Friday, February 25, 2011

Faith and Fiction Round Table Discussion: Certain Women: The Women in David's Life

Our first choice for the Faith and Fiction Round Table this year was Certain Women by Madeleine L'Engle. This was an interesting choice for me, because I have never read any of L'Engle's popular children/YA books or her nonfiction. So this was my introduction to her work. The book was a struggle in many ways, but it certainly created a lot of discussion for our group. Links to all of the bloggers can be found at the end of this post, so you can go and read their thoughts.

Certain Women is a retelling of the Biblical story of David in modern times. I call it a retelling, but is quite different from one in many ways. Instead of simply telling the story, L'Engle chooses to tell a story of a man who had multiple wives and lots of children like David and consistently draws parallels between his life and the life of David. Our entry into this story is through Emma who would be the equivalent of Tamar in the Biblical story.

I believe one of L'Engle's goals in Certain Women is to reframe the story of David from the female perspective, particularly Tamar's. She was very successful in nudging me to think about what the Biblical narrative remains silent about. Sometimes when I read a book like that, it feels like my mind is actually being expanded. It's embarrassing, but because I am so familiar with the Bible from the time I was young, I read the Biblical stories in an almost detached way. They are very familiar and they are also very short on details. So when an author chooses to create a whole world around what's actually provided, when they fill in some of the emotional details, it's actually very helpful to me. It's important, when approaching a book like this, to be okay with the fact that it's drawing from the Biblical story and maybe in some way, almost critiquing the way it's told. I'm okay with that, but I know some people are uncomfortable with that idea.

If you are unfamiliar with the story of King David, the part L'Engle really focuses in on his many wives and children. Emma as Tamar plays out quite literally. Despite the fact that this did challenge me in the believability department, it really made me think about how this story is told in the Bible. It's certainly not told for the sake of Tamar, but rather as incidental to the story of David. (this is why people call the Bible sexist!) But Emma's story was very complete in demonstrating how this horrific event and its horrific aftermath, her father's almost indifference to it, and the way it went on to influence and impact her life and relationships.

Another book that was successful in doing this for me, was The Red Tent.

What do you think about the story of David, the way the story of Tamar is shared, and books that envision a more complete world around these well known characters?

For more posts on Certain Women, please visit:
Book Addiction, Book Hooked Blog, Books and Movies, Crazy for Books, Ignorant Historian, Linus's Blanket, My Random Thoughts, One Person's Journey Through a World of Books, Roving Reads, Semicolon, The 3R's Blog, Tinasbookreviews, Victorious Cafe, Word Lily


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