Saturday 25 October 2008

Elizabeth Prentiss

I'm a newbie when it comes to Elizabeth Prentiss. I've felt a bit left out for years knowing that her best selling title 'Stepping Heavenward' has literally been read by millions and I hadn't so much as seen a copy. Now I have! My first surprise was when I discovered that it is fiction, somehow I had got the impression it was her autobiography. Not so, it is the journal of a fictional character 'Katy'. Katy is an impetuous teenager when the book begins and we follow her teenage tantrums, rebellion and of course the obligatory 'unsuitable' fiance, before her conversion. Her priorities then gradually change as she grows in grace. Her journal is written honestly, we learn of her initial struggles with married life, her innermost spiritual pride, her daily struggles with her hot tongue, her battles with legalism and her gradual submission to the will of the Lord. The human heart has not changed since the 1800's! I think this must account for it's continued popularity. The book is an easy read and thought provoking. I have discovered though that it seems to engender some extreme views - some people love it and recommend it to all their female friends, others really turn their noses up and would rather leave it to get dusty on the shelf. Why? I actually enjoyed it more the more I read it.
Having read 'Stepping Heavenward' I was then keen to know how similar it was to her real life. Sharon James' biography 'Elizabeth Prentiss: More Love to Thee' is a nicely produced hardback which traces her life, drawing heavily on 'The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss' (compiled by her husband shortly after her death), and many of her other writings. It is an accessible biography clearly laid out with timelines and family trees, although I did get a little bogged down in the detail at times. It is clear that Elizabeth Prentiss did indeed draw on her own life experiences in the writing of 'Stepping Heavenward' and this is evidently what makes it such an authentic read.
I have even gone one step further and have now read a short article by Prentiss' father, Edward Payson, on parenting. I feel 'Prentiss-ed out'. Enough for now.

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