Friday, January 9, 2015

"Beyond All Dreams" by Elizabeth Camden - a rich novel with plenty to mull over

Cover ArtIn her second novel centering on the nation's capitol, Elizabeth Camden brings the Library of Congress to life. Anna O'Brien, a map librarian, stumbles upon a discrepancy in the records of the wreck of her father's ship over a decade ago. However, the navy blasts Anna for questioning their records, threatening her job. Then, to her annoyance, she is assigned as a personal assistant librarian to the dashing, outspoken congressman Luke Callahan. Surprisingly, she ends up enjoying the witty congressman who has commandeered her time, for all that he is her opposite. Between jobs for him, she continues to pursue the wreck of her father's ship, yet she is stonewalled at every turn, to the point where Anna suspects she is being spied on. What is the navy covering up? Can Luke help her find the answers to the ship's disappearance?

For a story lodged in the hotbed of our nation's politics, I found the quoted words of Keats to be most appropriate:
The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were.  (321)
As a rule I try to avoid politics and harbor a general distrust for politicians - including for reasons mentioned in this book - but I have to say the author manages to turn a politician into a pretty decent hero. Like any politician, Luke has to fight the urge to bow to the majority, to say what people want to hear, and to pursue his own ends, but he gives us hope that honorable (if imperfect) politicians still have a hand in running our government. And while the political element is a major part of the book, the story never bogs down in politics.

Of the wars of the 1800's, the Spanish-American War is one that is severely glossed over in light of the wars bookending it. Other than knowing that Teddy Roosevelt was involved, I knew nothing about it - why it was even fought. Camden's novel is enlightening in that regard - we get a pretty clear idea of the politics surrounding it, and it is interesting to see parallels between that war and the wars we have been involved in during the past fifty-odd years. 

I really liked what the author has to say about dreams and the encouragement this book offers to pursue them. Regarding Luke's nephew's passion for painting, Luke says,
If you don't make it as a painter, funnel that passion into something else, but it doesn't have to die. . . If you don't make it as a painter, perhaps you'll be a great teacher. Or a museum curator. Maybe you'll become a rich industrialist and fund a museum. Just don't limit yourself by thinking you already know God's purpose for you. (134)
Just because your passion doesn't result in talent or a job doesn't mean you can't pursue that passion in other ways - never limit God and His ability to give us opportunities to pursue our dreams!

Most people would agree that if there is an injustice, it should be righted; but what happens if righting the injustice will have consequences that far outstrip the initial wrong? That was just one question the story begs us to consider. Camden also tackles themes of forgiveness, fear, and the inexplicable love for family, no matter how dysfunctional. With her typical masterfully-developed characters, Camden's novel is a rich account of our capitol's history, with plenty of hefty thoughts to mull over - and not all with a cut-and-dry answer. 5 out of 5 stars!

Thank you Bethany House for providing a free book for the purpose of review; I was not required to make it positive, and all opinions are my own.

No comments:

Post a Comment