When retired farmer Gerrit Appeldoorn marries piano teacher Joan Horton, he doesn’t realize it will lead him far from his quaint hometown to the chaos of downtown Chicago. The Recital by Robert Elmer tells the compelling tale of Gerrit’s devotion to his wife and to God, in the midst of confusing circumstances.
Gerrit has lived in a small farm town called Van Dalen his entire life. But when the Gaylord Conservatory of Music in Chicago offers Joan the position of senior piano professor, Gerrit sacrificially trades the green fields of Van Dalen for the gray avenues of Chicago. He tells her that she is his home now. But when they reach Chicago, loneliness and a feeling of being out of place gnaw at him.
The story also addresses the struggle Gerrit and Joan face to overcome their theological differences. For example, while they agree on the basics of Christianity, Gerrit is a staunch Calvinist, and Joan is an Armenian. Gradually, they learn not to let these differences come between them. Without siding with either the Calvinist or Armenian camp, The Recital promotes a happy unity in the body of Christ.
Some readers may be uncomfortable with a few issues in the book. Joan’s son Randy and his girlfriend have premarital sex, but it is not condoned. Instead, the author focuses on Gerrit and Joan’s struggle to know how to respond appropriately to the news. Elmer also acknowledges the beauty of sex inside of marriage, but some readers may not approve the implied references to sex, which is not explicit or graphic.
Written in a very conversational style, the book provides enjoyable reading with touching messages. Occasionally the attempts at humor seem a little cheesy, but it had me laughing out loud at other times. Overall, The Recital is an emotional, compelling story with a positive theme. – Jonathan Young, Christian Book Previews.com
New Song, Second Verse
Gerrit and Joan discovered the beauty of second chances when they fell in love. But life isn’t “happily ever after” when the widowed dairy farmer and big-city piano teacher get married. When they move to Chicago to pursue a teaching opportunity for Joan, Gerrit the country boy must find new purpose in an unfamiliar urban world. It’s not an easy change for him, but his friendship with Zhao, a visiting Chinese musician, begins to give him new purpose. Meanwhile, Joan tries to accept her husband for who he is, even as she struggles to find her place as a music professor in this clash between small-town values and big-city ways.
In this poignant sequel to The Duet, Joan and Gerrit redefine the meaning of love and home as they learn painful new lessons about mutual sacrifice.