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Trapped Beneath the Surface Review by Kim Kargbo

By Catharine Shaw
Lamplighter Publishing
PO Box 777
Waverly, PA 18471

This gem of a novel was originally published in 1892 as "Jack Forrester's Fate" and has been republished by Lamplighter Publishing, a company that reprints rare books from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Original spellings, punctuation, and vocabulary are usually preserved unless it does not make sense to do so.

In this story, Jack Forrester has come to faith in Christ and is challenged by the clarion call that "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." His faith, however, is not shared by his sweetheart, Sylvia who is a selfish young woman. Sylvia's younger sister, Eleanor, has also found comfort, following the death of her mother, in the arms of Christ, and has a tie to Jack that Sylvia finds vexing, even though Eleanor is just a little girl. Eleanor's trials begin when she falls through the ice on a pond. She is dramatically rescued by a passing young man who eventually comes to work for her father. Jack goes off to sea as a sailor and struggles with the tension of loving a woman who does not share his faith.

Back at home, Sylvia goes through her own testing as she stalwartly rejects the words of Christ that both Jack and her young sister have found to be such a comfort. The fact that they share this secret comfort is a thorn in Sylvia's side, and she acts foolishly in her darkened state. Eventually, during a riding accident, Sylvia is faced with the real threat of losing her sister and comes to terms with her selfish and mean treatment of her sister. She also comes to the end of herself and finds Christ beckoning to her. Through a series of "coincidental" events, Jack runs into Sylvia and Eleanor; and though he has taken a strong stand for right, he notices Sylvia's change of heart. Other providential connections throughout the story show the hand of God in our lives and how He orchestrates events for His own glory and our good.

I thoroughly enjoyed this little book, as did my 13-year-old daughter. My only sense of confusion was over the new title. While I understand it to be symbolic of the struggles that Jack and Eleanor endured, I felt it was a stretch. However, I highly recommend this book to any family looking either for quality reading material for their middle school children, or a good read-aloud for the family as a whole. The moral lessons learned by Jack, Sylvia, Eleanor and others will be easily applicable to life, and the sibling rivalry aspects should give fodder for many family conversations.

Product review by Kim Kargbo, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February 2010