Glimpses of Paradise (review)

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Glimpses of Paradise: A Novel of the 1920sGlimpses of Paradise: A Novel of the 1920s by James Scott Bell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We first meet the main characters in Glimpses of Paradise, 17 year-old Doyle Lawrence (athlete and poet) and 16 year-old Zenobia (Zee) Miller (want-to-be movie star), in the spring of 1916 in Zenith, Nebraska. Doyle, fascinated by the unpredictable and colorful Zee, tells his brother later that evening that he’ll marry Zee someday despite what their lawyer father will say. For her part, though Zee senses his attraction, she wants only to be in the movies.

Their ways soon part. Doyle enlists in the army and goes off to war. Zee runs away from her straight-laced preacher father to chase her dream.

This historical tale by James Scott Bell (first published in 2005) explores many aspects of the years from 1916 to 1925—the war itself, the fate of returning soldiers, the rise of Hollywood’s popularity, and its seamy underside. Concurrent with these secular movements is a spiritual stream personified by the historical preacher R. A. Torrey (a preacher and Bible teacher who helped found Biola University). His sermons and writings play not a little part in determining Doyle’s and Zee’s fates.

I thoroughly enjoyed this substantial novel. I’ve read many of James Scott Bell’s books on the writing craft and it is interesting to see how he puts his advice into practice. His characters are complex and believable. His facility in describing action contrasts, in this book, with quiet moments like the one war-damaged Doyle experiences on returning home after combat:

“He found himself fixated on one brown leaf cloning to a branch. It looked stubborn, alone, like a solitary prayer unheard” – Kindle Location 1553.

What I appreciate most about this book, though, is its unequivocal Christian message, not only as explained by Dr. Torrey but lived out in the choices and destinies of his characters.

If you like fat, informative, and interesting Christian historicals, try this tome of Americana. It won’t disappoint.

Glimpses of Paradise is part of my own Kindle collection.
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This Is Your Captain Speaking (review)

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This Is Your Captain Speaking: My Fantastic Voyage Through Hollywood, Faith & LifeThis Is Your Captain Speaking: My Fantastic Voyage Through Hollywood, Faith & Life by Gavin MacLeod

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“My life has taken one incredible turn after another. I’ve gotten to do what I wanted to do, I’ve been a captain! I’ve traveled the world. … I’ve been given this incredible gift of a life, and now I want to use it to give back… ” – Gavin MacLeod in the Preface to This Is Your Captain Speaking.

This Is Your Captain Speaking is the autobiography through which TV and film star Gavin MacLeod (along with writer Mark Dagostino) seeks to accomplish his Preface wish.

The story of Allan George See (later Gavin MacLeod) begins on February 28, 1931 in Pleasantville, New York. MacLeod tells his story in first person, chronologically. We go with him to hopeful script readings early in his career, meet his fellow cast members on the show that first put his name in lights as Murray in the “Mary Tyler Moore Show,” meet the whose-who of the 60s, 70s and 80s through his role as captain in “The Love Boat” TV series while also cheering his personal triumphs and cringing at his mistakes. Three sets of photographs give us visuals of his colorful life.

MacLeod’s writing style is warm and chatty, his memories sharp and detailed. He is very positive throughout (if you’re reading this to find dirt on showbiz celebrities, you won’t find much). As someone who is familiar only with MacLeod’s work on the “Mary Tyler Moore Show,” I was interested to discover he had had multiple successes and a long and brilliant career. The book is full of names and pictures of actors and others celebrities. I’m afraid most of the name-dropping was lost on me, though, Hollywood illiterate that I am. However, despite the many sections that were about encounters with stars of whom I had no knowledge and little interest, I enjoyed the sense of positivity and gratitude that pervaded the book.

I was especially intrigued that MacLeod viewed his role of Jonathan Sperry in the movie “The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry” as the crowning achievement of his life. Sperry is a character through whom MacLeod was able to talk about and explain his late-found Christian faith. Of that role he says: “Only after I had gained that notoriety, only after I had gained a certain amount of respect, only after I had traveled the world and met people of all stripes, from all walks of life, only after I had taken this long fantastic voyage of a life did God put me in the role of Jonathan Sperry–because he knew that now, after all of that, people would listen to what the Captain had to say” p. 251.

I received This Is Your Captain Speaking as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.

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