Saturday, January 14, 2017

Ishmael (Lamplighter Books)


     If anyone has been to a homeschool convention (or been homeschooled in general) then you have possibly come across Lamplighter Books. They are rare books written between the 1600’s and the late 1800’s that all contain Christian themes (not to different from the “Elsie Dinsmore Series”). One of its most popular and most loved books is Ishmael.

     I had heard about the book at a Lamplighter Books booth at a homeschooling convention and picked it up. I started reading it…three years ago…and then stopped right in the middle. It was good, but I think I got focused on something else and just kept it in the “to read pile.” One of my New Year’s resolutions is to finish all the books that I’ve started and starting with “Ishmael.” I picked the book back up one afternoon and finished it that night! It was that good! I can’t believe that it took me so long to finish.

     Ishmael is based on the true story of a boy growing up in Maryland in the mid 19th century; and his journey from the lowest rung of society to becoming a renowned lawyer and respectable gentleman. Born unwanted and unloved in abject poverty, Ishmael’s mother died giving birth to him and he never knew his father. He had no one except his spinster aunt who hated him at birth but overtime grew to love him. Ishmael knew from a young age that he wanted to make something of himself and had enough will-power to do so; he does live in America after all.

Left: Steven R. McQueen as brave and noble Ishmael Worth
Middle: Jessica Brown Findlay as selfish and vain Claudia Merlin
Right: Lily James as sweet and generous Beatrice "Bee"Middleton

     At the age of seven he started to work and educated himself. While Ishmael had nothing, he did have the Bible and faith from an early age that was forever his moral compass. No trial was so difficult that he didn’t believe that God’s hand was somehow in it; forever guiding him and leading him onward and upward to a better life. By the time Ishmael is a teenager he has made a name for himself as a deeply moral person who will not stand by and let injustice prevail.

    While Ishmael may seem too good to be true at times, his imperfect human nature is most definitely brought out in the sordid love story between himself and Claudia Merlin who he is madly in love with, but she is incapable of loving him back. Meanwhile, Ishmael is completely oblivious to the secret affections of sweet Beatrice Middleton, who loves him dearly, but does not make herself a martyr for Ishmael’s unrequited feelings.

     Ishmael believes that his pursuit in life is a career in jurisprudence or becoming a lawyer. And he sets out to do just that. He eventually makes history as the first lawyer to defend a woman’s rights in court. A young mother is fighting to keep her children from her estranged husband who has financially ruined her three times. When she refuses to return to him, her husband threatens to take her children away as a means of coercion. Ishmael is asked to defend the husband; however, the young lawyer (use to seeing suffering and pain from the low of society) defends the lonely mother during a time where women had no rights at all.

~ ~ ~

     I don’t want to give anything away (love story or trial), but I will say that Ishmael is a wonderful and profound story of an all-American boy who epitomizes the term ‘rags to riches.’ Yet, not with the stereotyped ideals of ‘follow your dreams’ or believe in yourself,’ but rather in the traditional faith he was raised in and following a God that was there for him when no one else was. And just to clarify, the story is neither overloaded with Christianity nor too preachy in any way at all. There is a good balance of everything that makes a good story and a worthwhile read.

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