04 September 2010

A story so real... it almost seemed true... DEFINITELY worth the read.

~ more about the book... i.e. a short synopsis ~

~ more about the author... and her perspective on the book ~

~ ~ ~

~ My favorite excerpt from the book ~

"Will you sing?" Mani broke the noisy silence unexpectedly.

"Something in Indonesian?" Brendan asked.

"No. Do you know 'It Is Well with My Soul?' It is one of my favorite hymns in English."

"That's old," I said. "It's my grandmother's favorite hymn."

"Mine too," Brendan said.

"I know it," Elissa said.

"Will you sing it?" Mani asked again, shifting Tina in his lap. She was curled against his chest with her thumb in her mouth.

I really didn't feel like singing, but there was no way I could refuse Mani anything within my power. I glanced at the others, and the three of us started on cue, our voices sounding thin.

"When peace like a river attendeth my way; ~ When sorrows like sea billows roll; ~ Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, ~ It is well, it is well with my soul. ~ It is well with my soul. ~ It is well, it is well with my soul."

Mani joined in on the third line, and when my voice broke at the end, his was steady.

I remembered that the writer of the hymn had penned this just after his four daughters had been confirmed drowned after their ship went down. I breathed deeply against the now-familiar tight ache in my chest and tried to get my mind around such faith in the midst of such agony. The hymn writer, Spafford, and his children. Mani and his parents. Real pain and real peace. It felt like trying to marry to mental magnets; the closer I tried to push them together, the harder they resisted my pressure.

"Where did you learn it?" I asked Mani.

"Mission school. it reminds me of the last thing that Father said to me." His eyes met mine across the fire.

I shook my arm free from Drew's and hugged my knees to my chest.

"You were there," he said to me.

"I know." I quoted the last phrase I had heard Daniel whisper. "Punya perdamaian."

He blinked, suprised. "You remember."

"I remember," I said, trying very hard not to remember and failing miserably.

Kyle's hand tightened on the edge of the plastic sheet, knuckles shiny, wet and white.

"I don't know what it means, though. I was going to ask you. Someday."

"It means 'walk with peace,'" Mani said, his eyes locked with mine. He looked a lot like his dad.

I remembered the slippery warmth of Daniel's life ebbing beneath my fingertips, and tucked my hands underneath my knees.

"What does that mean?" Kyle asked.

"Father always said the most important thing was to be at peace with yourself and with God. Not to let anything spoil that. So right now I guess it means not to hate." There was a long pause before his voice came again, low. "That is a bit hard, sometimes."

Even by Mani's laconic standards, that was an understatement.

Kyle shifted restlessly. "God hates sin, doesn't He? he said, the angry challenge barely disguised.

"You are not God," Mani said, "And sin is not a person."

Two points to Mani. So why did I still feel like I was on Kyle's side?

"But what is peace, really?"

"No violence?" Elissa said, obviously wondering if it was a trick question.

"Ever? Not even in self-defense?" Kyle asked.

Elissa's eyes flickered toward the machete lying beside Kyle. "not for me." She said it so softly that I almost missed the hint of uncertainty behind the words.

"I'm not that strong," I said.

"That's not strong," Kyle said. "When peace is impossible, you think it's strong to just let people push you around?"

"Well, peace is never going to be possible if everyone keeps fighting back," Elissa said, looking like she was about to burst into tears. Arguing with anyone always took a lot out of Elissa, but when she really believed in something, she stood firm.

"I think not resisting is harder than fighting back, sometimes. So maybe it is stronger," I said, wondering if I really believed that.

"That's ridiculous!" Kyle said, glaring at me.

I glared back, annoyed it was me he seemed angry with. I wasn't the pacifist.

"There had got to be more to peace than just not fighting," Brendan said.

"Yeah, like not having to think about things that make my head hurt," Drew grumbled, without shifting from where she was resting against my shoulder.

There was a long, uncomfortable silence. Kyle was the one to break it, finally going to the heart of what we were all thinking about anyway.

"Things between Batuasa and Tahima can't just go back to the way they were, can they?" Kyle appealed to Mani. "You can't just pretend it didn't happen."

Mani nodded his head, his eyes old. "That would not be peace."

"So what do you do about it?" I asked. "How do you get justice?"

"Punishment," Kyle said, his tone as dark as the jungle beyond the fragile circle of light cast by our dying fire.

"But how do you punish and forgive at the same time?" Elissa asked.

"Forget that sort of peace," Kyle said, slowly and deliberately. "Why even bother?"

The last flame subsided reluctantly into the glowing bed of coals and the darkness drew closer, waiting to take over completely. I snuggled into Drew and shivered.

"We didn't sing the second verse." Mani spoke over the top of Tina's head. "It's my favorite."

I didn't know the second verse.

Mani started softly, and Brendan's deep, rich voice startled me when he joined in. I closed my eyes and just listened.

"My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought; ~ My sin, not in part, but the whole ~ Is nailed to the cross ~ So I bear it no more. ~ Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul. ~ It is well with my soul. ~ It is well, it is well with my soul."

I guess that was one way to answer Kyle's last question. (pp. 164-169)

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