Skip to main content

Book Review: The Darling, By Russell Banks

Well, not being quite as cool as Dean Snyder, I wasn't able to actually travel to Liberia this year, but I did just read a book that is set (mostly) in Liberia - The Darling by Russell Banks.

I found the book - fascinating. I'm still not sure if I liked or disliked it - it is not a typical novel in many ways. The 'heroine', if such a word is appropriate, is a woman named Hannah Musgrove. Through a series of flashbacks, we follow her life from her late-teens/early twenties to her late fifties at the close of the novel. She's not a particularly likeable character, but I found myself routing for her anyway, or at least rooting for her to get with it! Hannah is involved in the Civil Rights Movement in the US in her early years, but quickly gets drawn into more dangerous/extremist political groups, and eventually flees to Africa to go "underground."

She ends up in Liberia, marries a man who is not too high and not to low in government, and has three children with him. The heart of the book takes place against the background of unfolding events in Liberia - civil war, terror, unrest, chaos, military coups, and eventually, the rise of Charles Taylor to power. Hannah seeks her identity in the midst of all this, and as she shares the only love she seems to be able to give with her dreamers, the chimpazees she cares for at a lab.

One quote from the book: "It may seem strange to you, but something about prisons, jails, cages comforts me. All my life I've run from confinement and tried to keep others, even animals from being imprisoned. Yet whenever I come close to an actual place of confinement . . . something inside me clicks off and something else clicks on. Dread gets replaced by complacent, almost grateful acceptance . . . [When I was in jail for two nights] having relinquished my physical freedom, I was somehow free in a new and more satisfying way." (pg 291)

The book certainly is, as I said, fascinating. The politics of US relations with other countries, the personal journey of someone trying to make peace with haunting events and choices from the past, and many other issues interwoven - it is a very layered story. Worth a read, I think, even if I can't say you'll "like" it!


Popular posts from this blog

re-post: devotional life for progressive Christians

I posted this a while back before anyone was really reading this blog. Now that more people seem to be stopping by, I thought I'd put it out there again with some edits/additons since it's been on my mind again... Do you find it difficult to have any sort of devotional time? When I was growing up, I was almost compulsive about my personal Bible Study, devotion time, etc. Somewhere along the way, I got more and more sporadic. In part, I found myself frustrated with the devotional books that I considered theologically too conservative. I find it hard to bond with God when you're busy mentally disagreeing with the author of whatever resource you're reading. My habit was broken, and I've never gotten it back for more than a few weeks at a time. So, a disciplined devotional/prayer/bible-reading life - is it something I should be striving to get back, or something that is filled by other ways I am close to God? This is a debate I have with myself all the time. On the

Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent, "Hope: A Thrill of Hope," Mark 1:1-8

Sermon 11/26/17 Mark 1:1-8 Hope: A Thrill of Hope             Are you a pessimist or an optimist? Is the glass of life half empty, or half full? My mom and I have gone back and forth about this a bit over the years. She’s wildly optimistic about most things, and sometimes I would say her optimism, her hopefulness borders on the irrational. If the weather forecast says there’s a 70% chance of a snowstorm coming, my mom will focus very seriously on that 30% chance that it is going to be a nice day after all. I, meanwhile, will begin adjusting my travel plans and making a backup plan for the day. My mom says I’m a pessimist, but I would argue that I’m simply a realist , trying to prepare for the thing that is most likely to happen, whether I like that thing or not. My mom, however, says she doesn’t want to be disappointed twice, both by thinking something bad is going to happen, and then by having the bad thing actually happen. She’d rather be hopeful, and enjoy her state of

Sermon for Second Sunday in Advent, "Peace: All Is Calm, All Is Bright," Isaiah 11:1-10, Mark 13:24-37

Sermon 12/3/17 Mark 13:24-37, Isaiah 11:1-10 Peace: All Is Calm, All Is Bright             “Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright. Round yon’ virgin mother and child. Holy infant, so tender and mild. Sleep in heavenly peace. Sleep in heavenly peace.”             This week, I read news stories about North Korea testing a missile that perhaps could reach across the whole of the United States.             This week, I spoke with a colleague in ministry who had, like all churches in our conference, received from our church insurance company information about how to respond in an active shooter situation. She was trying to figure out how to respond to anxious parishioners and yet not get caught up in spending all of their ministry time on creating safety plans.             This week, we’ve continued to hear stories from people who have experienced sexual assault and harassment, as the actions, sometimes over decades, of men in positions of power have been