Monday, October 15, 2012

Book Notes: "The Exact Place" by Margie L. Haack

If you've ever heard the late Rich Mullins' excellent song "First Family", you'll have an idea of the tone of Margie' Haack's memoir, "The Exact Place". Her clear-eyed prose is kin to Mullins' simple and profound lyricism.

Haack grew up on the swampy, lakeside land just on the American side of Minnesota's northern border, oldest in a large farming family.

To be honest, I usually avoid books about country life, because I find they tend to be either much too depressing or, the exact opposite, much too sickly-sweet.

But to my delight, Haack's book falls into neither trap. Walking with a firm step that tilts neither towards despair nor nostalgia, Haack's book tells the story of her childhood in one of the most fully-realized settings I've ever read.

I loved the descriptive botanical details of the unique environment around her home, and the funny stories about her escapades with her siblings, and the touching stories of her summers on the lake with her grandfather. All of these fascinating components buoyed me effortlessly along in my reading.

But the theme that Haack circles around to again and again is the feeling that dogged her throughout her childhood: the feeling that she had to work to earn both God's love, and the love of her stepfather.

She circles around to it over and over - she never stays on it very long, but every time she touches on the theme, she goes a bit deeper. It's like hearing a musical phrase repeated and elaborated on here and there in a fugue, until you realize that every single note - no matter how seemingly unrelated - is there to support this one statement.

And then, in the penultimate chapter, the phrase is answered and resolved. I've rarely read anything more satisfying, or anything that rang truer.

You know how we Christians love to tell stories about answered prayers and the extraordinary moments when we're absolutely sure God acted or spoke? And the stories are wonderful, but out of context they seem odd or unlikely or just . . . just like something other than the wonders that they are? I think what I loved best about this book is that Haack gave the context to God's answer of her one, most personal, most compelling question. If she'd told less of her story, I wouldn't have fully understood the wonder of the moment when God finally met her. But by the end of the book, I was so immersed in the world of her childhood, that when God finally met her and assured her of his love, I understood why what he said to her meant so much.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

(Full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book for free from the publisher, Kalos Press, which is an imprint of Doulos Resources, to whom I am under contract. I was not paid for my review, and all opinions expressed here are my own.)

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I'm glad you reviewed this. I'm a fan of her writing (read Notes from Toad Hall and her blog, as well as her husband's newsletter, Critique) and have already bought 4 copies for myself and as gifts, but I haven't read it yet. I've just been waiting for her to finish the memoir. -Ruthie