Christy: Actually inspirational Literature

Christy is a novel written by Catherine Marshall in 1967 as a semi-biography of her mother's experiences as a teacher.. A few years ago I read and liked it, but my most recent read of it this summer revealed it to be one of the best inspirational Christian books I've ever read. Granted, my experience with "inspirational literature" is mostly Mormon lit (Jack Weyland), but I find this novel to be sincere without being cheesy. Religion in general is hard to write accurately about. It's more of an experiential thing than anything, and to any outsider, it looks ridiculous. Marshall's expression of a young woman growing in faith through practice and doubt is familiar and rings true with my experience as a religious girl.

Taking place in the Appalachian mountains in 1912, 19-year-old Christy Huddleston heads to a the small village of Cutter Gap to teach a new school. She's inspired to go after hearing Miss Alice speak at a church function. Pretty much immediately, Christy is out of her element, being a city woman and all, when she's called on to help with a surgical operation by the rugged Dr. Neil McNeill in a dirty cabin. From then on out, she must deal with the poverty, dirty cabins, ignorance, and superstitions of the mountain people of Cutter Gap and reconcile it with her faith in God.

On some level, Christy is a morality story, but it acknowledges more complexity than other inspirational literature. Emphasis is placed on circumstantal morals. The mountain people are scratching to survive in a village that's stuck in the past. Christy quickly learns that harsh circumstance don't easily lend themself to quick good vs. bad solution or faith in a loving God. And in conjunction with Dr. MacNeill's agnostic rebuttals and Reverand David Grantland's wavering faith/motivation, Christy doesn't know what to believe.

So she turns to Miss Alice, a Quaker with an entreprenuerial missionary who's in charge of the mission in Cutter Gap. Her burdensome past and level-headed approach to life makes her an inspiration to Christy, and also me. If I wasn't Mormon, I'm pretty sure I'd like to be a Friend. But Alice pushes Christy to live Christianity, not just try to believe. She's all about reading the word of God and taking action to find out if God is real. I like her idea that Christianity is exciting and a living thing.

Christy takes Miss Alice's advice: she prays, reads, and tries her best to get through the tough life of Cutter Gap and in the processes gets to know a loving God that's more real to her than the God she learned about in Sunday School. In that, I find truth. To be a believer in anything, you must live it. My belief in Christianity stems from living it, not from the logic of it. A religious life brings obligation, but it means you can trust in an infinite love and hope.

This novel is a quick read, but it's full of what a young woman comes to understand and believe. It's not life changing, but it's supportive that faith comes through trying and living. That faith doesn't always bring easy solutions or any solution. That's how Christy manages to not be cheesy: it shows that faith usually does little more than give hope, but sometimes that enough.

The television show of the same name and same basic storyline ran from 1994-1995 and also managed to discuss faith without getting overly preachy. It manages to be more than Hallmark drivel, which might stem from Kellie Martin's sincere performance. Martin was 18 when the show was made which gives it an innocence that an older actress might not have been able to portray. Tyne Daly played the strong Miss Alice and has remained one of my absolute favorite television actresses ever since this series.

I marathon-watched the entire series (twenty-something episodes) this summer in addition to the book, and it's--forgive me--quality family entertainment. I'm not the biggest fan of family programming, but it sometimes captures me. It's hard to do morality stories set in modern times; it just seems to make more sense in the past. Christy captures me and makes me misty-eyed more times than I'd like to admit. It's honest and lovely as both a novel and a television series.

Side note:
I focused mostly on portrayal of faith in Christy, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention the love triangle. David, the attractive and young preacher, quickly falls in love with Christy, but does he really love her or is she just the only one around? Neil MacNeill, the uncouth and heartbroken doctor, who challenges Christy's faith and convictions, but can someone who gets under Christy's skin so much be right for her? Let's just say it's absolutely classic. Too bad in the TV series it never gets resolved, but the novel gives more closure.

But anyway, I'll let you judge who should win out judging from quality fanvids.

David and Christy set to some Yellowcard song. Also, Randall Batinkoff who plays David is unimaginably attractive:

Neil and Christy set to "The Scientist" (unfortunately you can't hear Neil talk during this since on the TV show, Neil is played by the very Scottish Stewart Finlay-McLennan):

1 comment:

  1. I used to watch this show on the Hallmark channel or whatever it was, when I was a kid! I really enjoyed it. I think my grandma has the book but I've never read it.