Book Review: The Amethyst Heart, by Penelope Stokes

11 Feb Christian fiction; contemporary; historical fiction; 1800’s; WWI; WWII

Plot Summary: A story revolves around an amethyst heart shaped brooch, surrounded by pearls with one missing.  When Amethyst Noble celebrates her 93rd birthday with her son’s family, she is saddened to be told he is planning on forcing her to leave her lifelong home to go to a nursing home.  Suspecting ulterior motives, Miss Amethyst is not about to leave her 150 year old grand Southern style house with it’s rich history to the mercy of her mercenary son.  Focusing on her young great-granddaughter, she passes on to the next generation the story of their ancestral and spiritual legacy, and shares her own life with her as well.

My Review:  Years ago, my aunt recommended a book she thought I’d enjoy called, “The Blue Bottle Club,” by Penelope Stokes.  I always carried that title around with me, even though I have yet to read it.  But I discovered other titles by the same author that looked equally good, so when I found “The Amethyst Heart” at the thrift store, I knew I wanted to add it to my bookcase.

I have to say I enjoyed the way this book was written.  The story is not just the story of one person, though through telling the stories of her ancestors, Amethyst tells the story of herself.  If you’ve done any amount of research on your family history, you will find that in learning about your genealogical past, you learn about yourself—where you belong, where you come into the picture, whom you take after.  This is because we do not live in a vacuum, nor do we emanate from one.  We are born of parents, whether we ever know them or not, and are greatly affected by the role models around us, whether good or not so good.

I loved how Amethyst’s story takes us from the pre-Civil War slavery era in the deep south to post WWI to the Civil Rights movement in the late 1940’s, yet always bringing us back to contemporary times and how the past results in her present.  From a storytelling standpoint, this keeps the reader interested and wondering how the characters ended up in the present circumstances.

Choosing Paths by ~Andrea-ReyesThis book offers a lot of good food for thought.  Yes, people are greatly influenced by the situations, role models, and atmosphere they grow up in.  But that isn’t the be all-end all.  As Amethyst tells Little Am, we can choose for ourselves which path we will follow, who we will become.  Abe had wonderful parents who loved and cared for him, yet chose to go his own selfish route, ending in misery.  Amethyst did not have strong parents to look up to, yet chose for herself to have models of godly people around her.  And even though Conrad had a strong mother who tried to teach him what was right and good, he still decided to follow the influence of his grandfather and peers.

“We’re not born in a vacuum, child.  We’re the product of our genetic environment, our influences.  And although I don’t quite comprehend it myself, I’m convinced that somehow we can be affected by the spiritual legacy left to us by ancestors whose names we’ve never even heard.”

Grandmother & Granddaughter ... I would give anything to hold my Grandmother's hand again.I think it is so wonderful Amethyst shares her wisdom with her only hope for the future (her great-granddaughter).  In the beginning of the story, the grandmother writes Little Am off as being a type of “teenage mutant.”  But as she invests her time and caring into this young girl, the two begin to connect and understand each other.  I hear so many older people today (sometimes even in the church) imply that young folks are in their own alien world and not worth the trouble to spend their energy on.  It’s like they wash their hands of them.  I know I felt like this when I was teenager.  But what I really wish is that people could see beyond the phases of teenage ‘weirdness’ –into the heart of what’s underneath, the pain and loneliness and awkwardness that’s behind the seemingly weird things they do.  Young people need good, healthy role models to come alongside and encourage them.  They might not always listen, they may make their own choices in the opposite direction, but to know that someone cares enough about them to invest in them is greatly needed.  I might even suggest that this writing off of the younger generation is one of the causes of “teenage mutancy.”  People don’t have many good expectations of the next generation.  Maybe if they believed in them, respected them, and expected good things of them, kids would strive to live up to that.

I enjoyed this book and can’t really find anything to complain about.  Except maybe that I would have liked to have been in on more of the romance between Amethyst and Dix.  I think I liked the story of Silas and Pearl best. All in all, a good book worth spending time reading!  Anyone interested in stories about the Civil Rights movement will definitely like this one.

This book came to me at a good time (as I often find to be the case), as my own great grandmother recently passed away.  Her funeral was a time of loving reflection on her long life, what she inherited from her faithful parents, and what she passed on to so many children, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren.

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Posted by on February 11, 2014 in Book Reviews


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