Grace Livingston Hill’s “Happiness Hill”

BLOG # 34, SERIES #4
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
DR. JOE’S BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB #22
GRACE LIVINGSTON HILL’S HAPPINESS HILL
August 21, 2013

Yes, another summer is giving way to autumn, and here in the Colorado high country, on serpentine Conifer Mountain Drive, splotches of yellow in the aspens signal the coming autumn.

For several weeks now, ever since I first turned the calendar page from July to August, I’ve wrestled with our August book. Since so many of you have told me you’ve faithfully sought out and purchased each of the 21 previous titles in the series, I take each new selection seriously. Which brings me to you: what are your responses to the series, based as they are on my own favorite books? I’d like to know.

August. It’s a lazy month. For the young, at the end of it is that dreaded yet longed-for thing called school. For the older, it’s “back to the grindstone.” In Europe half the continent can be found on the beaches during magical August.

So it isn’t the month for a heavy read – but a light one. But for me, the hanging question has been, “How light?” So I searched through my library, trying to find a book that while light still held within its pages something enduring, meaningful, heart-tugging, worthy of the last days of summer. Took me three separate reads before I found it.

copy of two books.

First I read Emilie Loring’s Give Me One Summer. I read it because the lighthouse/seashore cover promised summer romance. It was a good read, but in the end, it left me empty. Perhaps because the romance seemed so superficial. Next, I turned to another seacoast novel, Grace Livingston Hill’s Rainbow Cottage. I liked it very much for it featured wonderful seacoast and floral imagery. Plenty of suspense. But its over-the-top preachiness bothered me some; but what bothered me even more was the protagonists’ lack of growth at the end: just float on old money and live in a castle in Ireland. In short, it was little more than a Christian fairytale. All the female protagonist did was be beautiful and genteel and be taken care of by a virile young man who also lived on old money.

So I turned to Happiness Hill. Grace Livingston Hill’s Christian romances have always intrigued me. For one reason, perhaps because for more than a hundred years now, Christian parents have considered them a safe “Sabbath read” for their children. Grace Livingston Hill (1866 – 1947) was born in Wellsville, New York to Presbyterian minister Charles Montgomery Livingston and his wife, Marcia Macdonald Livingston, both of them being writers; as was Grace’s aunt, Isabella Macdonald Alden, who became a famous writer for children writing under the pseudonym, Pansy.

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Wikipedia describes Hill’s novels as “quite simplistic in nature: good versus evil. As Hill believed the Bible was very clear about what was good and evil in life, she reflected that cut-and-dried design in her own works. She wrote about a variety of different subjects, almost always with a romance worked into the message and often essential to the return to grace on the part of one or several characters. . . . A secondary subject would always be God’s ability to restore. Hill aimed for a happy, or at least satisfactory, ending to any situation, often focusing on characters’ new or renewed faith as impetus for resolution.”

In my own escape-reading (after I read serious, heavy reading, her books are just that to me) I think that what weakened the power of her books, at least in my eyes, is how stereotypical and formulaic most of her plots are: in essence, at the end of much travail and torment, the Christian and the wealthy protagonist walk off into the sunset hand-in-hand, into a happily-ever-after existence, all their troubles left behind. Clearly, Hill’s noblesse oblige plots worked, for millions of her books have sold down through the years. Almost always, too, her books contain one or two almost unbelievably nasty and cruel villains.

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Which brings us to Happiness Hill. In it I found what I’ve too often missed in Hill’s novels: a strong work ethic coupled with a strong family with character being a constant. Thus, in this novel, Hill managed to create a heroine who belatedly realizes that only as she anchors her ship of life on one side, with the anchor of a strong loving family; and, on the other side, with the enduring anchor of a personal relationship with God, will her ship not founder. For if all one has is a line from one’s ship with an open loop on either end, then that romance is no stronger than a flip of the loop on either end.

And this, my dear friends, is what makes Happiness Hill enduring, lasting, and a joy to both read and re-read—for it contains two very strong such anchors.

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You shouldn’t have any trouble finding a copy of this book, either in hardback or paper. But let me encourage you to spend a little extra effort and time searching out one with a dust-jacket such as the evocative one depicted in this blog.

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IT’S NOT OVER UNTIL IT’S OVER

BLOG #10, SERIES #3

WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE

IT’S NOT OVER UNTIL IT’S OVER

March 7, 2012

 

 

            What a difference a year or two makes!  Four years ago, Colorado towns such as Aspen and Vail appeared to have it all: multimillion dollar homes perched on the hillsides, the middle class and the poor driven far away because the norm for buying a house in those glitzy resort towns had skyrocketed into the tens of millions.  Most owners were absentee (only residing in these palaces for a few weeks out of the year); in other words, these were generally trophy homes, scattered around the world.  The owners, being rarely in town to vote or attend schoolboard meetings or support a church or give to those who struggled just to survive, made little impact on the towns where they supposedly lived.

 

            Nearer to Denver, there are entire hillsides of vacant multilmillion dollar mansions which never got purchased at all.  And the fortunes of those who built them (developers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, masons, home decorators, landscapers, etc.) are today still reeling.  Many of the homes have had to be discounted 30 – 60%.

 

            Though things are not as bad in Colorado as in states such as California, Nevada, Arizona, Florida, Michigan, etc., and conditions continue to slowly improve, the reality is that an era of affluence is over, replaced by stark reality.  Those who flourished by “flipping” one property after another are most likely bankrupt.  And today over 40% of all American “homeowners” are said to owe more for their homes than they can sell them for.

 

            This staggering collapse is no respecter of persons for it has affected billionaires along with minimum wage earners.  A whole generation of college graduates are remaining home with their parents, unable to find good enough jobs to enable them to pay for separate lodging or pay off their school loans.

 

            Next Wednesday, I’ll share with you the story of what happened to the richest man in the world–a king who had it all–a long time ago.

 

HAD

 

            His story has reverberated down through history ever since, but its retelling has never been more timely than now.