Forthcoming book review: Louisa May Alcott: Illuminated by The Message by Susan Bailey

louisa-coverI’ve followed Susan Bailey’s blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion for a while now. I am a Little Women and Little Men fan after all. It’s been fun, too, to follow Susan’s writing career thru her blog. So when she asked for volunteers to review a pre-publication sample from her forthcoming devotional book, I was happy to step up.

I must admit I was skeptical. Louisa May Alcott comes from a Unitarian and Transcendentalist background. And, the Message is my least favorite Bible translation. But, Susan Bailey is a very convincing writer and I soon saw the satisfying rhythm of merging Louisa May Alcott’s vignettes with companionable Bible verses–even in the Message translation.

The introduction does a fine job of explaining the oddity of Alcott’s background being married now to a Bible-based devotional. It acknowledges that Pilgrim’s Progress was more influential in the family. I did pause to wonder why it passages from Bunyan’s classic were not also included. In the end, I was well persuaded that this was not necessary.

As I read I also overcame my doubts about the Message being used instead of the lovely Alcott-era King James Version. While the Bible is used, the Message is the appropriate choice for a reader seeking to understand God’s word for the first time or for someone who is merely seeking a profound spiritual experience, but not a truly religious one. Belief in Christ as Savior is not a necessity to get the peaceful, contemplative experience that this book aims to provide.

My favorite of the sampled devotions used a story from Little Women. In the book, Miss Alcott shows Beth lovingly mothering the cast-off, tattered old dolls of her sisters. This story is paired with verses from Psalm 9, which are translated by the Message as:

God’s a safe-house for the battered,a sanctuary during bad times.The moment you arrive, you relax;You’re never sorry you knocked. (Psalm 9:9:10, The Message)

I stopped and looked up the King James Version to see if there was any difference in slant or emphasis. Here is the KJV of the passage:

The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.(Psalm 9:9-10 KJV)

The story is sweet–“Beth the good” doing good even in her play. The verses chosen are reassuring. God is a sanctuary for us like Beth was to the dolls.

Louisa May Alcott: Illuminated by the Message by Susan Bailey will be available soon for purchase on Amazon. At the time of this review the pre-order link was not yet functional. Susan’s other devotional, written in the way of Catholics but applicable to any believer, is River of Grace: Creative Passages thru Difficult Times which I have also read and found very useful. It makes a thoughtful gift to  persons who are creative and like to create but who are experiencing difficulty in their lives. You can read more about Susan Bailey’s work, as well as her passion for Louisa May Alcott, at her blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

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