#ReadingHannah :: A Lutheran-ish Sacramental Novel

The twinning of life and death starts early in Hannah, Delivered, the new novel by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew, and weaves its way throughout the story.  It’s an obvious theme for a novel that begins with the protagonist’s mother’s death and Hannah’s subsequent swim in the comforting waters of a local lake, leading right into a busy night in the maternity ward:  “Birth always comes this way, coupled in a twisted dance with death.”  Water is in fact an important image throughout, pointing toward the ways in which baptism itself couples death (to sin) with (new) life (in Christ).

Sacramental theology winds its way throughout these pages, baptismal as well as eucharistic, as does a thoroughly Lutheran reflection on the nature of grace.  You can’t earn it, just as Brother Martin himself realized nearly five centuries ago.  You can’t do enough, can’t do the right-est thing to make sure that it all turns out well.  Justification in fact comes through grace in this theology, and in this novel as well:  “why shouldn’t we be good enough, as is?”  It’s decisively about women, and it’s completely about being human.

I admit that as I neared the end of the book, I was a bit terrified of how it might end.  Returning to the first page I realize that the author already told the reader what she needed to know.  When you read it, pay attention.

I did a little bit of live-tweeting as I read the book starting on its May 1 release date.  Here is some of #readingHannah … I commend this lovely book to you, and look forward to more discussion.

 

About Caryn Riswold

Caryn D. Riswold is a feminist theologian in the Lutheran tradition. She is Professor of Religion and Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, where she has worked for over a decade teaching undergraduates to think critically and creatively about religion. She earned her Ph.D. and Th.M. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, holds a master’s degree from the Claremont School of Theology, and received her B.A. from Augustana College in her childhood hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.


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