Back to the Classics 2017, Biography, Book reviews, The Classics Club

10 Fingers for God

Review for Back to the Classics 2017, and Classics Club.

Title: Ten Fingers for God, ★★★★

by  Dorothy Clarke Wilson, 1965

My Rating System

★★★★ Not to miss, worth re-reading
★★★★    Books that surely have stayed with me.
★★★       Very enjoyable read, recommendable.
★★          Meh. Nothing remarkable.
★             Run.

The half star, , would make it closer to the higher category, an in-between of sorts.

Teaching the girls has taught me many new things, it has introduced me to new book genres such as biography. I believe this book is about an exceptional person, and all the other exceptional individuals around him, at an exceptional time.

Those who lived at the time of war, and after the war, who connected Europe and North America with South America, Asia, Africa, Australia and Oceania through their work, have left us an incommensurable legacy in many aspects of life. They were able to transcend language and culture barriers, and unite the efforts of those who shared a vision, and truly made the world a better place.

This book is about the domino effect caused by the ingenuity and hard work of a man of faith , a man who gave his life to a cause, inspiring the same in others around.

This book is also a look at education, parenthood. Through the life of Paul Brand and his family, we get to see different cultures, and ways of life. We also witness the personal struggles of Paul and his family, and have the amazing opportunity of asking questions, and finding answers with him while reading the book.

Before reading this book, I did not know anything about leprosy other than the Bible accounts, (like the same Paul Brand.) I also knew that it has been eradicated, that it doesn’t pose a problem anymore.

Paul Brand has a magnetic personality. I specially admire his non pretense, and his ability to stay calm and keep perspective at all times. His complete surrender to God’s will in his life. His driving habits scared me, though, lol. (He was famous for getting to places in record times.)  He and his family lived up to the ideal of education viewed as the nurturing of our bodies, minds, and souls. He also understood that concept of leisure, that idea of respecting the individual and his own timing. He did not always know what he was going to do with his life, he explored different possibilities, and it’s remarkable to see how those different traits he learned came to be of use later on, once he decided to investigate and help those with leprosy.

I want to quote the same quote that my friend Carol cited in her post. It shows his deep understanding of how medicine was not practiced in a vacuum, or anonymously, but how medicine is another way of relating to individuals, and affecting them as whole persons, as he says.

” …the most precious possession any human being has is his spirit, his will to live, his sense of dignity, his personality. Once that has been lost the opportunity for rehabilitation is lost. Though our profession may be a technical one, concerned with tendons, bones, and nerve endings, we must realize that it is the person behind it that is so important. Of course we need technicians: surgeons, physiotherapists, nurses, occupational therapists, vocational guidance specialists. But above all we need men and women who are concerned with people and who accept the challenge of the whole person, his life, his faith, and his hope.”

After this wonderful read, what’s next? First, I must say I forgot to mention in my latest post, that I’m still reading Agustin’s Confessions. I’m benefiting from reading the story of his life, how he followed the Manichean teachings, the story of his relationship with our Creator, and how it changed with time. This is another book that stresses the importance of the type of friend or person that we are, who we choose for our friends, and how we influence others or let others be of an influence for good or bad. Agustin, like Paul Brand, are confronted with decisions, some small, some big. That’s something that has always caught my attention from reading Charlotte Mason. She says what distinguishes us humans from the animals, what makes us human, is our ability to exercise our will, to make decisions. Paul Brand was confronted many times between duty and personal goals, even between duty to his family and to a greater cause. Agustin is also deciding between following his own selfish impulses (even when he recognizes them as not honoring his own beliefs) or aspiring to being better by acting or behaving in a way that honors God.

This is another exciting reading time. I had felt amiss after reading The Gray House this summer. I felt some relief from the tension of writing a post every week, and being ahead in my reading, but once it all ended, I’ve been restless, unable to focus on books. Northanger Abbey distracted me, it was fun. The Daughter of Time felt a bit flat, but I loved the Book Club discussion. And now, with the reading of Ten Fingers for God, the other two books I’m reading took more shape. For not only The Confessions is carrying a common thread, but a very different book, from an opposite worldview, such as The Storyteller, has gained momentum for me as a reader.

