To tell you the truth, I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of this title; It Happens Every Spring( Tyndale Fiction, 2007). At first glance, a cynical person would be apt to view this first installment of the four seasons series as an awkward literary marriage between diverse genres attempted as a marketing ploy to sell more of Dr. Gary Chapman’s marriage books, or in particular The Four Seasons of Marriage, which this novel is based from and illustrative of. And a truly cynical person might assume that the goal was also to launch a career for Catherine Palmer.
Indeed, if I were the type to gamble, I’d wager I could find more than one reviewer making such a case. There is one slight problem, at least for any that want to throw in the bit about Palmer. She already launched her careerâ€”in 1988 to be exact.
I’ll admit I’m far more familiar with Dr. Chapman, especially his book, the Five Love Languages, which I heartily and fully recommend to all married couples. My primary language is touch, so is Steve Hanson’s in the novel at hand. His wife Brenda’s is quality time. Their marriage reaches the breaking point (or in a season of winter in the language of his other book, which I haven’t read) in a large part because they fail to recognizeâ€”and speakâ€”each other’s love language. On a side note, other than the season of year the story is set in, the title didn’t really seem to suit a story that focuses so much on a “winter marriage.” Or at least I never did figure out what happens every spring.
But I digress. (Had to get that in at least once.)
Yes, Dr. Chapman’s selling his marriage books, but as an author, I can hardly blame him for not passing up such an easy marketing opportunity, and I don’t think that came first. They say they set out to illustrate the principles Dr. Chapman has been teaching in his non-fiction, and that is precisely what the book does, and quite well I might add. A glance at his bio makes me further doubt Dr. Chapman really had a need to co-author a novel in order to sell his non-fiction books, that usually works better in the other direction.
In a way, this is a grand test. Fiction is a genre well suited to teaching, that’s why Jesus taught in parables. Yet modern “wisdom” holds that fiction readers don’t want to learn anything, but only entertained. For that reason, I’d urge readers to give this title a chance and prove that adage wrong.
In terms of craftsmanship, this literary marriage seemed to get off to a bit of a rough start, but things improve as the story progresses. In particular, the relationship-heavy passages read less and less like telling (from fiction’s standards) scenarios that seemed to me better suited to the book’s cross-genre literary parent than to fictionâ€”but it reads more and more like a novel should as you go and I expect this trend to continue in books to come.
Besides, most readers will easily forgive the construction signs as they fall in love with a child-like homeless man named Cody, my favorite character in the book hands down, and especially with a quaint small town in Missouri. I’d not have imagined such a place where neighbors look out for each other and don’t have to lock their doors actually existed, except Palmer’s disclosure she lived (or perhaps lives, it’s unclear which) in such a community on the Lake of the Ozarks, the latter being named in the novel. I can’t help but wonder if this was based on memories from the past, and if the community the setting was based on is really truly still this way today, as the modern references in the novel would insist. It would be nice. At least, we can still dream, and pay a visit to such a place in the pages of a novel. Maybe it’ll move some of us to do more than dream.
One last note. The study questions at the end were geared towards reinforcing the marriage skills (with plenty of don’ts as well) illustrated, which definitely could be helpful to anyone having martial difficulties, and if taken to heart could even save a marriage. But it has another heart-wrenching (at least for me) message that could easily go overlooked, the dismal treatment the mentally slow Cody receives.
I did have one question, at the risk of spoiling a plot point, but in the story, Cody lost his guardian and the state wouldn’t help Cody because he was twenty-one. Actually, in his condition, in most states, that should not be a problem. According to my sources, the government would have likely paid to have him institutionalized or placed in a group home for adults with mental disabilities.
This isn’t necessarily a deal breaker; it would be possible that his guardian didn’t want him to meet either fate and didn’t know any other alternative but to dump him like that. Other than that, the only question the authors would have to handle is why no one was aware of this. I suppose it’s possible Missouri’s laws are different, but with our ever-increasing nanny state, honestly, I find that possibility even more difficult to conceive than real community still existing (and I hope it does.)
Regardless, the point the authors seem to be trying to make is still valid, as in a way, this relates back to theme of communities taking care of each other (rather than depending on the State to.) It’s quite disturbing to me that even in this town that looks out for it’s own, no one wanted the young man around.
He spent two years wandering around the state, being beaten and chased off with rocks by “decent folk.” Two years of rejection and fear went by before anyone would offer him even a plate of food and a porch swing to sleep on, let alone give him a chance to “make his own way.” And behind the visage they feared, lurked the mind of an innocent, very sweet, and very harmless child.
With or without a potential plot hole, Cody’s story alone makes this one worth reading.
If you’re curious what season of marriage you’re in, the book’s website has a free quiz you can take. It’s short and fairly simple.