Saturday, May 23, 2009

Book Review: Freedom From Fear (5/5)

I haven't reviewed a book in a while, partly because life is busy (especially now that baseball season is going strong), partly because I've been reading another very long book. I don't typically review all the ministry books I read, though I may start doing more of that in the future, but I do like to review the historical nonfiction books I read. The latest, which I just finished today, was another mammoth historical work from the Oxford History of the United States. Coming in at 900 pages, David Kennedy's work is an impressive treatment of a pivotal time in the life of our country. His book, Freedom from Fear, records our nation's journey through the Great Depression and World War II. These experiences defined the lives of my grandparents, and shaped the world that my parents grew up in.

This marks the third book in the Oxford series that I've read (the other two covering the pre-Civil War era and the Civil War). I have thoroughly enjoyed all three. While I have read history books all my life, many of them have been biographies of great leaders and figures. This series has given me the broadest overview of these time periods and helped me put many different pieces together in my mind that have previously existed as unrelated events. For example, I've read McCollough's great biography of Harry Truman and Ambrose's treatment of D-Day and other military works on World War II. But Kennedy's book put those events and those people in their historical context for me. Likewise, we heard and read much about the Great Depression over the last two years as we have tried to figure out how our current economic downturn compares. But only after reading Kennedy's work do I understand how the Depression fit into its historical context - the decade of the 20s, the presidencies of Hoover and Roosevelt.

With the passing of my grandmother last week, I was reminded again how we are losing our connection with those who lived through these years. Mimi was born in 1917 and married in 1936, starting her family during the Great Depression and living in her prime during the World War II years. Kennedy's book is history to me, but was life to her. I'm sad that we are losing a connection with these events as Mimi's generation passes from the scene. At the same time, however, we should be especially thankful for those who went before us and forged the world today as we know it. While there is still much suffering and evil in the world, as Americans we are still enjoying the fruit of freedom that was purchsed with the blood of many during World War II.

It seems fitting not just to recommend this book to each of you to look over, but also to remind you as we approach Memorial Day this Monday to thank God for those who paid the ultimate price that we can be secure and free.

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