Vargas Llosa wrote a very unique book. Don’t take me as a measure, though, I’ve read that it’s in a way similar to the short The Heart of Darkness. But though the topic may have similarities, I still believe that The Storyteller is a broader and more unique book. It’s a cross between fiction and biography. Watching one of Jeannette Wall’s interviews, she said how her second book, (more so than the more autobiographical The Glass Castle), is based on real characters, and real events, but she just juggles them and takes some literary licenses. And that’s what’s at stake in The Storyteller. One character is Vargas Llosa, the other his friend Mascarita (like a mask), who has a birth defect which is a skin mole or mark that covers half of his face with purple.

Mascarita becomes obsessed with the Amazonian tribes. He has a different view to that of the missionaries, and the ‘new missionaries’, -which is how he calls the linguists that are now going to the Amazon to “convert” and corrupt those people. He things they should not even be studied, but left alone.

But the book is not merely a plot ridden book. Vargas Llosa, being the thinker and the writer that he is, has his characters thinking and talking about memory, the power of story telling, religion, duty, culture, and he will download an extensive and fascinating knowledge of different tribes, their beliefs, their practices, and tell us the history of the clash between ‘white Peru, and indigenous Peru’. There’s a lot of terms new to me, that I understand in context, and that make the book different to anything I’m used to, it has its own distinctive language. Don’t be fooled by my comments, though, the book is not a boring academic treatise at all, it has all the dynamism of a well written novel. Vargas Llosa has a delightful way of describing the mood of the characters through the weather, the food shared, the situation, the conversations, etc.

The two pictures you see above, are the book itself, The Storyteller, and the blank pages are a sad finding. My copy has six blank pages, and they are not added blank pages, but they are text that is missing. I don’t know what I’ll do when I get there, -since I cannot borrow it from the library. I guess I’ll have to live with it, and be glad that it’s not the last six consecutive pages of the book, right?

DSC_0927r

Last picture is of my next two titles. I don’t know how I’ll find them, among my friends, there’s some who love them and some who don’t like them as much. We’ll see.

Oh, I also have to add that I listened to the book club book for this month, A Call in the Wind. It’s christian romance. I don’t read christian romance. While it was OK, and the plot trapped me as to continue listening until the end, I was reminded why I don’t read this genre. Maybe I’ll tell you more in another post.

5 thoughts on “10 Fingers for God”

  1. Silvia, I have a few interesting comments (in my opinion). I heard Dr. Brand and his wife speak in New Orleans in the late sixties. The leprosy colony was close to the seminary there. We went to visit it, but no visitors were allowed that day.
    Second comment, I went to high school with a boy whose right side of his face was purple. He was such a nice person. I wonder what happened to him. Of course, I don’t remember his name now.
    Thirdly, have you read REDEEMING LOVE by Francine Rivers? If not, it may change you mind about Christian romance, which I usually steer away from too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Judith, what a valuable comment. I’m always ready to learn more and make my opinions more complete, or even correct them.

      How was Margaret Brand? She seems a remarkable woman too. They, and specially he, did tour the world, didn’t they?

      The character of Mascarita must be based on a person the author knew. This birth defect he has in the book is pretty shocking, it looks painful, some even think it contagious. My thoughts while reading this totally unrelated book found some connections with 10 Fingers for God. One thing I loved about the character of Mascarita, is that he was never upset with anyone, not even with those who mocked him, or even assaulted him. The author takes offense, but Mascarita calms him down and convinces him not to retaliate. What a coincidence that that person you knew was also a wonderful person!

      Lastly, upon your recommendation, Judith, I’m going to read Redeeming Love. It’s not that A Voice in the Wind was a bad book, it’s that it delves into much detail, -which is well researched and narrated-, and at times I doubt the value of such a book for a younger person, since the romance is also idealized somehow, and can create false expectations. And for the older audience, like me, I ‘get the message’, but I’m not sure the book was that powerful, or had other qualities, definitely not in proportion to its length. It felt a tad artificial, it’s as if the plot and book were written around the idea of wanting to show a christian martyr. We can all learn from characters who have human flaws, and the heroine was a bit too perfect, and the anti heroin was all evil.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Like

  2. It’s been too long since I read Dr. Brand’s book for me to comment on it. Perhaps, I’ll read it again someday. However, I remember thinking that his wife was a better speaker than he was. REDEEMING LOVE is a modern (19th century) retelling of Hosea. I really think you will enjoy it.

    Liked by 1 person

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