Friends! Don’t you love it when you finish a book and want to learn more about its subject? Such will be the scenario when you dive into My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love by Amanda Barratt.
I recently heard an interview with our author, Amanda Barratt, and Eric Metaxas on the Metaxas Talk Show. (www.metaxastalk.com) One could argue over which of the two knows more about Bonhoeffer given Amanda’s research for her novel and Eric’s tome…
Not having learned much about Bonhoeffer’s fiancee, Maria von Wedemeyer-Weller, I was delighted to learn of Amanda’s new novel, My Dearest Dietrich, especially since Branches Book Club will open their season with it come Monday, September 23rd. (Mark the date on your calendar! 6:30-8:00 p.m., at Middletown United Methodist Church! Load up your car with friends and come!)
Hearing the interview further fueled my desire to read Amanda’s book, promptly causing me to order it. The Living Word Bookstore currently has lots of copies for you book clubbers! Call to reserve your copy: (502) 253-8220.
The most astonishing discovery of this talented author is her age. Wait for it: Amanda is only TWENTY-THREE YEARS OLD. Huh? You’ll flip even more once you dive into her book, her words wrapping around you like a warm blanket.
Gaining a peak into Dietrich and Maria’s relationship is delightful. We readers must remind ourselves this book is a novel, yet we feel as if we are right there with them, almost afraid to disturb their privacy.
For me, seeing this side of Bonhoeffer, my eyes were opened to a much, much different man. While I’ve always respected him as a ten-talent theologian who continues to inspire thousands, I’d never considered the softer side of him. Additionally, I knew of his close ties with his family, and still didn’t ponder exactly how close they were.
Finishing Amanda’s novel only made me want to learn more. Bless her for listing suggestions for further reading at the end of her book, one book of which, I’ll be reporting on soon! (Letters and Papers from Prison by Bonhoeffer, compiled by Dietrich’s dear friend, Eberhard Bethge.)
The other kicker for me, was, since I knew the outcome of Bonhoeffer’s life (Spoiler alert: he was hung in prison the morning of April 9th, in 1945.), somehow I still hoped we’d see him freed from prison, and see them married off. Nevertheless, My Dearest Dietrich is the quintessential page-turner.
The novel opens in June of 1942. We get to see how Dietrich and Maria meet, his involvement with the Abwehr, his writing habits, along with snippets of his resume which intimidate Maria. For example: She calls him “a thoroughgoing academic, earning his doctorate in theology at the age of twenty-one, going on to pastor in Spain, complete a postdoctoral degree, study in America, lecture at Berlin’s University, and actively participate in maintaining ecumenical communication between foreign churches. He also became one of the foremost leaders in the Confessing Church—a group that fought desperately both to counter the false teachings of the Reich Church and to keep alive a church founded on Scripture’s doctrine rather than Herr Hitler’s.”
Dietrich, in his 30’s, and Maria, a mere teenager, become engaged much to the chagrin of her mother, insisting they wait a full year to date including no letters and no visits. Thankfully this changes once Dietrich becomes imprisoned. Soon letters become exchanged and Maria gets to visit him once a month. Reading about their visits is simply breathtaking. They’re also frustrating given the officers who feel compelled to be present.
We see through Maria’s eyes both a serious side of Dietrich as she recounts hearing him preach, counting sixty-eight times his use of the word, “God.” As well as a lighter side: in the same afternoon she witnesses him “trounce everyone at table tennis.”
Another element I particularly enjoyed was the musical influence over his entire family, Dietrich included. Often they play classical pieces together, everyone playing a different musical instrument, Dietrich at the piano. This was their way of life.
Their family meals seem perpetually challenging intellectually. I find this fascinating as time around the table is not a part of our way of life today, sadly. Although we can certainly aspire to such! (In a perfect world, a round table is my favorite with our family, you?)
During the frightening times of the Hitler regime, never knowing when one could potentially be arrested, the Bonhoeffer’s made the most of their time together. Maria said Dietrich’s words were always “full of purpose, clarity, and even rarer, hope.”
