Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Murfreesboro pastor: Major Pettigrew will "grip your imagination"

Murfreesboro pastor Mike Smith shares his thoughts - and advice - on reading this year's One Book selection:

Do not start reading Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand at night, unless you are prepared to sit up until you finish the book! Helen Simonson’s characters, plot, settings and—above all—dialogue grip your imagination. Before you realize what is happening, you start to care for Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), Mrs. Jasmina Ali, and the other inhabitants of Edgecombe St. Mary.

The novel may be read in one of two ways. First, and most important, read it as a refined love story. The budding relationship between Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali is at the heart of the novel, but several other love stories play out as well. Each rings true. In fact, you will recognize others (and perhaps yourself) in one or more of the stories. As it turns out, love is not simple, even in a small English village. Love, in fact, takes root, grows, and lives or dies in a challenging environment featuring family histories, religion, careers, compromise, courage and passion.

Second, the novel may be read as a commentary on aging, family, prejudice, religion, ambition, the conflict between preservation and development, and the never-ending difficulty of bridging cultures even when there is the will to try. Don’t panic. Such commentary never intrudes, but instead emerges naturally in the conversations and actions of Major Pettigrew and those around him.

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 representing the highest possible praise, I award Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand a 4.5 (after all, we must reserve some space exclusively for the classics!).

Dr. Michael A. Smith serves as Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He also is a historian, writer, editor and teacher and would like someday to achieve respectability as a golfer. Dr. Smith is married to Grace Smith, who teaches ESL in the Rutherford County School System. They have two children and one grandchild.

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