Root out of Dry Ground

by Argyle M. Briggs

Root Out of Dry Ground by Argyle M. Briggs

I like old books. I like the smell of their pages and how they  look on my bookshelves. I like the nice book bindings, and the sometimes beautifully colored illustrations. Apparently, my nine month old son agrees because he is eating the book as I type. I was very excited when my husband brought a set of old books (without dust jackets, score!) from a random garage sale. That meant each book was a true mystery with the potential to be amazing, or truly awful. Sadly, the first book falls into the latter category.

Brigges’ (who I am not entirely sure is an actual person) narrative begins in a shanty in Texas where a white trash family has a set of Christmas visitors, a young pregnant lady and her husband. She gives birth to a daughter, Christmas Rose, and promptly dies. The young father, who barely makes an appearance in this story, turns the child over to the physically deformed seventeen year old, Jansie. Apparently, providing and teaching Chris begins to transforms Jansie from a bitter young woman to a caring old spinster. When Chris is sevenm Jansie goes to a revival and accepts Christ… and here is where the unbelievable, and kind of lame story, lost me.

Let me make it clear, I do not like most Christian fiction. Spirituality is a very personal and intimate matter that doesn’t translate terribly well into fiction. I don’t mind if main characters are Christian, or a novel has underlying Christian symbolism or themes, but when characters undergo ‘conversions’ that are the main point of the book, I kind of cringe. These conversions always feel false to me.  The novel continues with deaths due to illness, struggles with poverty, broken engagements, and the list goes on. It really is too much, and none of it appears terribly authentic. To me, fiction either needs to be so ridiculous that one escapes reality entirely, or it needs to mirror reality in such a way that one can see familiarity in every page. This book missed those marks entirely. But it still smells nice.

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1 Comment »

  1. Donna Blackstock says:

    I have to respectfully disagree with the poster above. As a child I was always the one with my head in a book. I read anything and everything. I don’t remember where I got hold of this book, Root out of Dry Ground, but it took hold of me in a way I can’t explain even today, 50 years later. I certainly can relate to the revivals and conversion experiences. A few years ago I ran across the book in a library book sale, and have read it again many times. It is a fascinating look at poverty, deformity, loneliness, and emotional pain.

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