In The Love Tree: Journey to Everlasting, Elise Abiel provides a sweet, succinct guide to the Christian teachings that have provided assurance and comfort throughout her life.
Each chapter in the book addresses a different longing, like hope, security, faith, passion, justice, truth, belonging. Abiel includes brief outlines of her own life: growing up on a farm in New England, losing her first husband early in their marriage, surviving a second marriage that often felt empty, and visiting an Armenian church in Turkey.
These sketches then turn to an examination of Christian teachings on the chapter’s theme, drawing on condensed and conventional interpretations of scripture. Abiel emphasizes the warmth and loving design of God’s plans: “Though he may not intervene,” she reassures her readers in the chapter on transformation, “God promises to help us through.” Each chapter concludes with a list of questions to provide discussion and study.
Abiel’s explications are lucid, graceful, and sincere, quoting Jesus and the apostles to provide encouragement that will soothe readers seeking support through their own afflictions. As Abiel offers nothing unique in terms of Christian interpretation, however, some readers may wish she grappled more substantively with the memoir, describing how faith brought her through her own challenges. Instead, she glosses over painful experiences, such as fighting cancer, to repeat familiar messages of God’s providence and care. Though Abiel’s passion for her faith shines through, the repetitive emphasis and overuse of italics straddle the line between heartfelt and preachy.
While the book misses an opportunity to develop into a rich spiritual memoir, it will appeal to believers seeking faith as a panacea for heartache—those needing reassurance of their Creator’s loving care even when “bad stuff happens.” “God’s way is best,” Abiel says again and again, “and he offers us new opportunities”—a simplistic affirmation that nevertheless can provide a life raft through troubled times.
Also available as an ebook.