Redeeming Love: Assumptions

Redeeming Love: Assumptions October 7, 2017

redeemingloveby Samantha Field cross posted from her blog SamanthaPField.com

Before I get into today’s post, I know there’s a lot on our minds. You know my thoughts on gun violence, and it is beyond enraging to me that more people are dead and hundreds more wounded because Republicans can’t be arsed to care about people. What that white man did in Las Vegas was preventable, and the argument that mass shootings — any shootings at all– are the necessary price we must pay for a hobby is despicable. Get informed about gun violence, responsible regulation, and start agitating for policies to make our country safer from white domestic terrorists and abusers. Our thoughts and prayers are useless if we’re not prompted to action.

And now, because we have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, the Redeeming Love review continues. As always, be aware that this book is an unending shitshow of abuse and assault.

Plot Summary

  • Angel hitches a ride with a trader to Sacramento.
  • She gets a job with mercantile-owner Joseph, who’d ordered a stove for Michael.
  • He keeps her occupied while he sends word to Michael that she’s there.
  • Michael comes, sexually assaults her.
  • She agrees to go back with him this time.
  • Miriam gets a crush on Paul; Paul feels uncomfortable lusting after a 16-year-old.
  • Both Paul and Angel decide they want Michael to be with Miriam.

***

There’s not a ton of plot movement; honestly, I’ve read a lot of Francine’s writing and I’m confused why this is one of her most popular books. The pacing in this is just … it’s so bad. It’s 450+ pages and honestly I think it could have been easily reduced by a third and we wouldn’t have lost anything. All the agonizing and soul-searching happening in this section is Francine beating a dead horse with Angel’s self-recrimination. She feels ashamed. We get it. However, this is what happens when people take moralizing sermons and try to turn them into books. The point of Redeeming Love isn’t to be a well-written, entertaining story– it’s the theology. Francine really has to drive home to us that we are like Angel, and we need to be convinced of our lowliness, our wretchedness.

In Sacramento, Angel spends half a chapter wandering around looking for employment and walks past a bunch of brothels and saloons, rejecting each as an option. She’s pretty firm about this, too– she knows she can be successful at that, but it’s not what she wants anymore so she keeps walking until she finds Joseph’s store and he offers her a job. However, later in the narrative Francine has Angel remember this day differently. Angel thinks to herself, and says out loud to Michael, that not returning to prostitution was a close thing, and she was indescribably lucky that she found Joseph when she did.

This is another place where Francine’s theological purposes replace good writing. Angel is consistent in her desire to forge a new life for herself away from prostitution, since this has been a common thread in her thoughts since Michael imprisoned her at his farm. However, Francine is re-telling the story of Hosea so she has to have her Gomer character be “enticed” or “tempted” or whatever. Hosea is a framing of Israel’s relationship with idolatry, and Francine has to preserve that framing even when it doesn’t make sense for the characters she’s written.

When Michael shows up, the first thing he does is sexually assault her:

Michael caught hold of her and swung her around. “Oh, yes I do [know why you left]!” He pulled her into his arms. “You left because of this.” He covered her mouth with his. When she tried to push free, he cupped the back of her head. She struggled harder as the betraying warmth stole over her. (305-06).

Hoo, boy. This is the same rape myth that pissed me off in the “Breaker of Chains” Game of Thrones debacle. It’s the myth that women don’t know what we want– if we resist, if we say no, we don’t really mean it. Here, that myth is combined with the prevalent idea that women are supposed to find sexual violence arousing. Angel is being attacked by a man she was actively backing away from — tripping over tables and boots– but when he assaults her she feels a “betraying warmth.” How many times have we seen this exact scene in other books, in TV, in movies? A woman backing away from a manly man who mans very manly-like until her back hits a wall and he’s suddenly there with his manliness and oh swoon.

Confusingly, Angel’s reaction to this whole confrontation again makes sense as an abuse victim. She begins “shaking violently” as he tries to get her things together to leave. Every other description of her emotional state and actions fits right in to what I feel when I’m trying to function through panic attack. Once again, though, Francine is going to ignore that she’s writing a textbook abusive relationship. In this scene, Angel accuses Michael of feeling a “sense of power” and he admits it, but then says “But it’s not a power I’m going to use against you.” Right. Like you didn’t just use your physical power one page ago to sexually assault the woman you have manipulated and kidnapped repeatedly.

Goddess above this is awful.