Dietrich shared a revelation about his faith with Maria. He told her what he enjoyed most about his visit to America was in the Abyssinian Baptist Church. He said,
As time marches on, the intensity of the war builds, the conspirators remain on edge, yet standing firm. Their ultimate goal was to assassinate Hitler. Black-out curtains are hung in all the windows. Cars begin stalking them and we readers find ourselves on edge as well. Amanda’s skill at foreshadowing is key.
One of many favorite quotes comes from November 11, 1942, in Berlin: “The time might come when Dietrich would be among those reduced to starvation rations, and as his gaze traveled the table, the faces of his parents, he committed it all to memory, storing up each scene like an art collector locking away his beloved masterpieces.”
While many of their friends become arrested, others die either from war or suicide. Dietrich learns of many soldiers suffering, “the young men who had once been his students, the lifeblood of his illegal seminary…”
Dietrich declares in a meeting of the conspiracy, “Above all, these concerns must be taken to God. His is the only authority to which we can rightfully answer. Seek Him, He will not fail you.”
Many fellow prisoners and guards, after becoming acquainted with Dietrich comment on his remarkable peace and tranquility he exhibited. His steadfast faith and trust in the Lord is wonderfully inspirational. You find yourself reading with your jaw open in astonishment over his ability to stay calm, forever seeking the Lord in prayer, day, after day, after day.
Don’t miss all the beautiful details of Dietrich and Maria’s relationship as well as their inspirational faith. More than once I asked myself, “Could I, and would I react like this? Would my faith hold true?”
Now you know what I’m going to say, “Run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookstore and grab My Dearest Dietrich.” You’ll be so glad you did.
And don’t forget to save the date: September 23rd to join us at Branches Book Club, Middletown United Methodist Church from 6:30-8:00 p.m. when we discuss this excellent novel. You won’t want to miss this! We’re hoping to hear from Amanda via a video message (I’ll confirm this closer to our meeting) and of course, we’ll have apple strudel among other German delights!
‘Til next time!
Friends! Come one, come all to what promises to be a super fun finale for our season. Terri Blackstock’s If I Run is not only suspenseful, it’s a cliffhanger and will provide you with two more books you’ll want to read to find out what happens. Yes, it’s #1 of 3 in a series!
Nancy Tinnell was most gracious to write a teaser for us. (If you’ve not read the book yet, you’re going to want to!). Here’s Nancy:
”Terri Blackstock’s suspenseful novel, If I Run, is our final book club selection this year. We will be discussing it on Monday, April 22nd, and you are invited to join us! I apologized in advance to the group last month for the cliffhanger ending in this story. It provides an automatic summer reading suggestion for us: books two and three of the If I Run Series. Those titles are If I’m Found and If I Live.
Casey Cox, the anxious young woman at the heart of the story, is in a desperate situation. She has discovered a crime scene, knows that DNA evidence will point to her, even though she is innocent, but she doesn’t have much faith in the local authorities. She feels they let her down at the time of her father’s death thirteen years earlier. Casey is so wounded in her spirit and feels so alone in this dilemma that she chooses to run.
In this story, we follow her as she constantly changes her location, her appearance, and her identity, so she can buy time to think through the situation and decide what to do. There is a lot of suspense involved here, so be prepared to feel a bit anxious yourself.
Enter the love interest! Well, Dylan is not a love interest yet. He’s one of the authorities trying to track her. But we can see it coming. I just know it! He has a knack for analysis and can see that the details don’t add up to her guilt, even if the DNA evidence does implicate her. Also, Dylan’s back story makes him a sympathetic character.
At book club, we’ll be discussing these characters and several others, in addition to probing Casey’s suspicions about this crime and the circumstances surrounding her father’s death.
Since Casey has to live on fast food on the road, our suggested snack theme for our April meeting is “food on the run.” What do you fix when you have to fix something super-fast? Or what do you “drive through the drive-through” to pick up when you are in a hurry? Or what leftovers in the fridge can you pull together quickly? Food on the run, lots of fun! See you on the 22nd, book lovers.”
