She was making her life, shaping it about the children. One had to take life and make it, gather it from here and there–yellow curtains, carrots, a bed for a little boy, milk for a sick baby, sheets of music to write, her unfinished child, a house–out of such and everything she would make her life. And underneath was the strong sustaining web of love unspoken. What if it were unspoken and unreturned? A phrase came flying out of her childhood, her father, from the pulpit, reading, “And underneath us are the everlasting arms.” She had caught the phrase then because it was lovely, listening to him idly in the careless fullness of her childhood. But now when all childhood was gone she could take the beautiful words, like an empty cup, and fill them to the brim with her own meaning, her own secret meaning.
— from The Time Is Noon, Pearl S. Buck, 1966
I wasn’t going to write about this book. I loved it, but I wasn’t going to admit that publicly. You see, the book is about Joan, a pastor’s daughter, and the beginning of her adulthood. Though her relationship with her devout father grows, even beyond his death, her relationship with God stops. She denies there is a God. She chooses to change the meanings of spiritual things to suit herself. The problem with all this… I sympathize a great deal with Joan. And that makes me uneasy because I do not deny God. I don’t know if I ought to admire and relate to Joan so much.
And yet, the book has its charms, drawing me into the story, into Joan’s life and her family. Perhaps I can take the story, like an empty cup, and fill it to the brim with my own meaning. I don’t have to remain true to the unfaithful spirit of the book. I can bring my own faith to the story and see how despite trials and deaths and unwise choices, my story differs from Joan’s. My triumph is everlasting, while her triumph is something lovely but fleeting.