Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Swan House by Elizabeth Musser

Often I pick up a book thinking it looks good from the outside and hope the outside mirrors the inside.... and everyone in a while I am right... and then there are those books that surpass your expectations. The Swan House is one of those books. I cannot really explain how much I enjoyed this book.

I have never read anything by Elizabeth Musser, but was intrigued when I saw The Swan House on the new fiction rack at my local library. From the synopsis, I thought it would be a sweet tale of a young girl working through a loss and learning to help others along the way. And it is all that... and more.

The Swan House is set in 1962 Atlanta. Mary Swan Middleton, age 16, lives in all white Buckhead.. the daughter of high society and wealth. Tragedy shatters her world and Mary Swan looses her way. The family suggests Mary Swan reach out to help others in her grief and so she finds herself in the lower income inner city neighborhood of Grant Park dishing up free spaghetti dinners on Saturday mornings. While there Mary Swan is forced to see the realities of the world... the realities that have been hidden from her.

As one might expect, prejudice is a big issue in this book. What I love is how it is handled. Musser doesn't just look at racism... she looks at other forms of prejudice which are just as prevalent in our world. Whether it is due to faith... gender... social status... financial condition.. mental health... or skin color... there are many forms of prejudice.

I also love that Musser doesn't paint a black and white picture (no pun intended). She shows all the various shades of gray found in life. Yes,bigotry and fear exists... believe it or not some folks or so use to it that they don't even realize they are prejudiced... and there is bigotry on all sides.... but in the midst of it all, Musser also paints a glowing picture of the love and grace we, as believers, are called to pour out of all those around us.

This is an excellent book that handles a very real problem from our past... and one that still plagues us today... in a very well thought out and thorough way.

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