Thank you, Nancy! We will also announce our selections for our 2019-2020 season. We had a meeting last week and chose four fiction and three non-fiction books, all of which look wonderful!
The Living Word Bookstore in Southeast Christian Church is partnering with us to carry our selections for our new season. You may call them at (502) 253-8220. (Their website is: www.livingword.org ) They’ll be happy to order your books for you.
Gather up a carload of your friends! We hope to see you Monday, April 22nd, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at Middletown United Methodist Church. Please RSVP to Nancy at (502) 245-8839.
Finally, since this week is Holy Week, here’s a reprise from last year should any of you have any anxiety about anything at all…our friend Max Lucado has just the help we need:
Anyone lugging around worries that are making you anxious? (I’m just realizing lug is in luggage.) Luggage denotes “inconveniently heavy baggage.” Well, take heart, I’m bringing you good news to lighten your load and bless us this Holy Week!
Many of you know how often I quote author Max Lucado. His book, Anxious for Nothing—Finding Calm in a Chaotic World, is a current favorite, its’ many pages already highlighted and dog-eared.
I’ll share a few of many favorite quotes which I pray will ease our anxiety, perhaps even erase it altogether, blessing us with a peaceful Holy Week. In the meantime, you may wish to grab this book as it’s a resource you would return to time and time again.
Max begins with, “Anxiety is a meteor shower of what-ifs…
Anxiety is trepidation.
It’s a suspicion,
Life in a minor key with major concerns…
You’re part Chicken Little and part Eeyore. The sky is falling and it’s falling disproportionately on you.” Anyone?!!! Max not only cracks me up, he often perfectly depicts my own moods.
Flip on the news or grab a newspaper and “anxiety disorders” are usually the front runners. Epidemic proportions.Max states what we think, yet fear to admit:
“One would think Christians would be exempt from worry. But we are not. We have been taught that the Christian life is a life of peace, and when we don’t have peace, we assume the problem lies within us. Not only do we feel anxious, but we also feel guilty about our anxiety! The result is a downward spiral of worry, guilt, worry, guilt.”
What’s a person to do? Thankfully, Max gifts us with the solution straight from Scripture. Philippians 4:4-8 says:
Max shows us that these five verses include, “four admonitions that lead to ONE WONDERFUL PROMISE: ‘the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds.’” (v. 7)
Additionally, this book blesses us throughout by equipping us with a simple acronym, the word “CALM”. Put this in your anxiety arsenal and you will have a peaceful Holy Week:
The concept of “CALM” is introduced in Chapter One, and expounded on throughout the book. You’ll never look at it again in the same way! (See page 10 for starters!)
We readers are reminded to consult the Apostle Paul’s words and actions. Max says, “Paul believed in the steady hand of a good God. He was protected by God’s strength, preserved by God’s love. He lived beneath the shadow of God’s wings.”
What does that look like for us? It translates into savoring God’s sovereignty. Clinging to His sovereignty and reminding ourselves daily that God is still on the throne. Always occupied. Always interceding for you and for me…
This Holy Week as we march toward Good Friday and Easter, may we remember the acronym “Calm”, and hear Max’ reminder: “God took the crucifixion of Friday and turned it into the celebration of Sunday.”
Max’ book also includes a Study Guide which would be great for anyone, but also super for a Small Group to work thru’.
Have a blessed Easter.
‘Til next time!
Friends! You and your friends and neighbors are invited to our next Branches Book Club meeting, on Monday, February 25th, at Middletown United Methodist Church, where we’ll discuss Francine Rivers’ compelling and page-turner of a novel, The Masterpiece. (We meet from 6:30-8:00 p.m.)
While it’s a tome, I read it in no time, quickly loaning it to a friend so she could enjoy it. Fast forward to this week when I called on our faithful friend and fearless leader, Nancy Tinnell to come up with a “teaser” to get you to book club. Let’s learn a little more about The Masterpiece…
“Francine Rivers has done it again. She creates characters that compel us to lean in to them. We are drawn to them like flies to honey, and, if you’re like me, you can’t wait to finish the book to see how the story will end.
