Christy by Catherine Marshall

Posted on Sat 07 June 2008 in ClubReading

Christy is based on a true story from one year in the life of a young woman-the author's mother.

At the age of 19 Christy volunteered to teach in a one-room school in a poverty-stricken area in the mountains of Tennessee. During the train ride from her affluent home in Ashville, North Carolina, Christy reflects on her decision to leave home:

It was only at Montreat last summer that I discovered that my attention was not so hard to get after all. Now I guessed that somewhere-out there-there was something exciting about religion which had not come through to me in my church back home. And I sensed that I could have sat in the Huddleston family pew every Sunday until I was an old lady, and it would not have been any different. That was why I had to leave, explore for myself-'Life piled on life.'

It was 1912-before World War I. The outside world had not yet reached into the mountain regions of Tennessee. I'll let Christy tell you in her own words:

It was as if, in crossing the mountains with Mr. Pentland, I had crossed into another time, another century, back to the days of the American frontier. Ours was the century of progress, everyone said-electric lights and telephones and steam locomotives and automobiles. Yet in this cove it was still the eighteenth century.

Christy had been very sheltered at home. In Cutter Gap she encounters such extremes of life that she did not know existed. There were some very bright students who were willing to walk barefoot several miles in order to attend the school and learn. Yet there was also such debilitating ignorance, superstition, feuding, poverty and killing. She would have given up and ran home home except that she very much wanted to help these people. And she wanted to be near Miss Alice-a Quaker lady who came from Pennsylvania several years earlier and started three mission schools. Christy says, "Where else can I find a teacher like Miss Alice?"

I have to admit, I admire Miss Alice also and enjoy spending time with her through Christy's eyes. Let me share Christy's thoughts during one of her encounters with Miss Alice:

There was something else I noticed too: an initial acceptance of herself as she was and so of other people with their foibles. And so she did as little scolding or criticizing of others for their foolish behavior or their sins as anyone I had ever known. It was not that she was willing to compromise with wrongdoing or poverty or ignorance, just that she was a long step ahead of wasting energy on fretting. And she never put pressure on the rest of us to accept her opinions. The secret of her calm seemed to be that she was not trying to prove anything. She was-that was all. And her stance toward life seemed to say: God is-and that is enough.

A few years ago there was a television series based on Christy. I refused to watch the series because it was so different from the book. The characters didn't fit my mental image-Christy was tall, not short; and I could hardly recognize David or Miss Alice. The TV series includes controversial issues that are not in the book-women's lib, race relations, the environment. A couple of years later I bought the videos from that TV series. They are good in their own right, and I highly recommend them as well.

I have read Christy several times over the last 20 years and have never failed to be challenged to renew my outlook on life, people, faith. I hope you will read it and that it will become a favorite with you as well.