I recently became a Book Review Blogger for Thomas Nelson. This is my first review of a TN book:
“Holding Fast” by Karen James (Thomas Nelson, 2008) is an account of the author’s experience of the loss of her husband Kelly in a climbing accident on Mount Hood, Oregon in 2006. The book consists of four parts. In the first, Karen James describes how she met and married Kelly, a gregarious, larger-than-life figure whom many counted as a friend, and who had a love for the adventure of mountain climbing. The second is the account of hearing the news that Kelly was missing on Mount Hood, and the subsequent rescue operation which, due to unusually bad weather, could only recover his body. The third part covers Mrs James’s process of grieving and attempting to reconstruct the last fateful hours of her husband’s life. Finally, there there is a collection of love poems and photos of the love of her life.
As I started to read this, I was not sure I was going to like it. I did not like the popular, journalistic, style peppered with what seemed like twee personal reflections. However, I found myself drawn into Mrs James’s story. Most telling for me was her description of her process of coping with grief after hearing the news that her husband was dead. I found this a helpful insight. Having got this far, it was then easy to forgive that she had painted a picture of a near-perfect husband in the earlier parts of the book. In fact, I was challenged by the evident romanticism of the man towards his wife.
James writes from a Christian perspective, and it is here that I found a constant niggle that did not go away. I kept wishing she had been taught better from the pulpit. I found this in two ways. Firstly, there was her constant reference to ‘God’. She managed to make God seem distant and impersonal. I think the root of this lies in a weakness in understanding the suffering of Jesus Christ at the Cross. In fact, the only reference to Jesus was found in the very last words of the book. I came to the conclusion that if one were trying to work out which religion she held to from what she wrote, one could not tell whether she was Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness or Evangelical Christian.
Secondly, I found there was a pathos about her attempts to show that God was with her during her grieving. She did so by analysing ‘coincidences’ that she could remember. It seems to me that a good understanding of the covenantal promises of God in the Bible would have been a greater help to her rather speculating about what God’s providence was telling her.
Overall, it was an interesting, profitable but limited read.