The Masterpiece has that wonderful element of bad boy/good girl that we so often love in our novels, but this one has a twist. The bad boy is somewhat reformed from his juvenile “tagging” days, but he has some distance yet to travel. Our good girl does not feel truly good because of her past. I got so caught up in Grace and Roman’s story that I wished I could climb into the pages and counsel both of them.
The bonus in the book is the cast of characters surrounding our primary duo. I even got drawn into their stories! Thank you, Francine. This book does not disappoint. If they ever make a movie based on it, I could see Antonio Banderas playing Roman. But I’m not sure about the actress to play Grace. Reese Witherspoon, maybe?
We are giving a nod to the book’s location (California coast) by making healthy, coastal snacks our food theme. When we get together for book club, I’m dying to ask your opinion on something in the book, but it will have to wait. I have to leave you with that teaser for now.”
Thank you, Nancy!
So, girls, you can tell we will have quite a discussion. If time allows, please bring a California Coastal treat per Nancy’s suggestion and RSVP to her at (502) 245-3839. We look forward to seeing you next Monday night!
’Til next time!
Friends! Run and fetch our book for this month’s book club meeting ASAP! You’ll be able to finish it quickly. Be sure you have all the lights on as it will have you bug-eyed and a little on edge… (We’re meeting Monday the 22nd from 6:30-8:00 p.m. Invite your friends to join you! We’ll meet in the sanctuary of Middletown United Methodist Church. Address at the end of this post.)
To find out more about Jamie Jo Wright, visit her website: www.jaimewrightbooks.com
Friends! Save next Monday night, April 23rd, from 6:30-8:00 p.m., where we’ll have a delightful time discussing Julie Klassen’s Innkeeper of Ivy Hill. Come and bring a friend with you!
Thanks to my sweet friend, Nancy Tinnell, bailing me out yet again on the write up of our selection (She’d finished the book and I had not yet!), you’ll get to enjoy her teaser on the book below:
On Monday, April 23rd, Branches Book Club will end the season with a discussion of Julie Klassen’s The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill. What a contrast this book is to last month’s selection, The Choosing, which took place far in the future.
For April, we have traveled in our literary time machine back to Wiltshire, England in the year 1820. Passenger coach travel supports the existence of charming inns, where travelers can find good food and a soft bed before resuming their journey.
After the death of her husband, Jane Bell is expected to keep the Bell Inn running efficiently. Her knowledge of business in general and how the Inn functions from day to day are equally lacking, but she must somehow pull things together. She is surrounded by long time Inn employees and relatives of her late husband, but can she trust them to help her and not take advantage of her? We are left wondering for a while just who the good guys and bad guys are in this novel.
Publishers Weekly had this to say: “Klassen blends her tale well; each ingredient-romance, friendship, mystery-is measured to produce a lively tale that will satisfy Regency aficionados and general readers, too.” I totally agree! I loved attempting to assess brother-in-law Patrick’s motives; the intentions of Mr. Locke, and how long it would take mother-in-law Thora to soften.
Many of our Branches Book Club members have a soft spot for Regency fiction, and this book, first in Klassen’s TALES FROM IVY HILL series, does not disappoint. We look forward to sharing with you on the 23rd!
Yes, we will be in the sanctuary! This will keep us near the special LifeWay display in the lobby. Our friends from LifeWay will have all of next year’s books for you to purchase at a discount, in addition to other titles you may be interested in. Posters of next year’s book list will be available for you to share with others. We hope to see you there!
Thank you, Nancy!
Another fun fact is several of us have also enjoyed another book by Julie, “The Apothecary’s Daughter“, just in case you’d like to read another selection by her.
We hope to see you next Monday night, 4/23, from 6:30-8:00. Please RSVP to Nancy Tinnell at (502) 245-8839 and don’t forget we’re meeting in the sanctuary.
Also you will NOT want to miss this opportunity to learn of our selections for our next season (BIG REVEAL!!!), plus you’ll want to discover which authors are coming to be with us, and to snag the books early for your summer reading that LifeWay is so gracious to set up for us!
‘Til next time!