Review: Scandalon

From time to time I will share reviews of books by authors I personally know.  “Scandalon: Running From Shame and Finding God’s Scandalous Love” is written by Susan Elaine Jenkins.  I have read and recommend the book.  I  will have an interview with her in the days ahead and it will be posted.

Have you thought what it would like to get to know, work with the people in China, and live with them? Have you wondered what it would be like to grow up in a minister’s family? Susan Elaine Jenkins paints an insightful and sobering picture that answers these questions in her very skilful memoir, “Scandalon: Running From Shame and Finding God’s Scandalous Love.“

As I read the book her narrative format had me feeling like I was sitting in a recliner with a cup of coffee and she was sitting across the room telling me her story of how not just one, but a series of scandals hit her life. Some of events were self-inflicted. Other events were of someone else’s making. I found a bit of myself and my struggles as I read her story. Her writing and story were so interesting I didn’t want to put the book down! Yet, I feared I would read it too fast. I love the way her personality permeates the book.

In 1980, after three years of teaching in the USA in a private school (and saving her money) Susan made a trip to China. It was part of a gift she gave herself – a trip around the world. It was a prelude. In 1997 Susan accepted a two-year teaching position in Tianjin, China. She would stay in China.

Susan employs a wonderful method of telling of her adventures in China with reflections on what took place in her earlier life in the USA. The transition between the USA story and the China story is via a short statement of spiritual truth or insight. It is these earlier events in the USA that lead to her seeking refuge half way around the world. We see God’s handiwork in her life. We see her improving her language skills, her understanding of the Chinese culture, and how her American culture sometimes exasperated her Chinese friends, especially Ouyang. We reflect back on her life adventure that includes how she was used and mistreated by those in positions of authority over her and learned he had previously mistreated others. We also see how she survived!

Susan stories range from hilarious to tear inducing. I have two favorites. First, the story about her being invited back stage in Hawaii to meet Don Ho. Her parents encourage her to go. Don Ho wanted to do more than meet her. I could feel the confusion she felt from her parents encouraging her into such a situation. I wanted to take her dad aside and say you are supposed to protect your daughter! Second is the story at the Friendship Store of the two broken vases and how Susan came to the rescue of the Chinese couple. She demanded they not have to pay for the broken vase since she didn’t have to pay for one she broke a week earlier. We learn how the Chinese have two sets of rules – one for foreigners and one for other Chinese. I could feel the compassion and empathy Susan has for others.

The book is a good read and would be a valuable addition to all community and church libraries. It would also be a good study book for women’s group and even for counseling. It gives a realistic insight into the struggles we all face. The book gives answers about Chinese culture, running and finding God and finding one’s self.

Written by Jimmie A. Kepler

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