My feelings upon realizing that it was July already can only be explained as a numbed disbelief. For whatever reason I feel like June got away from me as a whole…and then I realize that I wrote an entire novel during that month so maybe that’s why it feels like it didn’t actually happen lol. Additionally, I’m slightly sad to admit that June was the first month of 2020 so far where I didn’t meet my goal of finishing two books, but I’m trying to cut myself some slack due to the above mentioned reason that you are probably sick of hearing about by now!
With that being said, I did read one book in the month of June, and it was well worth finishing it in the last few days of the month. I first read Christy by Catherine Marshall when I was fifteen and on the ultimate teenage nightmare of a family road trip from Utah to Wisconsin. Thankfully, time has blurred the memory of that experience and the only thing I really remember is what a huge impact this book had on my teenage self. I remember being so inspired by it and being filled by this desire to do something meaningful with my life. Turns out, reading it at twenty-one was no different. So buckle up, because I have a lot to say about this one.
Christy tells the story of a nineteen-year-old girl in 1912 who leaves her comfortable family home in Asheville, North Carolina and travels to a remote region of the Great Smokies called Cutter Gap to teach school in the impoverished mountain community. Based on the true experiences of the author’s own mother, Christy tells a tale of a young girl drawn by an irresistible call to make a difference in her world, who travels to a place that might as well be in a different country for how completely different the culture and circumstances are. While there, she faces many struggles and challenges both internal and external, but through it all she prevails and dedicates herself to help the poor, superstitious and proud mountain people.
This book was definitely full of drama and intrigue, and was peppered with warm and wonderful characters from Miss Alice Henderson, Christy’s wise and loving mentor and the head of the mission effort, to Fairlight Spencer “the Highland princess” who becomes Christy’s dear friend. The story also has very heavy themes of faith and religion throughout, and while some may find it too preachy I thought that the way they approached these topics was perfect. Principles were taught through real, difficult moral dilemmas and throughout the book Christy was struggling with doubts and questions about God in a way that really struck a chord with me. Unlike a lot of other historical books written about and for young girls, the hard topics of life weren’t glossed over for delicacy’s sake. Real issues like rape and sexual abuse, as well as violence and murder at the root of corrupt local government were all addressed, and seen through the eyes of a girl who had been innocent and sheltered all her life.
Maybe it’s just because I relate to Christy in a lot of ways that I found this to be so impactful. I too, had a very sheltered childhood and was always raised with religion without always being cognizant of why certain aspects of it were important. I too have had a lot of struggles and questions with my faith, and watching Christy wrestle with her doubts and turn to Alice Henderson for help felt like a reflection of my own journey in so many ways. Alice Henderson was one of my favorite characters because she was so wise and calm and was overflowing with God’s love for everyone, helping the young Christy to understand and come to terms with the fact that life is painful and full of darkness, but that God’s love will always bring the light if we let it fill us and carry out His will unselfishly. The parts of the book that had her in it were for me, some of the most enlightening and uplifting scenes to read.
In addition to this, Christy’s drive and motivation and constant flow of ideas to improve life for the mountain people was inspiring and it was so plain to see how rewarding her work became for her as she developed deep relationships with these people and grew to love them, both children and adults alike. Reading this book came at the perfect time for me because I’ve been searching for a way to make my life more meaningful, and it just filled me with this longing to serve and commit my life to a cause. It also reignited my love for education and teaching, which I hope will be a big part of my life’s work some day. Some of the most emotional scenes in the book for me were the parts where Christy was in the classroom, teaching, connecting with, and loving on these children, many of whom were seriously starved for affection. There was one particular story of a little girl who had serious problems speaking. Christy suspected it was because she was never listened to at home and her home environment was a dark place with the worst living conditions in the community. Christy decided to single her out by sewing some new buttons on her coat and giving her a bright red scarf as a present, and the love and attention encouraged the little girl to come out of her shell and by the end of the school year she was able to recite a short poem in front of the school which was a huge accomplishment for her. I seriously tear up every time I read that part because it encapsulates so perfectly the love and bond between teacher and student that can be so powerful in a child’s life.
There’s so much more I could say but I’ve already written for way too long, so I’ll just end by saying that this book is one of those that speaks to my soul on a deep level. It has changed my life and my perspective on so many things and given me the gift of light and hope that maybe one day I’ll be able to make as much of an impact as Christy did in my own way.