The Tall Stranger by D.E. Stevenson

The Tall Stranger
My family discovered Dorothy Emily Stevenson about a year ago and quickly became devoted fans! Throughout her 40 plus books, she delves into human nature, relationships and society in general—and always with a gentle, knowledgeable hand. Her knowledge comes from life experiences, and (like Jane Austen before her) it is quite apparent that she was an excellent observer.

This book, not one of her masterpieces, highlights Stevenson’s lighter side. It is a love story (or stories), with the central character being a young woman named Barbie. Not unlike many young women today, Barbie has been forced by life’s circumstances to take up a job to support herself. “Mr. Right” has simply not come along, so she shares a flat with her best friend Nell. You will laugh and cry as Barbie falls to the beguiling of her childhood friend, and cousin, Edward—only to learn some rather unsettling facts about his true nature. Recovering from the heartbreak, she visits an enchanting castle in Scotland on a business trip (she works for a decorating firm), where a classic Stevenson twist unfolds. At this magical place, it seems like anything can happen, and Barb finds herself involved in situations that she never imagined. She also finds what could be true love, but she does not want her heart broken again. The author skillfully brings everything together in the happy ending this “real-life fairy tale” deserves.

The Tall Stranger is a delightful read for women and men both, with relevance to the sixteen and up audience. Barbie’s journey is one many of us can relate to in one way or another. This story has particular relevance for today’s young singles (though it is not a stereotypical “singles” book at all). If you want a “quick read” with a little bite to it (and are a little tired of the junk in today’s fiction) check your library for The Tall Stranger.

Here are a few links to information on D. E. Stevenson:

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    The Last Disciple by Sigmund Brouwer and Hank Hanegraaff

    The Last Disciple
    I’ve been struggling with what to say about this book since I wrote about it once before. I think that I figured out what I want to say though. 🙂

    If you aren’t familiar with the series , this book was written as a counterpoint to LaHaye and Jenkin’s Left Behind. Brouwer and Hanegraaff argue a preterist eschatology. According to The Last Disciple, the book of Revelation was written prior to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 and the tribulation took place in the first century.

    The well-written and well-developed plot revolves around Vitas, a Roman noble who has the ear of Nero and the trust of the Senate. He can only maintain this delicate balance because he is completely trustworthy. Oh yeah, and he is falling in love with a Jewish Christian. The three sides pull against him and create intriguing conflicts.

    There are quite a few characters developed throughout the book. And, like many good novels, this book has many threads that intertwine to form a enticing tapestry. From Maglorius the Iceni gladiator to Chayim the rowdy son of an important Jewish priest, these characters are continuously contrasting with each other and creating engrossing conflicts.

    There are two reasons that people might object to this book. First, many will (and have) complained about the level and description of violence found in this series. With all due respect, I appreciated the violence, but not because I enjoyed the violence. Au contraire, the violence was repulsive, but it helped me appreciate the martyrdom of the early Christians. In some ways, this book was similar to reading Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. It brought to life the persecution that other Believers suffer for the cause of Christ. It made me question my own resolve to obey the Lord.

    Second, some will object to the theology taught in the book. It is my belief that everyone should read dissenting opinions, particularly when those who dissent are Christian brethren. No one Believer will get it all right. Since that is so, one should never categorically deny any dissenting position unless that position contradicts the clear and explicit teaching of Scripture. One’s eschatology does not affect one’s salvation. One’s belief in the deity of Christ does. Therefore, I give no quarter on the deity of Christ, but I will not fight over my eschatology. One is critical to salvation, the other is of a much lesser importance.

    You should read this book. I found it enlightening from a theological standpoint and from a spiritual perspective. This is worth your time.

    Silent Witness by Mark Fuhrman

    Silent Witness
    Silent Witness – The Untold Story of Terri Schiavo’s Death by Mark Fuhrman (former detective with the LAPD) is a timely book about both Terri Schiavo and a current ethical issue. It is well-written and despite the medical and legal information, it is remarkably easy to read. The story of this young woman’s life and death is compelling.

    The book discusses the legal and ethical issues surrounding Terri Schiavo’s much publicized life and more publicized death. Despite his claim that he is “not a religious man,” the author raises some very pertinent questions about the ethics of the “right to die” issue. This is a hot topic on talk radio these days, making this book very timely.

    Attempts are made to answer questions such as the condition of the Schiavo’s marriage, what actually happened that day Terri collapsed on the floor, and Michael’s actions immediately following and the days after the collapse. The author answers many questions surrounding the life and death of Terri Schiavo, but also raises questions that bear answering about this case. This book was written before the official autopsy was released, which makes it suspect in the minds of some. The book, though well-documented, does engage in some speculation with the author explaining what he thinks may have happened at certain points in the narrative.