***

Speaking of manipulation, there’s two incidents I’d like to address although they’re separate from the Angel-and-Michael main plot. The first is Joseph’s behavior in Sacramento. He gives Angel a place to stay and a job, and Angel starts to feel a small sense of redemption and self-respect. She’s doing what she’s always wanted, even if it doesn’t quite look the way she expected. After a couple of weeks, she’s feeling more confident and ready to move on to something more permanent. The second she mentions anything to Joseph, though, he spends the entire day being very strange and confusing. He lies and says his wife suffered a back injury so he needs Angel to stay, and then keeps changing his mind and creating work. At the end of the chapter, Francine reveals those were all delaying tactics so that Angel would still be at the store when Michael shows up.

This is hella manipulative. He outright lies to her and keeps her occupied with busy work all day– work that’s the equivalent of digging holes and filling them back in again– all so that Michael can find her. In fact, he wasn’t just waiting for Michael to show up for the stove, he’d written to Michael and told him Angel was there. But of course Joseph knew better than Angel on what was good for her, so it’s alright.

This happens again with the Altman children back at the farm. Miriam lies to Angel that Ruthie is stuck twenty feet up in a tree and convinces Angel to climb it and rescue her. She’s never climbed a tree before, but she overcomes her fear anyway because she cares about Ruthie and doesn’t want her to get hurt– or, since she’s twenty feet up, possibly die. Once she gets up there, though, she realizes that Ruthie has a rope tied around her and is perfectly safe. She’s understandably upset that she was manipulated, but it’s all in fun and Miriam just somehow knew that Angel needed to climb a tree for some reason, so it’s ok. This is good-natured and loving and adorable and ends with Michael tying up another rope in the tree and making a swing that everyone plays on.

I’m not surprised that Francine has written “friendships” that work this way. Deceitfulness and manipulation are commonplace in conservative evangelical social circles, and it’s acceptable for people to behave like this as long as you’re well-intentioned. The idea that other people know better than you is just par for the course when friendship itself is predicated on the idea that being a friend means being a “iron that sharpeneth iron” or inflicting “faithful wounds” on each other.

Redeeming Love doesn’t have a single example of love, friendship, romance, or healthy relationships anywhere in it. Every relationship is manipulative and passive-aggressive at best, toxic at worst; yet, these toxic relationships are being held up as godly, loving examples.

Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

~~~~~~~~~~

Samantha grew up in the homeschool, patriarchy, quiverful, and fundamentalist movements, and experienced first-hand the terror and manipulation of spiritual abuse. She is now married to an amazing, gentle man who doesn’t really get what happened to her but loves her anyway. With him by her side and the strength of God’s promises, she is slowly healing.

She blogs at SamanthaPField.com


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Deceitfulness and manipulation are commonplace in conservative evangelical social circles, and it’s acceptable for people to behave like this as long as you’re well-intentioned.

    And, sometimes when it is NOT well-intentioned; or, they lie and say it is well-intentioned.

  • pagankitty

    Even if we ignore that that kiss is sexual assault, that kiss still isn’t sexy. He covered her mouth with his?? So she wasn’t kissing back?? The oh-so-desirable Michael kisses like a frog??? Was that warmth she was feeling acid reflux???https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7900155f95454706acb332525dfee353c19fe76694e5534df21744171b70561e.jpg

  • Astreja

    In the name of free speech / artistic license it’s vanishingly unlikely that such a book as this could be banned or otherwise criminalized, but wouldn’t it be nice if there was a sticker on the cover that said “Warning! Contains description of non-consensual sexual contact” so that people could choose to avoid it?

  • SAO

    I suspect the ‘feeling a call from God’ thing makes evangelicals confuse what they want, for whatever petty or noble reason, with what God wants.

    So, whether it is helping someone in need or slut-shaming a pretty girl because they are jealous, they righteously go ahead.

  • SAO

    The trope of no, no, no, and then surrender used to be common in romance novels. When a woman couldn’t be a good woman and consent to sex, it allowed characters to thread the needle between what they wanted and what they should want. In many books, the heroine would mentally consent to sex, but maintain her ‘good girl’ status. In others, it just looked a little rapey.

    I suspect some of the cause was society’s screwed up ideas about women, who were supposed to be chaste without being frigid, when saying no meant being both frigid and chaste.

    Thankfully, we’ve actually come a long way on that, but it wouldn’t surprise me that an CPM book falls into the same thing.

  • Jennny

    …and also women weren’t thought to have, or expected to have, sexual desires and needs of their own in previous generations. It was never discussed for reasons of prudery and lack of biological knowledge I guess. They received from the male, they were no more than a ‘penis home’ (shudder, to quote the odious Mark Driscoll) so consent had a different meaning, like a servant couldn’t NOT obey her master’s commands. Which is JUST like CPM right now…!

  • pinkie

    I think the same thing happened in Goldfinger. She’s named Pussy Galore (of all the tacky names!) and it’s hinted that she’s lesbian, at least until she’s pinned by James Bond.

  • Aloha

    What a nice observation:
    Good girls won’t consent because they’re so shy and innocent.
    A bad girl like Angel won’t consent because she’s untrusting and fearful.

    But in either case, you just need a strong man to bumble through those female objections and take charge.
    🙁

  • pagankitty

    A GOOD, strong man. Not a bad, strong man. You can tell the difference because….uh………… one will only sexually assault you because god told him to

  • Almost a chimp

    Unfortunately, that kind of warning tends to attract more people than it deters.
    I’m toying with the idea of making up some stickers saying “Warning, this book contains poorly written, overly-sentimental, sloppy dross” then spending a happy hour or two in bookshops, seeking out books such as this to attach them to.

    Well, everybody needs a hobby :-))

  • Astreja

    Y’know, that would be a very useful sticker. 😀

  • persephone

    Some of them went beyond a little rapey to full on rape. Johanna Lindsey wrote a lot of it back in the late 70s and early 80s.

  • persephone

    Take a cruise through Amazon’s kindle erotica section. It gets pretty horrifying.

    I downloaded a book from prime reading that was supposed to be a modern Dracula vampire retelling, and it was totally a horribly controlling, abusive relationship, including rape and a resultant unwanted pregnancy that the rapist used to control the woman. I went back and read the reviews after I deleted the book, and there were a lot of people saying how romantic and great the rapist guy was. *hork*

    But there’s a whole genre of not just BDSM, but literally women kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery. It’s sickening.

  • persephone

    Debi Pearl is so big on that. Her children are awesome and perfect examples to follow, but everyone else is fair game for her abuse.

  • persephone

    Fleming. *sigh* Just so gross. In one of the books, a woman is raped, and to make her feel better, Bond immediately has sex with her afterward, and she’s happy. *smh*

  • Almost a chimp

    The one scene I always wanted to see in a Bond movie would have Q handing Bond a small packet.
    “Take these, Bond, and be sure to use them. They might just save your life, or those of a lot of women”
    “Thank you, Q, but what are they?”
    “They’re condoms. You’re a recklessly promiscuous little git and quite frankly I’m surprised you’re not already riddled with STDs”.

  • Astreja

    Stuff like that really makes me wonder about the author’s motivations in writing such hideous crap, and how the readers’ ideas of romance got so twisted. Hopefully somebody gave it a one-star review.

  • Allison the Great

    Was wondering the same thing. I hope Suzanne’s okay.

  • Julia Childress

    It may be because of the flooding and damage from Hurricane Nate: “flooding was the worst to hit the country in recent years, leading to the “biggest crisis in Costa Rican history” according to President Luis Guillermo Solís.[34] In response, Solís declared a state of emergency for the entire country on October 6, as well as a national day of mourning”. Hope for the best for Suzanne and her family.

  • pinkie

    I’ve got it to hand it to Casino Royale, however, for pointing out that the line between spanking and torture is a bit blurred.

  • persephone

    Several of us did.

