Sometimes I return to things that I loved years ago and end up really disappointed. Like the last time I rented the 3 Ninjas, and realized that Rocky was just a cute kid rather than the handsome, dashing warrior of my memory. Or when I watched the Little House pilot episode again and had to admit (as Stephen disgustedly pointed out) that the real Pa would never have cried as much as Michael Landon did.
A few weeks ago, my sister Leslie returned some books of mine that she had apparently borrowed a few years ago. This series (the Zion Covenant, by Bodie Thoene) was my favorite, favorite in high school, and I read them at least once a year for about six years in a row. But then I went to college, had several bad experiences in a row with Christian fiction, and discovered many new authors that I really liked. Now, although I can think of several notable exceptions, I am generally not crazy about the sort of fiction that is available in the local Zondervan store. So when these old friends were returned to my bookshelf, I felt curious. Could the stories within those worn covers captivate me still? Or would I chuckle at the plot from an emotional distance and remember the days when I was so easily entertained?
Good news, folks: The Zion Covenant did not disappoint! I still love this adventure-romance-historical thriller, and it’s characters jumped off the page, as alive and lovely as ever. How could I not love these books, when they treat me to moments like this:
“From her black high-buttoned shoes to the tall black lace collar of her dress, Bubbe Rosenfelt was a visual anachronism. She did not seem to fit in this century, let alone in this decade of flourishing anti-Semitism…a pair of pince-nez glasses dangled from a silken cord attached to the third button of her blouse. If a child misbehaved, the old woman would simply raise those glasses to her nose and balance them there to cast a terrible glare of disapproval toward the offender. Squabbles, tantrums, of sloppy table manners were stopped and corrected instantly with one terrible look from those faded blue eyes. Then the old woman would arch her right eyebrow slightly and let the pince-nez fall to the end of its cord. It bounced and swung from her bosom like a miniature hanged criminal. The effect was quite successful.”
“All the Wattenbarger children had warm brown eyes that looked at her expectantly as she tuned the strings, as if she was about to give them a fine and cherished gift. Elisa covered the chin rest of the instrument with a soft handkerchief and raised it to her shoulder as though she stood before a royal audience in Vienna. She lifted the bow and began to play the bright, happy melody that Mozart had written as a young man in Salzburg. The violin came alive in her hands. She closed her eyes, letting the music flow from her soul into the sighing wood, then up and out like leaves swirling in an autumn wind–swirling, dancing, singing, as the trees swayed in the last rays of sunlight. Elisa herself swayed as the music took her far away from lonely thoughts and fears that had pursued her through each day. Had heaven opened now and soothed her heart with a song from the throne of God? All the things she felt but could not say came tumbling out, note on note in a voice that reached up like a prayer and a hope.”
“Her words made Murphy feel like he had as a kid walking the picket fence at his girlfriend’s house. He was nuts about Elisa. She was Myrna Loy and he was William Powell. Gable and Lombard. Romeo and Juliet! He was convinced that nobody had ever been in love before them. Nobody had ever felt this terrific or been this happy! Elisa and Murphy had invented marriage, and woe to all those poor single swells who thought bachelorhood was something to hold on to. Of course, Murphy conceded, there was only one Elisa in the whole world, and it might be different being married if it wasn’t to her.”