Thursday, September 22, 2011

Book Review: Sunrise on the Battery

About the Book:
At last, Mary Lynn and Jackson Scoville are living the life they've dreamed of. Two self-described "small town bumpkins" from Round O, South Carolina, they made a small fortune selling the little gems of lowcountry real estate Jackson inherited and now they are living in the heart of Charleston, South Carolina, carefully working their way up the social ladder in hopes of meeting their ultimate goal: to give their three daughters the life they themselves never had. 

But the long-forgotten God of Mary Lynn's childhood seems to be trying to get her attention in clear and unusual ways. So clear and strange she can no longer deny it. When Mary Lynn prays for Jackson to open his mind and heart to God, her prayers are answered beyond her wildest imaginings. Now Jackson's dramatic conversion (which includes street witnessing, giving away a lot of money, and inviting poor, desperate and marginalized people into their home) is threatening their social status as well as their family mission statement. Is she willing to go along with him?

What would it be like to go "all out" for God? Jackson, a sharp and focused Type A man, is unafraid and willing to go all the way. Mary Lynn has her doubts.

My Comments:
What is the difference in a Christian and a non-Christian who is a good person?  What difference should someone be able to see in our lives after we become Christian?  Can we be too religious?  Should we be "Jesus Freaks"?  I think most committed Christians have considered those questions and I guess in reality, they should make us a little uncomfortable.  We all know the person at church who can't hold a conversation that doesn't invoke His name, and we also know people that it seems have little reason to be in church since they disagree with all the beliefs (as they will be glad to tell you) and don't, at least where you can see, act in a Christ-like manner.  Sunrise on the Battery is about a wealthy (but relatively new money) couple who live in Charleston South Carolina.  They weren't born wealthy but through smart real estate investments, they have become wealthy and are just about to make their way into the upper-crust of Charleston society.  Their girls go to the "right" school, make good grades and are almost sure to be invited to participate in a debutante ball.  

First, Mary Lynn starts going to a Bible study with a neighbor.  She finds faith for the first time in a long time, but other than occupying her time for a few hours a week, it makes little difference in her daily life.  Still, she wants her husband to believe and prays for this.  Her prayer is answered, but not the way she wanted.  He becomes one of those overly enthusiastic Christians that makes a lot of people uncomfortable.  

Jackson's conversion made me squirm a little, and I suspect it would have that effect on many Christians; however, after having set up this big conflict, Beth Webb Hart resolves it quickly, without ever really addressing the issue of how Christians should be different from others.  It is your basic find Jesus and everything in life that was broken will be fixed.  Maybe the family isn't part of "society" anymore but everyone is happier because of it.  In short, I found the ending of the book to be unrealistic and unsatisfying.  Grade:  C+  

I'd like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  I was not obligated to provide any review, much less a positive one.


  1. "...resolves it quickly, without ever really addressing the issue of how Christians should be different from others..."

    Because it's the impossible question to answer, I think. If you have to answer it you end up either laying down "burdens heavy to bear" (i.e. unreasonable rules) or judging people whose vision is different from your own.

    I think this question can be touched on, wrestled with, but never resolved--and certainly not in fiction. Although good for her for trying, I suppose... :/


    The trouble is, she really didn't try. Dad got religion and all of the sudden was 'all in". Mom was doing a capital campaign presentation at the ritzy girls school their girls (two in high school, one younger) attended--the school all the "in" old-money social set used. After Mom was finished, he took the stage and asked if the people knew Jesus and said he was available to discuss it after the meeting. It was social suicide and undid all the work they had done for years to join that set. She was furious, the girls were laughingstocks at school and their invitation to the deb ball was rescinded. His business partner tells Mom that he has always loved her, that he has enough on hubby to make him cooperate and that the two of them and the girls can move elsewhere. She is planning to go spend the weekend with him, and goes out for a morning run, during which she tears muscle. She's debilitated and can't get away from a guy who is trying to attack her. She's rescued by a street guy to whom her husband has been ministering. They reconcile and live happily ever after, with two of the girls getting baptized, and all three moving to a new less expensive school because he has to make restitution for all the shoddy work his partner had done. It was all just too pat.

  3. "We all know the person at church who can't hold a conversation that doesn't invoke His name..."

    Yes. I know what you mean; I expect we make allowances for those who actually walk the walk.


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