Reading Star of Light by Patricia St. John aloud to my girls was a walk down memory lane for me. I read all of her books I could get my hands on as a child, and I remember a good bit about the titles that I read. I chose Star of Light of all the titles I own because it’s set in northern Africa and I’m still trying to read books for Sherry’s North Africa Reading Challenge. (Two birds with one stone, you know. 🙂 ) Set in Morocco, Star of Light is the story of a young boy named Hamid who has a younger sister, Kinza, who is blind. Their mother sends them away to seek out a kindly nurse in a town a distance from their home when their stepfather threatens to sell Kinza to a local beggar. The nurse, as it turns out, is a Christian missionary, and she willingly takes Kinza into her home. The plot thickens when the nurse’s cousin and her family come for a visit from England. The nurse is Aunt Rosemary to her cousin’s spoiled daughter, and the whole situation with Kinza and Hamid, who has never identified himself as Kinza’s brother, gives the little girl a chance to come outside of herself and think about others and their sufferings. The story is very suspenseful and moving, and my girls always clamored for just one more chapter.
Like all the St. John books that I remember, this book presents the Gospel very clearly. Both Hamid and the spoiled visitor, Jenny, come face to face with their own unregenerate hearts and respond to the Gospel message presented by Aunt Rosemary. I know that missionary stories have fallen out of popularity in our efforts to be more “culturally aware” in this modern day in which we live, but the Gospel is the Truth whether everyone believes it or no one believes it. I really like this word picture given by Aunt Rosemary:
“Many people are very good and kind without Jesus, just as gilded lanterns shine if you put them in the sun–but in the evening the sun sets. And our own goodness unfortunately lasts only just as long as we do–until we die. The love and life and goodness of Jesus last forever, and the person in whom His light is burning will last forever as well. It is what is called eternal life; and, of course, it’s a far better, stronger, whiter sort of goodness than the other kind. It is perfect goodness, and no one except Jesus has ever been perfectly good.” (162)
As far as presenting Moroccan culture accurately, I think this book succeeds in mainly propagating stereotypes: the cruel stepfather, the impoverished-but-wily street urchins, the pure blind child, the spoiled little rich girl. Still, as I’ve mentioned several times before, I’m not too worried about stereotypes myself; as we have opportunities to meet people from different cultures, we take them, and I think that putting a name and actual face to a culture does more to dispel the stereotype than any book we could ever read. Mainly we enjoyed this story because it’s suspenseful, engaging, and touching, and I like it because it points out that men and women have dark hearts, no matter their race or creed. Lulu has already read The Secret Garden by St. John, which is my own personal favorite of her stories. We’ll be reading more of her, I’m sure. (Moody Press, 1953)
Other books set in North Africa: