Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Book Review: Kaleidoscope

I just finished reading a book called Kaleidoscope, by Patsy Clairmont.  This is not the sort of book that I normally read, but I was looking to stretch my brain a bit.  The premise of the book, according to the book jacket is "A whimsical look at Proverbs from Women of Faith's pint-size dynamo of wisdom".   The author is supposed to "sift through the gems of Scripture" in Proverbs and find "inspiring reflections of the divine that bring clarity to our world". 

A kaleidoscope is, according to Merriam-Webster, "an instrument containing loose bits of colored material (as glass or plastic) between two flat plates and two plane mirrors so placed that changes of position of the bits of material are reflected in an endless variety of patterns."  Kaleidoscope can also refer to a "diverse collection".  Okay--that does apply to Proverbs.   Proverbs is not an easy book to digest.  Even for the best readers, second or third readings are often necessary, and given that the Word of God is "all things to all people", interpreting the verses can be difficult. 

I enjoyed the author's "folksy" tone at first.  She appeared to be writing just like she might talk, and I could almost picture her dictating the entire book just so that intimate, conversational quality could be maintained.  It may be that that Mrs. Clairmont was going for that sort of tone so as to establish and build a sense of rapport with her readers, but after awhile the tone started to feel a bit insincere.  It was just a bit too much. 

The presentation of the chapters are short, two or three page discussions of a proverb with questions for the reader to consider, and additional Bible verses to consider that illustrate the same point made by the Proverb discussed.  Examples of the particular proverb are illustrated with stories from the author's life for the most part, which again appeared to be offered as a means of establishing a relationship with the reader.  I liked this method of short chapters.  I could read a couple and think about them while I went about my day. 

The author emphasizes how "in your face" Proverbs is, and how they provide "direct wisdom and clear understanding".  Simple, huh?  Well, no.  Most of the book, I finishe the chapter and there appeared to be no connection between the proverb she was supposed to be discussing and what she was saying.  I even went back and read again, looking for something, anything that connect the proverb to what ws in the chapter.  For instance, the chapter discussing the proverb "Apply your heart to instruction, and your ears to words of knowledge."  Clairmont only mentions the first part of Proverbs 23:12 instead of the entire verse; she seems to do a lot of this sort of cherrypicking throughout the book.  The entire chapter bounces around from place to place and never once touches on the actual meaning of the verse.  Another chapter spends time talking about "stretch marks of grace" when the verse has to do with giving to your enemy (again with cherrypicking--the very next verse after 25:21 tells us to heap live coals on the heads of our enemies).  A couple of times Clairmont was pitch-perfect, such as when she discussed how beauty is passing, but  most of the book left me scratching my head in confusion.

In other words, this book, while enjoyable, is not for those seriously interested in developing an understanding of Proverbs.  I would recommend it for someone looking for a light and fluffy read, but have your Bible next to you so you can refer to the original source. 

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