The Whitney Chronicles by Judy Baer

The Whitney Chronicles was my first experience with inspirational chicklit. To be frank, I would not have picked the book up if I had realized that it was inspirational, because I have not had good experiences with the inspirational fiction I’ve tried in the past. Having said that, this was a fairly good read.Whitney Blake has just turned 30, and her best friend has given her a journal. She resolves to write in it daily and to improve herself. She wants to lose a little bit of weight, she’s a little frustrated at work, and she feels a sudden strong urge to be settled…with a Christian man.Baer has a very comfortable writing style and the narrative flows well. Whitney is a very likeable character: she isn’t a flighty fashionista at a deadend job, being abused by her boss and engaging in a string of bad relationships. She’s a professional who is good at her job. She has a good circle of friends and family who are a part of the story. In fact, her friend Kim’s struggle with breast cancer and depression are a large part of the story. The two men she dates in the book are nice guys, but each has issues: one is airplane obsessed and can disappear for days, which leads her to give him the lets be friends speech; the other is work-obsessed and also is not a Christian. (Well, there’s more to it than that, but to say more would be a spoiler…although I saw what was coming way, way before Whitney did.) After being frustrated by those two, Whitney decides to leave her social life in god’s hands. I thought the decision to leave her social life in god’s hands wasn’t really consistent with how she dealt with Kim’s illness. In Kim’s case, her family has a history of depression and of ignoring the depression, because it only means either that you have sinned or that you haven’t given yourself properly to god. Whitney’s argument is that god gives you all kinds of tools to solve your problems in life, and a tool to combat depression and other illnesses is medical treatment and/or medication. If actively seeking out help is okay for illness, why isn’t it okay take an active role in searching for a companion? Join a club? Post a personal ad? Try speed dating? Whitney pooh-poohs all of these ideas and is irritated by a colleague who suggests them. (If god exists, I doubt she just hands the good stuff out to people who sat around and waited to be helped; gotta make an effort. *shrugs* But what do I know? Nothing, really.)Because the story is told via Whitney’s journal entries, the POV is first person. While that gives good insight to what is going on in Whitney’s head, it means that our perspectives of all of the other characters are filtered through Whitney, colored by her opinions and emotions. We never know much about the hero, all of the sudden she just loves him. Yes, he’s a good looking doctor and he’s a Christian and he loves kids, but that’s all generic. What was it about him in particular that she loved?The book is set in Minneapolis, Minnesota. But for one mention of snow, it could have been set almost anywhere: there was no sense of place. That isn’t really a plus or a minus for me, because the location isn’t particularly important to the plot.Since this is an inspirational novel, the religion and biblical quotes are pervasive. Whitney does a great deal of praying. At one point, she and her friend Kim pray together, and they talk about prayer a lot. (Do Christians really do that?) The religion is not preachy, in the sense of “This is the only way to live, and unbelievers will be damned to eternal hellfire.” In fact, Whitney acknowledges that the church alone isn’t always enough to get one through things (which is a very different message from the other inspirationals I’ve tried). Whitney is a little bit judgmental about people who are not Christian. While I didn’t see her desire to marry a Christian any different than a Jewish woman desiring to marry a Jewish man, the subtext to Whitney’s preference for Christians is not that non-Christians are wrong for her, but that they are just wrong generally.I put The Whitney Chronicles down with very mixed feelings. On one hand, Whitney is very likeable and the story flowed well. On the other hand, some of the major points really bothered me. On another hand (three? am I an alien? Kali-like?), I am religion-intolerant in my fiction, so maybe I’m being a little hard on the book. My grade: C+.

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