Laura Michelle and I realized we had both read some books by the same author, Samuel Shellabarger. She went onto read all of his novels and called me and shared her insights. I asked her to write something so I could publish it here; so here it is:
I am captivated every time I read, Prince of Foxes by Samuel Shellabarger. I recommended it to my Mom, who read it with the same fascination. When I told Dad about the book he recalled that he had enjoyed other works by the same author and I promptly checked out as many as I could from the library. In the following weeks, I luxuriated in the action and drama filled storylines set in various time periods of history.
As I read the meticulously researched books, I realized I was also learning something of the author himself. What struck me was what appeared to be a clear communication of the author’s outlook on human history and his thoughts on the present and the future. Prince of Foxes was hopeful in the promise of the Renaissance. Captain from Castile explored the promise of the New World. The King’s Cavalier looked at the rise of France and the strength of nationalism. Then, in Lord Vanity we see a degraded Europe, corrupt and immoral, but the characters take refuge in what would become the United States, a new country free from political and moral corruption. Living in the United States today we see that our exceptional nation has succumbed just as every great nation before us. The pattern is apparent to any historical observer; hope rides high on the crest of each new wave of history but then it breaks and the aftermath of disillusion from unfulfilled expectations are swept out to sea. Shellabarger’s stories communicate this pattern so clearly that I wondered if he had found any way of making sense of history’s unbroken pattern.
I found my answer when I read the last book he published. Tolbecken paints a picture of America at the turn of the twentieth century, contrasting past generations of righteousness and integrity with a new generation that has the external trappings of righteousness and honor, but because of a lack of a relationship with God, becomes increasingly disillusioned and hopeless. After the armistice of WWI, Jared (the main character) has a conversation with his best friend, David Mansen who says, “human nature is just the same as it always has been…mass idealism doesn’t change the human heart.” Later, Jared’s grandfather reflects, “Works, Faith, Justification, Sanctification…stood for something that changes but goes on.” He describes people who stand for these ideals as “a few…against the world. But all the truly distinguished men I’ve known belonged to that company.” These statements reveal that Shellabarger recognized that it’s not philosophies, laws, or institutions that make a lasting difference. Instead, individuals who make conscious decisions to do good or evil, to honor or reject God, create change for better or worse.
Regardless of the new worlds in the past or the frontiers of the future, we as individuals must commit ourselves to God and allow Him to work through us. As David Marsen says, “It’s only the individual that counts, the individual that God works through. Don’t hitch Him up to American tradition or to the League of Nations or to any human system. Hitch yourself to Him and see what happens.”