7/10/2009

Blog Tour: A Gathering of Finches

In 1997, Multnomah books (a Christian publishing house in Oregon) published this novel. The author gathered information from regional historians and family members for the apparent purpose of providing a book to the Shore Acres State Park in Cooes Bay, Oregon. A local historical society would have been a better publisher for this treatise. I find little to commend the story of Cassie Hendrick Stearns Simpson, a selfish, spoiled, emotionally-closed adulteress and her second husband, Louis Simpson, errant heir to the San Francisco Asa Simpson shipping fortunes, whose madcap thievery, gambling, womanizing and drinking leave little to admire. Cassie and Louis "fall in love" while she is married to upright engineer Josiah Stearns, and Louis is secretly married to an insane woman institutionalized in San Francisco. Cassie and Louis devastate the community of Hoquiam, Washington, when they sneak off together, leaving Josiah to care for their very young daughter and Cassie's mother and sister. The first 300 pages paint the frivolous lifestyle of the self-indulgent couple until Louis is finally able to marry Cassie after the death of his first wife. But even their marriage brings no joy or purpose to their thrill-seeking, party-giving lifestyle. There is a strange interlude in the last fourth of the volume, where the story is retold from the perspectives of Louis, Annie, Carrie, and Kate. But nothing is gained from these retellings. The last part of the novel deals with Cassie's impending death from an enlarged heart. Even as she is dying, Cassie does not renounce her interests in Freud, Mary Baker Eddy (founder of Christian Science), or other aberrant philosophies. In the prologue, Kate and Annie (the two Christians in the book) seem to get comfort from the fact that Cassie had marked three places in the New Testament, but I saw no visible redemption in the lives of any of
the main characters. The only possible reason anyone would want to read this book is if you are fascinated by the gardens at Shore Acres State Park, or want a glimpse into the careless lives of a rich couple at the beginning of the 20th century

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