Book Review: Limelight

Title: Limelight

Author: Melody Carlson

Publisher’s Synopsis: Claudette Fioré used to turn heads and break hearts. She relished the glamorous Hollywood lifestyle because she had what it takes: money, youth, fame, and above all, beauty. But age has withered that beauty, and a crooked accountant has taken her wealth, leaving the proud widow penniless and alone.

Armed with stubbornness and sarcasm, Claudette returns to her shabby little hometown and her estranged sister. Slowly, she makes friends. She begins to see her old life in a new light. For the first time, Claudette Fioré questions her own values and finds herself wondering if it’s too late to change.

This book is a perfect example of what is so delightful about Melody Carlson’s writing.  I read two of her books in this blog tour “Fun Fall Fiction” and they are truly night and day.  The other is about a teenager just beginning her life and making difficult choices about whether or not she wants a career “in the limelight”, while this one is about a woman who is at the end of her life and is seeing the emptiness of it all. It is truly fascinating to see two very different styles of writing that fit the people the books are about perfectly.

Claudette is old, forgotten, and depressed at the beginning of the book and slowly through the pages, you see how she became who she is and she begins to see that things she thought she knew weren’t what they seemed.  The superficiality of her life has left her empty and in the final winter months of life, she latches onto something more– something deeper.

I found the references to Hollywood’s Golden Age to be delightful.  I loved imagining Claudette as an extra on the set of Meet Me in St. Louis and being drawn to the screen by another Claudette of Hollywood– Claudette Colbert.  (The reference to It Happened One Night didn’t hurt either!)

One of my favorite parts of the story is also one of the things that bothers me the most.  In this age of tolerance, acceptance, and accusations of homophobia if you dare to admit you believe the Bible forbids it– calls it an abomination– it is difficult to demonstrate to those who don’t understand the difference between “homophobia” and disagreement.  I can be personally against something that someone does or believes in without being “afraid” of them or their position.  I can reject their actions without rejecting them as a person.  (For example, I am against the Democratic agenda.  That doesn’t make me “Demophobic” nor does it make me hate my Democratic mother-in-law.  It makes me disagree with the platform and the actions of democrats who make policies that I am forced to live with.  The same goes the other way for them I’m sure)  However, it is generally assumed that if you are anti-homosexuality, you hate or fear it.  This isn’t always true and it certainly isn’t true of me.

This makes it hard to write my one criticism of the book.  You see, I am glad that Ms. Carlson tackled the topic.  In Christian circles we tend to act like if we don’t mention homosexuality, it’ll just go away.  It’s been around since Abraham’s time at the very least and it’s going to be around until the earth is consumed by fire.  Like poverty, wealth, war, children, all good and bad things, we have it with us until the end of time.  As much as I believe it is wrong, I don’t believe it is right to villify those who have embraced that life.  As Ms. Carlson so simply puts in her book, Jesus died for them too.  He did, and I believe with all my heart that His blood covers the sins of the homosexual who cries out to Him for forgiveness of all of his sins (not just homosexuality) just as Jesus’ blood covered mine.

Where I am uncomfortable with her story is related to the fact that one of the characters is “gay”.  That’s fine.  Gayle Roper did a brilliant job of having a homosexual main character in one of her books.  I was pleasantly suprised to see it in here because, as I said, I think we to often stumble around and into the elephant of homosexuality in Christian circles (I’ll admit it.  I’m not comfortable with it and I do avoid it… then again, I avoid discussing sexuality at all.  Sex and all it entails is a very private thing for me and one I usually only discuss with the only person that can benefit from that discussion– my husband).  However, I was very disappointed that after mentioning it as a matter of course, showing that a church in Hawaii has accepted the man and his ‘partner’ into their fellowship, the subject is dropped after a statement to the effect of, “Jesus loves and came to save you too.”  I agree with the statement, don’t get me wrong, but I found myself dissatisfied with the feeling that I’d been dropped into a politically correct novel that ignored the very strong words that the Bible has for homosexuality.

Do let me be clear.  Ms. Carlson in no way glorifies it, outwardly condones it, or really even makes much of it.  It’s a “matter of course” that starts a chain of events (The fact that this man is seeking the Lord and found welcome in a fellowship of Christians).  What bothers me is only that by treating it so matter-of-factly, you can’t help but feel a little lost when there is no resolution of the Biblical standpoint of the topic.  It’s not overt, but it’s there.  I would love to know that I’m wrong and I’ve missed something in the book (I did read it late at night).  It’s a very nit-picky objection because as I said, she never outright condones it.  But the fact that it is dropped in our laps and never revisited, makes it seem like its there for the sake of ‘tolerance’ rather than the way to further the story.

How would I change it?  I probably wouldn’t.  Maybe that’s why she did it the way she did.  Keep the story realistic (I mean come on, Hollywood isn’t exactly homosexual-free territory any more than my little town in the desert is), make a stand to remind Christians to separate the person from the sin (I’m all for that!!!), but when there’s no other way to deal with the elephant, leave it for the next person who might know how to discuss it more realistically.

So see, as I said.  What I loved most (the fact that she tackled it at all and with such Christian grace) is also what bothers me most.  I find that just a little ironic.

This copy, provided for my review by Multnomah/Waterbrook  is waiting for a new home.  I am making myself give these away because I have PILES of books to read and no where to keep them.  Otherwise, this one would have stayed.  I know I will read it again sometime.  It’s that good and I want to make sure I didn’t miss anything.  Read Limelight.  You don’t want to miss getting to know Claudette and watching her prove that an old dog can most definitely learn– even if it isn’t a trick for the camera.

5 thoughts on “Book Review: Limelight

  1. I love first person present for the right story. It has to fit though, and sometimes it seems artificial.

    I’m either “love it” or “hate it” depending on whether it suits, and whether it is artfully done.

    This sounds like a fun read! I love the well-rounded review!

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