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Peace Shall Destroy Many
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message 1: by Tracey (last edited Nov 01, 2016 10:30PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tracey (traceyrb) | 237 comments Mod
This is November's group read. Here is some background information:

This book was the first published work of the author and caused some controversy at the time. With it being a month of 'remembrance' I felt it was a timely novel to read.

Tracey (traceyrb) | 237 comments Mod
The book is divided into 4 sections which we can discuss weekly:
Spring 1944
Summer 1944
Autumn 1944
Winter 1944

Tracey (traceyrb) | 237 comments Mod
In the first section, spring, we meet some of the main characters, most especially Thomas or Thom Wiens. It is 1944 and men are being drafted to fight in WWII. The Mennonite stance has been to be a conscientious objector to violence and Thomas, knowing that his call will soon be coming is trying to make sense of the reasons to object or accept. It is a time of change for him, the community and the World. There is a scene where Thom's family are listening to the invasion in Normandy on the radio. Men killing and being killed. As is written...'A whole world listening to men killing themselves savagely. A marvellous invention, radio.'
What does the author mean? Marvellous to hear men being killed? Marvellous to know things instantly? Marvellous to experience something unknown?
Thomas and a young woman go for a ride to the river in the moonlight and both are grateful for the simple beauty of it all.
The final chapter of this section is a church meeting. Doctrine is discussed and important questions are raised. If the Mennonites refuse to fight, then does the 'godless man die for the rights of the Christian?' And if they are objecting and supposedly showing love to their fellow man, how come the 'half-breeds (Metis) and Indians' not know of this love after 14 years living near the community?'
Thom is left in a divided state.
This is the first published book of the author but already he appears to be a good writer. I enjoy his descriptions and use of words.

Rosemarie | 195 comments The author does raise some important questions about their stance on not fighting in the war, but on the other hand profiting from the war because of the higher prices for food.
As Joseph remarked in the meeting which discussed his use of English, they sent missionaries to India but ignored the local communities of the native and Metis population.
As Thom pondered later, Joseph raised some very important questions about the role of the Mennonites in their community-- and didn't receive any answers.
Thom does not have an easy road ahead of him- I can see that already.

Rosemarie | 195 comments I have finished half the book already because it is so engrossing. The author depicts the characters in a realistic manner and a good understanding of human nature.

Tracey (traceyrb) | 237 comments Mod
In section 3, autumn 1944, I found some powerful thoughts about the meaning of peace:

Joseph says in his letter to Thom that 'peace is not a thing static and unchanging, but a mightier inner river.' And he quotes Isaiah 48:18 O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea:

1. What do you think of this part of the letter and it's statements about the meaning of peace?

2. What do you think of the new teacher?

3. How does the death of Elizabeth and the reason effect the Block family members and members of the Wiens family? What do you think of it?

4. The descriptions of the struggles in Russia are quite disturbing. The things Block experienced in the Siberian camp as a conscientious objector and the famine. Block describes starvation as; 'he felt his body consuming itself, cell by cell.' Does knowing the harrowing past of Block explain what followed in his behaviour in Russia and then his actions in Canada? How do you feel about Block based on what he suffered?

Rosemarie | 195 comments Joseph had the right philosophy. The community tried to make peace a static state, which is actually death. In this case, death to free thinking, to creativity, to adapting to new world. Peace should include an embrace of those who seek it, a joining of hands.
The biggest failure of the community was their exclusion of the other-- the native people who were there first.
The new teacher is bored- so she looks for amusement in any way she can get. As it states, she asked for a big city school and they sent her there.
Peter Block had a horrible life in Russia and succeeded in setting up their community in Canada, which was admirable. He forgot one thing- times change, not just technology, but also attitudes.
He is as much a tragic figure as his daughter Elizabeth. She had the opportunity to marry, but Peter forbade it because the suitor wasn't good enough for him.
Poor Elizabeth! How she must have suffered!

Tracey (traceyrb) | 237 comments Mod
I finished the book today and was very impressed with it. The author makes several good points that he brings out through the characters. The fact that there is always unfairness and war in the world and questions what a follower of Christ should do about it. That a man is responsible for what he does and what he choses to do and that following another mortal man does not avoid the issue of loving and caring for our neighbour. Children are influenced by their upbringing and their culture but this does not mean a child from one culture cannot learn the goodness that is in another if there are enough people to care. And finally, to become mature in God requires one to overcome obstacles and work our way forward in faith, not simply to avoid all that we are frightened of. Christ left us with one path, and that path walked in love.

Rosemarie | 195 comments I agree with you entirely, Tracey. We live in the world and need to show the way.

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