Most of the books we blog about here are biblical and/or theological in nature. But since we’ve dabbled in other areas a few times, I thought it would be good to mention one of my favorite novels of all time: The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings. I read this book after hearing Andrew Peterson’s imaginative song, “The Ballad of Jody Baxter.” For various reasons, this book captured me like few others have. It also reminded me of My Side of the Mountain, and Where the Red Fern Grows, two books that got me into reading as a young boy living on the edge of the fields and streams in the Midwest.
The story unfolds in the backwoods of late 19th century Florida. As you may have guessed (or known), the story involves a boy and an orphaned fawn. I don’t want to give the whole story here because I want to avoid spoilers. Just let me say that the novel is very well written, especially in the way Rawlings depicts the feelings and emotions of the major characters. She writes in such a way that emotion almost drips from the dialogue. Further, the way she paints word pictures is amazing; it’s the sort of book that makes you almost smell the mossy river bed or the bacon on the cast iron stove. This book stimulates the imagination and makes writers want to write better.
Here are a few dialogues that will give you an idea of the contents of this book. And if you’ve read it, they’ll hopefully jog your memory in an excellent way. FYI, the book does a good job of portraying the “Christianity” of late 19th century America (generally speaking). This is a dialogue between the father, Penny, and the boy, Jody.
“’I’d love a baby fox, or a baby panther. Kin you tame ‘em, do you git ‘em young?’ ‘You kin tame a ‘coon. You kin tame a bear. You kin tame a wild-cat and you kin tame a panther.’ He pondered. His mind went back to his father’s sermons. ‘You kin tame arything, son, excusin’ the human tongue’” (p. 84-5).
“Jody filled the buckets with the gourd dipper that hung on the rim of the trough. Against his father’s warning, he filled them nearly full. He would like to walk into the yard with them. He crouched and bent his shoulders under the yoke. When he straightened, he could not rise against the weight. He dipped out part of the water and was able to stand and pull his way up the remainder of the slope. The wooden yoke cut into his thin shoulders. His back ached. Halfway home, he was obliged to stop and set down the buckets and pour out more of the water. The fawn dipped its nose inquisitively into one of the buckets. Fortunately, his mother need not know. She could not understand how clean the fawn was, and would not admit how sweet it smelled” (p. 197).
If this genre and subject interest you, and you like good literature, read this book soon! And don’t miss the themes woven deeply in the story. Stories like this make us better readers. And if you want, read it purely for the enjoyment of a good story. I’m convinced it is one of those common grace gifts of God which we can appreciate and for which we can give him thanks.