    You’ve gotta name and shame that crap.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    That is exactly what happened! We had tickets to come back to the States for medical appts and to see family a week ago and I usually load NLQ with posts anywhere from a week to a day before. I loaded almost a week in so I could pack and that Sunday before the hurricane when we were supposed to only have rain from Tropical Depression Nate it did start raining hard. The next day knocked out our power and water and it continued like that. By Thursday the roads were flooded, washed away, covered with downed trees and just gone. We missed our Thursday flight after a horrific 3 hour cab ride trying to get out of Tamarindo. The next day a few more roads were open so we waded through knee deep water with our suitcases on our heads, took a cab to the next town over and got a ride to Liberia airport, even if we were supposed to fly out of San Jose. Ruta 1 main hwy in CR that goes north south is gone, so after a night and a day at the Liberia airport we ended up on standby for a flight to San Jose, where our airline rebooked us to the states the next day. While we were sleeping another night at the airport my husband’s brother called to say that my 94 year old mother in law was fading fast and if my husband wanted to see her he had to come fast. We both flew to Fort Lauderdale where I continued on to D.C. and my kids house while Jim flew to San Antonio to see his mother. She died before he could make it there. The entire family flew to San Antonio a few days ago and we’re currently returning to D.C. tomorrow night, at which time you can expect new posts. Didn’t take my laptop to San Antonio and I don’t trust logging into the ancient hotel computer to update. We’re fine, our house in Tamarindo did not get water in it and we’ll be back soon.

  • pinkie

    :-0 Glad you’re ok, and condolences on your mil!

  • Julia Childress

    Sounds exhausting, but it’s good your house is undamaged. Sorry to hear about your MIL. That’s a lot to deal with in such a short time.

  • persephone

    I’m so sorry about your mother in law, but very glad to hear the rest of the family is safe.

  • Emersonian

    So glad you’re ok, was wondering too. Condolences to you and your husband.

  • mashava

    So sorry to hear of the misfortune. Glad youre alright, though.

  • AuntKaylea

    So sorry for your loss; but glad to learn you are ok.

  • Allison the Great

    I’m so sorry for your loss

  • Adamska

    I’m really bad at responding to responses so I can’t imagine this will turn into a discussion, but this is something I think about a lot.

    The fact of the matter is: yes. Stickers like that would be good.

    I’ve been in fandom a fair while, just being a bit too young for MySpace fandom. And one of the best developments has been the growing use and awareness of trigger warnings and possibly more importantly: tagging.

    There’s a nasty push in some areas of the interweb to portray anyone who produces or consumes “bad” kink material or in some cases Any “bad” material is a Bad And Abusive Person.
    This completely erases the huge numbers of people who report becoming aware of their abuse through reading fanfic, who found dark kinky fiction as a healthy SAFE way to explore their fetishes–particularly underage people who do still have sexual urges and deserve to be able to explore them safely without being demonised.

    There are lots of reasons for enjoying dark kinks. There are lots of reasons for wanting to avoid them. AO3 has a wonderful tagging system thst allows all parties to enjoy their fiction in an Informed manner, safely with no spoilers.
    You know what doesn’t let you make an informed choice about your consumption without digging through plot spoilers or reviews? Mass media. You can’t know when you pick up a Romance novel if it’s going to be about 2+ people exploring a happy healthy fluffy relationship or if it’s a poorly disguised rape fantasy.

    There’s nothing wrong with rape fantasies. Or enjoying them. There’s something wrong with disguising them as something they’re not: which is the problem with 50 Shades. There’s something wrong with telling people they’re something they’re not.

    The is is Never: people are creating dark fetish material.
    It’s that it’s setting people up to wander unknowingly into a situation where theyre being told “submitting to abuse is romantic” and not “submitting to fictional abuse can be kinky” or “enjoying the fiction of abuse can be kinky”.

    There are lots of ways this can be achieved. Warnings are one way. Tags are another. Descriptive summeries can work. In character conversations can do it. Narrators can do it.

    Telling people that they’re bad for having dark kinks, irrespective of their grasp on the concept of informed consent, and shutting down young people, and let’s face it: usually women and lgbt+ folks, isn’t the way to do it and does way more harm than good.

  • Raging Bee

    Yeah, I heard those lines in Judy Densch’s voice. Works for me!

  • Raging Bee

    I never read the books, but I heard someone say that in the books, the women were the ones with the brains to save Bond’s bacon.

  • Annerdr

    I read one of her books. My mother gave it to me. Mom asked me later what I thought and I pointed out that the “hero” locked the woman in a tower for a week while she suffered with a high fever and occasional hallucinations. He came in and raped her at night, every night for 3 nights. She couldn’t give consent because she was hallucinating. That nauseated me, especially since I knew she would fall in love with her rapist. I read on until it was pointed out that he just couldn’t help himself because he loved her so much. That outraged me too much to finish the book. Mom looked shocked, said it sounded bad when put that way, and never gave me another romance. I may have soured her on them since she moved to mysteries a few months later.

  • Raging Bee

    Tags are widely used in porn (or so I’ve been told by researchers more diligent than myself), so I don’t see why we can’t have them on, say, back covers or cover-leaves of books. Especially since the book described here sounds a bit like porn — excuse me, “erotica” — with rapey/force/non-consensual themes anyway.

  • Raging Bee

    Yeah, a good strong man like…Christian Gray?

  • Raging Bee

    CP/M? What does the precursor of MS-DOS have to do with any of this? Oh wait, it’s CPM, never mind…

  • Annerdr

    (snort)

  • Astreja

    As someone who reads adult fanfics, I definitely appreciate the tags on stories. Certain themes are triggers and a couple of others just don’t appeal to me, and I’d rather not read through multiple chapters and leave a story unfinished because it took an unpleasant turn.