Saturday, November 16, 2013

On Distant Shores by Sarah Sundin

Rating: NA
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: November 13, 2013

Lt. Georgiana Taylor has everything she could want. A comfortable boyfriend back home, a loving family, and a challenging job as a flight nurse. But in July 1943, Georgie’s cozy life gets decidedly more complicated when she meets pharmacist Sgt. John Hutchinson. Hutch resents the lack of respect he gets as a noncommissioned serviceman and hates how the war keeps him from his fiancée. While Georgie and Hutch share a love of the starry night skies over Sicily, their lives back home are falling apart. Can they weather the hurt and betrayal? Or will the pressures of war destroy the fragile connection they’ve made?

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Ever hear the phrase once in a blue moon? If you haven't, please, take a moment and look it up, for tonight the moon is most certainly blue, as I am voluntarily putting aside Sarah Sundin's On Distant Shores.

Let there be no misunderstanding, this is not a surrender wherein I set down my sword and run-up the flag because this book is too taxing or tedious. This is a staunch refusal to do battle… a withdrawal based on intense feelings of both disinterest and disgust.

For the record, I recognized my lack of enthusiasm for Sundin's work early on. Despite taking place during my favorite era, I was not drawn into the story and I found the characters altogether tiresome. There were a few interesting fact-based details, but overall, this piece wasn't piquing my imagination or speaking to my soul. Still, in an effort to seek her message and potentially appreciate her ministry, I was determined to patiently await whatever revelations may be part of her master plan… until I came to the end of chapter seven. 

In this scene, Georgie Taylor confronts Vera Viviani and Alice Olson over a trick they played on Mellie Blank. She strikes up a conversation with her fellow nurses, deliberately offering false flattery in language that drips with innuendo in her effort to make them uncomfortable. When it becomes clear she has achieved this goal, Georgie is nothing short of self-righteous. 

Color rose in Alice’s cheeks, and Vera stared at the tarmac. After the dirty trick they’d played on Mellie, they deserved to be uncomfortable.

Her mission, however, is far from complete. Mellie has convinced her commanding officer that though Vera and Alice were wrong, they deserve a second chance and that she herself should be sent home. Georgie recognizes Mellie's sacrifice as one of insecurity and is determined that her friend see she is both needed and appreciated by the squadron. To do this, she created a petition which at this point, has been signed by every member of their unit with exception of Vera and Alice, who have purposely been approached last. 
“As you can see, you two are the only ones in the entire squadron who haven’t signed it yet. I wanted your signatures to be last, big and bold like John Hancock himself. Only fitting after all Mellie’s done for you.” She tipped her head to the side and raised her sweetest smile.

Playing her role to the fullest, Georgie continues the attack, reveling in triumph as Vera and Alice become increasingly embarrassed. A veritable freight train Georgie shows no sign of slowing, even as both women turn their gazes toward their shoes.

She waited a moment to let the guilt sink in, then tapped the petition in Vera’s hand. “See? I left a big space at the bottom for you. Feel free to add a personal note. Most everyone did.” Was it wrong to enjoy this so much?

Wishing to be rid of her, Vera and Alice quickly add their names to the bottom of the page, but Georgie, still basking in her own glory, can't resist launching one last assault on their pride.   

Georgie tucked it in her pocket. “Thank you. You don’t know how much this means to me, and how much this will mean to Mellie. She deserves to know she’s loved.” A bit much, but it was fun to watch Vera and Alice writhe.  

Not to be impertinent, but what happened to: Love your enemies; Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you; As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them; Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned? If Sundin really expected me to rejoice in this petty act of retribution and bullying, she will be sadly disappointed for I feel naught but mislead. 

I find Sundin’s interest in crafting her heroine to enjoy demoralizing, degrading and openly shaming her peers, morally repugnant. This passage left me so disheartened that ceasing to read the book became my only viable option. I had hope when I started this piece, and I envisioned it capable of coaxing my spirit to celebrate the values and ideologies with which I was raised. Instead, finding her interests unrighteous, I lost faith in this author, felt deceived and while I will forgive her transgressions, I will not again be tempted to read her work in the future.

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He dropped to his backside along the port side of the boat and closed his eyes. To ease suffering, to heal, to prevent death — that’s why he took this position in the first place.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bummer. I was really looking forward to this series. :( I may still give it a go but will be less enthusiastic about it now. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.