What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “Love in Books”? Is it last summer’s hottest rom-com? Does a classic tale of unrequited love surface in your memory? Or, do you react with a giant “Ugh!”?
I get that last one. I’m not one to seek out romance in the reads I choose.
Love, though … love should be something stronger, deeper, more lasting—literarily speaking. I’m thinking beyond boy-meets-girl; first comes love, then comes marriage. When I think of Love in Books, a few specific books come to mind, and this is what I shared during the February 2020 Logos & Mythos Book Club LIVE on my Facebook page. Scroll down to read a summary of what I shared, plus a few extras.
The first books that came to my mind for showcasing sibling love are a toss-back to my childhood. The Boxcar Children, The Bobbsey Twins and The Hardy Boys. Each of these series highlights brothers and sisters who work together to solve mysteries or problems. They look out for one another and help one another. Older siblings care for younger siblings. They have their share of disagreements, of course; but, at the end of the day, they’re always there for each other.
Along the disagreement front, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe offers an outstanding example of the possibility of and beauty in forgiveness amongst siblings. Thank you to author Rollan Wengert for reminding me of C.S. Lewis’ amazing book!
Some adult books I thought of that draw in sibling love come from Kristin Hannah. Between Sisters examines the possibility of a reconciliation between two women who have been separated for a couple of decades after a disagreement.
My favorite of her books, though, is Winter Garden. Once again, Hannah brings sisters back together after they’ve grown apart and lived separate lives. This time, though, they come together around their mother—a mother neither of them had a good relationship with or knew very well. Through learning more about who she was, they discover more about themselves and each other as they bond and reach a new level in their sister relationship. You can read my full Goodreads review for more thoughts on the story.
Parent/Child or Guardian/Child
The very first book that popped to my mind to exemplify this relationship might surprise you—Anne of Green Gables. Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, older siblings who never married and live together on a farm on Prince Edward Island, decide to take in an orphan boy to help Matthew with the chores. When the orphanage makes a mistake and sends a girl instead, the siblings take opposite sides on what to do. Matthew—who fell in love with Anne and her spunky nature on the way home from the train station—wants to keep her; Marilla—who heard about another orphan girl who poisoned her family—wants to send her back immediately.
To me, one of the most beautiful parts of L.M. Montgomery’s writing is her character development. Perhaps the greatest example of this is in the relationship between Marilla and Anne. As time goes past, Marilla changes from distrustful of Anne to concerned for her to fond of her to genuinely in love with the impulsive, rash redhead who upended their lives in the best of ways.
Another book that rose in my mind to explore the parent/child relationship is A Wrinkle in Time. This might seem like an odd example since you don’t see a lot of interaction in the scenes between parents and kids, but you do see the influence of the parents in the kids’ actions and words. You also see how they look up to their parents. Beyond the parent/child dynamic, Madeleine L’Engle beautifully portrays sibling love and young love in this book. I have a Goodreads review for this one too!
This is probably my second favorite type of love in literature (my favorite’s coming up next). Friends are the family we choose, so it’s no wonder these relationships tend to be extra special.
I came up with three fantastic examples of friendship in books—Anne and Dianna in Anne of Green Gables and Frodo and Sam and Legolas and Gimli in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. With the girls, you watch them grow up together. They face every aspect of coming-of-age side by side. They experience joy and heartbreak; anger and misunderstandings—all together.
Frodo and Sam present such a beautiful depiction of selfless friendship. It’s in Sam we find our highest example. The quote I couldn’t read in the video—because I seriously would have started bawling—comes just before the final ascent to Mount Doom. Frodo can no longer even stand. The weight of the ring has taken every ounce of strength he had, and it is there … “at the end of all things” … when he can no longer continue the task which he undertook. Sam looks at him with heartbreak, love and sympathy and says, “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well.”
In Legolas and Gimli, we find two races who don’t historically get along. As Tolkien develops each character over the course of the books, he also molds their relationship to one of mutual respect and appreciation and then to one of deep friendship—the kind that sees it an honor to die side-by-side in battle.
Pets and Their Humans
And now, to my favorite love example in literature—pets and their humans. Where the Red Fern Grows is another coming-of-age story with a boy and his two dogs. Billy grows up with his canine companions trotting by his side. It’s a book that teaches, inspires and saddens; but it’s a book full of life.
Probably my favorite book of all when I was growing up was Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. The reader walks a lifetime in the horse’s shoes and uncovers the grace and innocence of a creature who learns to trust and love a kind owner, even after a time of great abuse.
Romantic Love, Turned on Its Head
When it comes to romantic love in literature, I don’t have to have the happily ever after. I like action, adventure, high stakes—or, at the very least, reality. The two books tied for my second favorites of all time are Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. I would have loved to hang out with the Brontës!
In the video, I mention the tale of Beren and Lúthien by J.R.R. Tolkien. I love the fantasy and magic and immortality woven into the love story that was inspired by Tolkien’s own wife, Edith. His prose and verse are masterfully written. The action surrounding these lovers goes from bad to worse to far beyond. It’s full of mythical creatures and magical jewels; not to mention co-existing beauty and horror. You can read my glowing Goodreads review for more details.
And, finally, a lighter love story can be found back in Anne of Green Gables again. Who doesn’t love Gilbert Blythe?
What I love most about his character and his love for Anne is that he loves her from first sight and keeps on loving her. He loves her so completely that, long after he’s given up hope of a return from her, he sacrifices something he worked for, for her good, and did so in such a way that she wouldn’t find out. He gave without expectation of receiving anything in return. Let’s all give it up for Gilbert!
Now, it’s your turn! I want to hear what books you enjoy that showcase some type of loving relationship; whether it’s brothers or lovers or best friends forever, share away in the comments below!
Are you a sappy romance kind of reader or do you tend to steer clear of them? What are you reading right now? As I prepare this post, I’m reading an interesting memoir, Wild Horses of the Summer Sun: A Memoir of Iceland by Tory Bilski, that highlights the friendships between women and the almost magical draw horses can have over humans.