It’s interesting how one man can change the world around him. Even if that’s not his original intention, it happens anyway.
Taylor Caldwell (a.k.a. Janet Miriam Holland Taylor Caldwell) isn’t a well-known author to many people, but her stories are so well-crafted, I wish they’d make some of them into a movie. (One of them — Captains and the Kings — did become a TV miniseries.)
A favorite Caldwell book is Tender Victory, about John Fletcher, an idealistic Presbyterian minister who adopts five European children in the post-WWII era. All of the children (Jean, Max, Pietro, Kathy and Emily) spent time in concentration camps, found each other and formed their own “wolf pack” to protect one another.
As an Army chaplain, John Fletcher brings the kids back to the States but has trouble finding a ministry that will accept these wild, anti-social children who have various issues as a result of what they’ve experienced during the war. He takes the kids to a mining town that is in need of a minister.
Even though John Fletcher doesn’t always realize it, people become different after they’ve been around him for a while. The first one is his friend’s housekeeper, who sees that the kids will need a motherly figure in their lives and goes with Reverend Fletcher to housekeep for him in the mining town.
It’s the same with the kids. Although there are some relapses and difficulties with the local population, they begin to feel safer and adapt to American society.
Others in the town undergo a metamorphosis. Somehow, Reverend Fletcher finds a way to reach people and affect them, just by doing the right thing in difficult situations. He has his struggles with anger and frustration over the town’s prejudice like anybody else, but keeps plugging away.
The book has some comedy in it as well. An unexpected comic scene happens when a panicked parishioner calls the minister for help with her husband, who has locked himself into a room. The husband has found out that he has a debilitating disease and wants to commit suicide because he won’t be able to support his family through his regular job. Reverend Fletcher arrives, talks to the husband and gets him so riled up that the husband forgets all about suicide and concentrates on defending himself.
Risky, but it works. The husband unlocks the door and lets the minister in. The husband does sculpture as a hobby and turns out to be capable of creating amazing work, which will help his family.
Another good Taylor Caldwell book is Great Lion of God, about Saint Paul. It provides a human portrait of this apostle and gives you a vivid idea of what it was like to live during those times.
A common theme in Caldwell’s books is the struggle to keep believing and keep doing the right thing, even when life doesn’t always go your way. Sometimes her books are seen as sentimental, but I find them entertaining and inspiring.