Tuesday, July 21, 2015

"Mazli: A Story of the Swiss Valleys" by Johanna Spyri

Swiss author Johanna Spyri knew how to put together a happy ending, and Mazli: A Story of the Swiss Valleys is absolutely celebratory. There are a lot of characters to keep up with, but this wasn't a problem. Spyri introduces and deepens our understanding of more than eight children and multiple adults in a gradual way that gives the community a rich history.

Small, kindhearted Mazli is the youngest of five siblings and is the darling of the neighborhood. Well, most people think so. She does have the unfortunate habit of repeating things she has heard her older siblings say, and she can ask sincere -- but possibly insulting  -- questions. Mazli adds some cute factor to the book, but, due to the large number of children involved, I wondered at first why she was the title character.  ...But, wait for the ending! It is Mazli's bold friendliness that breaks through the defenses of a stony heart and sets in motion a series of events that result in the restoration of lost relationships and broken families. 

Issues the children deal with are anger management, standing up for truth, the desire for close friendship, and the need for loyalty, obedience, repentance, and forgiveness.

This really is a multi-generational story as well. As a grown woman with children of my own, I found myself relating most to the parts of the book that featured the children's mother. Full of wisdom and the very center of her children's world, Mrs. Maza learns to further trust her Heavenly Father with the futures of her children.  I will share my favorite passage below:

"The mother knew that she had not the power to keep her children from pain and sin, but she knew the hand which leads and steadies all children that are entrusted to it, that can guard and save where no mother's hand or love can avail. She went with folded hands from one bed to the other, surrendering her children to their Father's protection in Heaven. He knew best how much they were in need of His loving care."

Johanna Spyri was my favorite author when I was a child, and it felt good to return to my literary roots and become reacquainted with her as an adult. She comes from a different time and culture, and, yes, some of it is a bit foreign to the way we do things now, but Spyri's worshipful reliance on our Heavenly Father transcends time and place. It is a breath of fresh air.

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