    The author makes use of medical records, depositions, police records, and interviews with those associated with Mrs. Schiavo (family, friends, and care givers) to present a compelling case. Some readers may not appreciate that the presentation of the evidence does not come to a strong conclusion but rather a “speculative hypotheses.” But one can not walk away from this book without seeing the very human side of Terri Schiavo and the very sad circumstances surrounding her death.

    Silent Witness is a timely book about both Terri Schiavo and a current ethical issue. This book brings to the forefront the whole issue surrounding it and should cause anyone who reads it to consider the One Who holds the key to life and death.

    Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

    Ayaan Ali
    In 1984, I was toddling through life in South Carolina learning about Noah’s Ark in children’s church and playing blissfully through my childhood. I was in a home where my educated mother had given up her career to stay at home so that I wouldn’t drown in the under-achieving public school system.

    At the same time, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali born woman, was living in Kenya attending a Muslim girls’ school and reading Wuthering Heights and Cry, the Beloved Country, her first exposure to a new world. “Books . . . [that] carried with them ideas–races were equal, women were equal to men–and concepts of freedom, struggle, and adventure that were new” (p. 69).

    While reading her book Infidel , I frequently found myself identifying with the author, but only with the dates. The content of this book and the story of her life were frequently overwhelming to me and yet this woman chose to bear her soul to communicate her story to her readers and as a warning to the Western world.

    She acts as a small siren against what she describes as an inevitable clash of ideals. Ali brings the reader to this conclusion through a slow, but interesting examination of her own life and entrance into politics.

    Ali was born in Somalia, but lived in several other African countries including Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. Her childhood was a consistent cycle of moving to survive the rise of another dictator or famine or war. While some readers may want to skip the intricacies of Somalian politics, most will find her family’s voyage through Africa and Islam fascinating.

    Early in her childhood her home was dominated primarily by an animistic-tribal influenced Islam, but under the instruction of her father, she began a purer form which called for memorizing the Koran and going to Muslim schools.

    She was soon introduced to the stricter sect of Islam, The Muslim Brotherhood. They argue that women should be fully covered in a hijab. Ali participated in this form of covering at times in her adolescent. The Muslim women that participated in this form of submission would often try to assert their independence by wearing perfume or high heels under their head-to-toe coverings. The Muslim Brotherhood also argued that the Koran should be learned in Arabic by rout memorization, often by non-Arabic speakers who were ignorant of its teachings.

    The Muslim clerics would often preach fiery sermons of separation, warning of wickedness, and despair to segregated audiences. Women satt behind a curtain where they could barely see the preacher.

    Saudi men would lock the women into their homes when going off to work because they should not be seen in public without a male escort.

    After reaching maturity, Ali was married to a distant cousin from Canada. Her father was her representative at her wedding; according to Islamic law, she was not needed for the marriage to be solidified. Sometime later Ali left her family in Kenya to live with her new husband who was already living in Canada. While in Germany she left the protection of her distant relatives and managed to escape to the Netherlands.

    The rest of the book describes her desire to find asylum, but even more to find a place of freedom–freedom of thought and action. Pursuing a university degree, negotiating the freedom and responsibilities thrust upon her, and searching out the basis of her own personal faith are Ali’s subjects for the rest of the book.

    While in the Netherlands she collaborated with Theo Van Gogh to create short films about Islamic women. Theo was later murdered by a man protesting his “blasphemy” against Allah. Ali has received multiple death threats and yet she continues to speak out against the torture, subjugation, and even death that many Islamic women endure.

    Yet she writes that “many well-meaning Dutch people have told me in all earnestness that nothing in Islamic culture incites the abuse of women, that this is just a terrible misunderstanding. Men all over the world beat their women, [Ali is] constantly informed. In reality, these Westerners are the ones who misunderstand Islam. The Quran mandates these punishments. It gives a legitimate basis for abuse, so that the perpetrators feel no shame and are not hounded by their conscience or their community . . . [Ali] wanted secular, non-Muslim people to stop kidding themselves that “Islam is peace and tolerance” (p. 307).

    She also discusses “honor killings” that take place in Islamic communities. In an effort to bring this issue to light in the Dutch parliament, she did some studies. “Between October 2004 and May 2005, eleven Muslim girls were killed by their families” in just two of twenty-five regions in Holland (p. 309). Ali has since fought for the rights of women, including safety from domestic abuse, access to education, and, sadly, abortion access.

    So while she does point up the inevitable coming clash of these Titans, Ali’s cure is to modernize Islam and to secularize society. She does not see the ultimate need of a heart change.

    Reading audience: Anyone interested in African history, Islam, or autobiography. She does discuss several starting details in the Islamic religion, including child abuse. She is not gratuitous, but this book is not for the faint of heart.