honestly. Thank you, Frances.

You see, I had not forgotten that in the 1990s  - responding to Frances' invitation - Patricia St. John came to speak at her church. Frances had thoughtfully placed the cassette recording in a letter to me then. Miss St. John (1919-1993) has since passed away but having read her autobiography and having listened to her voice and message, I feel a sort of warm acquaintance with her. I still have the recording. I found her message to be so inspiring when I first heard it that I turned it into an article for Parents' Review, Summer-1996.

Yolanda, one of our married daughters, still has a video player. Therefore, I've hung onto our video of Miss St John's story - Treasures of the Snow - set in Switzerland (where she lived for part of her girlhood).  It is probably the best known of her stories. Its characters demonstrate repentance, forgiveness, true friendship, and courage. (I do not see a DVD for sale on Amazon.)

Many appreciate how this author, with sensitivity, weaves a Christian theme into each uncomplicated plot. For this reason parents will choose one as a family read-aloud. My children read Treasures of the Snow, Tanglewood's Secret and others - silently in their leisure. I hadn't read any. Therefore, not too long ago I picked up Twice Freed.  I'm glad I did. It enlarged my Christian sympathies. (Something that needs enlivening periodically.)

A Dream Come True

Reading her autobiography in the 1990s - An Ordinary Woman's Extraordinary Story - I learned that Patricia Mary St. John served as a nurse and missionary in North Africa after World War II. Years later, a girlhood dream came true. In 1966 Miss St. John traveled with her sister in a Volkswagen to many of the places where St. Paul preached. As a young girl she had the notion of one day writing a story about Onesimus, the runaway slave. Philemon was a book of the Bible that had captured her developing imagination.

Many years later, after visiting the cities mentioned in the book of Acts, she wrote, Twice Freed. It merits a place in the history curriculum but could be read anytime.

Twice Freed is a conversion story, as inferred in its title. Although written by a Protestant, set in the time of the early church, it does not wave a Protestant or Catholic flag. It is one that can be appreciated by either. Our Christian roots are the same.

The review I've written is placed in the post script for those interested.

New Facebook Page 

Recently, I put up a Facebook Page for an author. I think the banner my son made for my author's page is spectacular. It is amazingly done with the use of on-line drawing tools. Nigel extended the oil painting of Miss Charlotte Mason, meticulously. The British robin perched on the fence post was drawn by my request. Nigel (my instructor in all-things-techie) tells me that clicking "Like" will notify my readers of new posts. 

Post Script
The photographs of summer's close, with the growing season looking a bit tired, were taken by the Man-of-the-House at Landis Valley.

For your convenience I am linking to Amazon, books mentioned in this article, where you can read further reviews. 

Linnea in Monet's Garden  (There is a dvd too - I remember borrowing this calm cartoon from the library).
Treasures of the Snow
An Ordinary Woman's Extraordinary Faith  My high school age daughter read this after I did.
Twice Freed

A Hypothetical Flashback
Something occurred to me while finishing this article. That is: Looking back over my children's growing years, I have a suspicion - and a very strong guess - that we wouldn't have had such bookish adventures or fabulous friendships had we taken a road other than the Gentle Art of Learning. That's why it is easy for me to forecast to my young or new Charlotte-Mason-minded readers, "You have a wonderful adventure ahead of you."

Have you read any of Patricia St. John's stories?

Twice Freed by Patricia St. John
Review by Karen Andreola

Onesimus has an unsettled heart. In the first chapters I looked at this fatherless teen as a mother would. And just as his mother did I thought, “Onesimus, why can’t you accept being a slave? It’s not so bad." But when Onesimus is unjustly accused of stealing something that was maliciously slipped into his pocket without his knowledge, and his master Philemon orders that he be given a beating for it, I pitied Onesimus. My maternal sympathy rose to meet his suffering soul and body.

Bitterness takes root and settles in the boy's hardening heart. When the opportunity presents itself, he gives into a moment of temptation. He commits an irreversible act of revenge. I turned the pages more slowly after that. I was disgusted with Onesimus. But a ray of light shines into the cracks of the story. It made me turn the pages again with hope and anticipation. While doing business with a merchant in Ephesus, Master Philemon goes to hear a man speak of a new religion (with Onesimus). That man is Paul - an apostle of Christ. Philemon gives his life to Christ. But the scraps of St. Paul's teaching that reach the ears of Onesimus, do not move him. He isn’t interested in peace, brotherly love and forgiveness of sin. They are ideas of weakness to this boy, approaching manhood, whose heart seethes with ambition and a desire for self-importance.

His mother, too, becomes a Christian. But all the boy can think of is breaking free. He runs away from Philemon (though a kinder master), his monotonous life, and the dull little streets of Colosse. He manages to make his way to the city of Rome. But no one can run away from God if his Holy Spirit is working in the heart and mind of one whose heart is broken by regret and harsh circumstances. 

The cover of the book shows Onesimus smiling at a pretty girl. Mistress Eirene is the daughter of a merchant who, in the beginning of the story travels to Philemon’s household to close a business deal. She has a kind and gentle spirit. She doesn’t talk down to Onesimus although he is a slave. Longing for her friendship, against all odds, he plans to somehow meet her again. This is a very small part of the story - although the cover seems to convey otherwise - and is handled honorably.

Not a plot where all characters meet with health, wealth and prosperity, both hardship and joy work together for the good of those who love the Lord. Isn't this the best kind of happy ending?

Twice Freed    For ages 12 to teen - to adult - unless you have a sensitive child (as I had.)

Nice to visit with you againHappy Reading,

Karen Andreola

My Parents' Review is described here.