New Perspectives: A Review of True Love Dates

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This book changed my perspective on dating.

I first heard about Debra Fileta from reading her articles in Relevant magazine. I loved the articles and was excited to find out she had also written a book.

I have to admit that I secretly hoped the subtitle–“Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life”–was a clue to a secret love-finding formula hidden inside the book’s pages. In that, I was disappointed, but what I found instead completely changed my perspective on Christian dating. True Love Dates is divided into four parts—Dating Inward, Dating Outward, Dating Upward, and lastly Ask the Counselor.

On the very first page, she could have been describing my life: a girl feeling completely alone while so many friends are dating, engaged, or married. Sick of being the third wheel—those have been my own exact words. But a few pages later, I was challenged by her question: “At the end of the season of dating, you will have invested copious amounts of energy and countless hours getting to know the person you will be standing with at the altar, but what about the other person? What about yourself?” This is an important question that too many of us ignore. Instead of taking the time to understand ourselves and become healthy people, we obsess about being lonely and finding the one person who will make it all better.

Another thing I learned from this book—or perhaps more accurately, something I finally absorbed after hearing for years—is that you will attract people with the same attributes that you have. So, if you’re waiting for a courageous, confident man or a generous, outgoing woman, you had better work on those same character traits in yourself.  Before we go chasing after the man or woman of our dreams, we need to discover our own identities. This will transform our dating relationships, and it’s definitely a challenge that this book helped me commit to tackling.

The first section impacted me the most, but the rest of the book is just as good. She brings up real-world issues and doesn’t come across as “preachy” or teaching from the “Christian bubble.” While she does reinforce the foundational importance of faith and trust in God and the necessity of His involvement in dating relationships, it is in a much more refreshing way than many other books of its kind.

Debra’s writing is natural and comfortable. I felt as though I could easily have coffee and a conversation with her after reading the book; I think the “Ask the Counselor” section helped with that, especially since she answered many questions I’ve had for a long time.

And in case you were wondering, this book isn’t only for women. It’s for men too, and I think many of us could learn from Debra’s advice. It’s a quick read too, and I highly recommend it!

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: A Very Short Review

Anyone who knows me knows I love Jane Austen. It was inevitable that she and her novels would appear on my blog. First up is a brief review of Pride and Prejudice.

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Last year marked the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, which was originally published in 1813. Now, before you stop reading this review about a 200-year-old novel, let me mention that there have been hundreds of literary adaptations ranging in titles from Mr. Darcy’s Daughters by Elizabeth Aston to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith. In addition, there have been nearly as many screen adaptations—a version by A.A. Milne in 1936 (yes, the author of Winnie the Pooh), a Broadway musical, and Bridget Jones’s Diary. One of the most popular versions is the 2005 film starring Keira Knightley.

The novel opens with the famous phrase: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife,” and the rest of the novel seeks to prove this “universal truth.” It is no coincidence that the novel’s original title was First Impressions, because the central characters Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy immediately dislike each other based only on their initial opinions. Austen’s novels have remained popular because of her humor and her ability to create realistic characters. If you read Pride and Prejudice, you will definitely laugh and probably recognize someone you know in at least one of the many characters.

Several couples move toward marriage throughout the novel—including Elizabeth’s sister Jane and charming Mr. Bingley, but this novel is not simply a love story. Some couples face more challenges than others. Darcy and Elizabeth in particular must overcome their faults (of, you guessed it, pride and prejudice) before they can understand and love each other. Austen says that “We are all fools in love.” Of course, I don’t have space to discuss all the subplots such as the scandal of Elizabeth’s sixteen-year-old sister running away with a militia officer or of Mr. Collins proposing to two women within 11 days. You’ll simply have to read the novel to discover them yourself! But, to help you navigate the busy world of Pride and Prejudice, here’s a character map to help you keep them straight. And one last thing for any men who actually finished reading this book review: take notes on Mr. Darcy. He is the original for most men in romantic comedies. Ladies love him.

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Anna Karenina: A Book Review

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“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”—so begins Anna Karenina (Анна Каренина) by Russian author Leo Tolstoy. The novel was published in installments from 1873 to 1877 in the magazine The Russian Messenger. Fellow author William Faulkner once said that Anna Karenina was “the best novel ever written,” and many people have agreed with him over the years since its publication.

If you can learn to enjoy Tolstoy’s writing style and get through the 800+ page novel, it will be well worth your time. There are 15 major characters in the novel, and they each have three names—a first name, a patronymic, and a surname. To help with some confusion that comes through translation from Russian to English, here is a helpful definition from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: a patronymic is “a name derived from that of the father or a paternal ancestor usually by the addition of an affix.” So, for example, the central character Anna Arkadyevna Karenina’s first name is Anna; her patronymic is Arkadyevna, and her last name is the feminine version of her husband’s name—Karenin. If I haven’t lost you already, you might be happy to know that Tolstoy is kind enough to refer to most of them by only one name throughout the novel.

Anna Karenina is a story of love, guilt, and Russian aristocracy—of the scandal of adultery and of the artificial lives people can lead. Despite several harsh reviews, the 2012 film adaptation, starring Keira Knightley, Jude Law, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, did successfully capture this artificiality. Director Joe Wright envisioned something different from the typical period drama. In his film, many of the characters live on a stage, as though life is all an act. Only one character is brave enough to turn his back on the theatrics and enter the real world.

Now for an extremely quick summary of the plot: Anna married her husband Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin when she was only 18 years old. At the start of the novel she is still in her twenties, and it appears that she has learned to love him or at least learned to be comfortable with her life. They have a young son named Seryozha, whom Anna adores. The trouble begins when Anna meets an attractive army officer, Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky. An immediate spark ignites between them, and eventually Anna can no longer stay away from Vronsky. When she and Vronsky sleep together for the first time, she tells him: “All is over. I have nothing but you. Remember that.”

This novel is definitely not your average love story. It is heartbreaking at times, although another young couple in the novel— Levin and Kitty— give a sense of what we expect from a “normal” love story. Perhaps Tolstoy is right when he says that “if it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts,” and not all of these kinds of love lead to happiness. A tagline from Wright’s film is: “You can’t ask why about love,” but perhaps Tolstoy wants us to do just that.