Leota’s Garden

Editor’s Note:  The following is a book review in our “Check It Out” series about Leota’s Garden written by Francine Rivers and published by Tyndale House in 1999

by Barbara Moland

Leota’s garden is no longer a place of beauty.  At 84 years she is separated from her children by broken relationships.  At this lonely time in her life the garden that she had loved, cared for, prayed and worshipped in has gone into severe disrepair. Unable to work in the garden or keep up her home she struggles day after day to just make it.

Leota’s granddaughter Annie, always seeking God’s direction in her new post high school life, has been kept from knowing anything about Leota.  All the while seeking to honor and respect her mother, Annie decides to find her grandmother, in spite of the fear she has for what may come of finding her.

Very gradually over many months of carefully connecting with her grandmother, amid several intertwining relationships, Annie is able to turn Leota’s garden into a place of great beauty.  In fact her house and neighborhood becomes a changed place.  On her grandmother’s passing Annie is surprisingly awarded ownership of the home. Charting her course in life one step at a time, trusting God to lead her, she moves forward as Francine Rivers’ Christian fiction novel comes to a close.

Several topics involving relationships between/among people surface in Leota’s Garden:

  • parenting (parents goals for the child/child’s gifts, interests)
  • choosing a life partner
  • perils of  war and those suffering mental illness as a result
  • abortion
  • euthanasia
  • bitterness
  • misjudgments between generations, between countries/cultures, and between pastor and parishioner
  • neighborhood relationships
  • child care and nurturing…and much more. 
  • And surely again and again, the shining relationship between a believer and her Savior.

Francine Rivers, a prolific writer of Christian fiction, is very skilled in writing realistically about personal feelings and struggles. Faith thoughts which are italicized throughout the book, reveal angry feelings, yet confident freedom. For example:

“Oh, God, if Mother doesn’t come now, I’ll go and drag her by the hair to the hospital.”

Leota’s witty, somewhat tough personality was enjoyable.  It reminded me again and again of a loving, yet blunt personality of an 85 year old friend of mine.

At times in the novel’s assumptions spoke too loudly.  For example, the assumption that if Annie chose to persue art, this choice would negate the possibilities of a liberal arts education.  Also, I found the length of time and details portraying Nora’s  biases and personal hang-ups overly redundant.

Perhaps this season we who are gardeners can realize with Leota:

“… well, the garden was a refuge where I could work out my sorrows and frustrations and have joy poured back into me.”

Check It Out

A Review of the book, In the Land of Blue Burqas
by Candice Johnson

In the fall of 2012, I was listening to a radio interview of “Kate McCord”, the author of In the Land of Blue Burqas. I was drawn into the interview as I realized “Kate McCord” was a pseudonym, the pen-name of a blue-eyed, middle-aged, Christian woman who answered God’s call to leave America and move to Afghanistan as a humanitarian aid worker. Writing under a pen-name was necessary to protect herself and her Afghan Muslim friends and acquaintances who so openly engaged in conversation with her.

After listening to that radio interview, I knew I had to read “Kate McCord’s” book, In the Land of Blue Burqas. I wanted to know how a Christian woman graciously and faithfully proclaimed Jesus in an openly Muslim, Christian-persecuting country.  Throughout the book, McCord emphasizes just how carefully she must choose her words when asked about her culture and her faith.   It was fascinating to read how she answered spiritual questions asked by her Muslim friends.  Such questions as:

  • What do you believe happens when you die?
  • Why don’t you pray namaz (Arabic prayers, 5 times a day)?
  • Why won’t you become a Muslim?
  • What must a person do to become a Christian?

In the Land of Blue Burqas also explains what the Muslim Quran says about Adam and Eve, the Honorable Jesus Messiah, the Virgin Mary, and the angel Gabriel. I was completely surprised that the Muslim Quran even mentions Adam and Eve, Jesus, Mary, and Gabriel. However, discussing these, and other common elements, provided “Kate” many opportunities to carefully, yet confidently explain other truths of the Bible.

I was attracted to this book for two reasons:  First, I am curious about the teachings and tenants of Islam because of the increasing influence of the Muslim faith around the world and in our own United States; and second, as a believer I am compelled to “always be ready to … give an account for the hope this is in [me]”—I Peter 3:15b. In the Land of Blue Burqas teaches us about the lives and culture of Islamic people through the experiences of “Kate McCord” and through the very words and culture of the Afghan people.

All the people of the world are created by God with an eternal soul.  That makes it critical for each believer to be involved in sharing the hope we have through the Honorable Jesus Messiah.  Whether God is calling you to witness for Him here at home or in some other part of the world, reading In the Land of Blue Burqas will be challenging and inspiring.