4 out of 4 stars
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Longings of the Heart is a biography by Georgene Searfoss. First of all, it is necessary to make it clear that the author/editor is writing the biography of another person: Elsie Machle White. Taking into account that the book was published 41 years after the protagonist's death, Georgene had to use manuscripts, letters, magazine articles, and other similar sources.
Elsie was born in 1890 in China, daughter of two missionary doctors who were in the country to spread Christianity. In the first part of the book, there is a detailed description of the life of Christian missionaries in China. From the beginning of the book to the end, the reader realizes that Elsie was a great woman, having to overcome several personal tragedies, distance from loved ones, deaths of family members, and so forth. Later in her life, she co-authored a book called Our Neighbor, the Chinese.
The detailed descriptions of the suffering and perseverance of Christian missionaries in China are undeniably my favorite part of the book. History shows that China has always been and perhaps will always be hostile to Christianity. Regardless of what you believe, it is moving to read the story of people who risked their lives to do what they thought was right. Unfortunately, most people in the West today only care about material things. Elsie's father was so concerned with his "divine mission" that he lost touch with his family for an extended period, though.
Last week, I wrote a review of another biography, and the only thing that I considered a flaw in the book was the fact that the author spent a lot of time describing everyday situations. I mean, the reader wants to know about extraordinary things that happened in the author's life. The same applies here, but I somehow considered Longings of the Heart flawless. How is that possible? Am I biased? I don't think so. In the first book, the author spent a lot of time talking about fishing. I mean catching fish is always the same, right? In Longings of the Heart, even when the reader is reading Elsie's love letters, there is a detailed description of the customs of the time and the lives of Christian missionaries. Her devotion to Billy was touching. Thus, I can say that I didn't find anything in the book that could be criticized.
Japanese people and Germans are called derogatory terms ("Japs" and "Huns," respectively). I am of German origin and did not feel offended. It would be a mistake, in my opinion, to modify these terms to please modern readers. I must stress that Elsie's husband fought in World War I and that the usage of these terms was commonplace among soldiers. There are many grammatical errors in the letters, but the editor decided to keep the original spelling and added a "[sic]" just after the misspelled words. I found one grammatical error, but it is indisputable that the book is professionally edited.
All in all, Longings of the Heart deserves 4 out of 4 stars. It is an addictive biography with no relevant flaws. I recommend it to all Christians who like history and who are curious to know more about the lives of missionaries in China at the beginning of the last century.
Longings of the Heart
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