Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Penny Culliford's Theodora's Baby~Reviewed

Theodora’s Baby
By Penny Culliford
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
ISBN: 0310265584

“In the third book in the Theodora’s Diary series, Theodora is happily married and life is on track—then an unexpected pregnancy changes everything.”

Theodora has recently married and is also unemployed. Now, she finds out she’s in for another major life change—a baby! In fact, the pregnancy follows so closely after the wedding that tongues are wagging, even at her church. Folks are busily counting the months until her due date to see if they come up with a respectable figure of “nine.”

Theodora’s Baby is the third in Culliford’s series about this character, following Theodora’s Diary and Theodora’s Wedding. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to appreciate this story, not having read the first two installments. I was, however, delighted to be wrong. Culliford quickly catches us up on Theodora’s life in a small town in England and the quirky characters surrounding her. Theodora’s snappy British phrasing and witty outlook lend humor to everyday life, including the indignities of job hunting and the horrors to be found in pregnancy guides. (Her husband Kevin eventually takes them from her and forbids her to read anymore, much as a mother might forbid Stephen King books to an easily frightened twelve-year-old.)

Of course, with the characters in Theodora’s life, it’s not hard to find humor. When Kevin catches an eel during a fishing trip, he’s determined to show Theodora what a prize he’s landed. His attempts to turn the eel into a culinary delight, however, end with the fractious eel tightly wrapped around his arm. The couple spends a cozy evening in front of the telly—with the eel still attached to Kevin’s arm.

One minor criticism would be Culliford’s tendency to make conservative Christians appear to be either judgmental or slightly ridiculous—for example, the group of home-schooling mothers that try to lure Theodora into their clutches, and the foul-tempered “fundamentalist” who spreads (false) rumors about her pregnancy not being legitimate. However, Culliford’s theme in Theodora’s Baby appears to be that of genuine grace versus legalism. Theodora herself becomes judgmental over the issue of abortion to a friend, not knowing the friend has been emotionally scarred by her own abortion. Theodora not only comes to a deeper understanding of her friend’s pain, but she also learns to be a true Christian servant when the curmudgeon who spread the rumors is injured and has no one to visit or help him—except her.

Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read, and gave me just enough hints of the mayhem in the earlier novels to make me want to go out and buy them, as well.

Reviewed by Robin Johns Grant

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