…..by Greg Israelsen
Today I read Charly by Jack Weyland. It was sitting on the coffee table (not at my apartment) so I picked it up and read it.
It was a quick read, and quite entertaining. I found myself laughing aloud at several parts, at some points in direct response to the words of the characters, and at others with incredulity at the incredible creativity that the author had to write some of these situations.
I enjoyed the quick moving plotline – while there was character development, it came as the story moved along, not as an aside in addition to plot development. I (obviously) liked Charly much more than Sam, although I found myself empathizing with him more as the story moved along. One reason for this is that the story is told from Sam’s perspective, so he looks back and recounts all the foolish things that he did, recounting them in exactly that light, and looks back on the things that his wife Charly did that endeared her to him, and recounts them with that emphasis. This subtle difference in the tone in which the two characters are presented serves to make the reader love Charly almost as much as Sam, and to view Sam much as one views oneself; that is, as a flawed individual who, despite his imperfections, has managed to find happiness in his life.
Throughout the book I wondered (and vocally questioned) why Charly liked Sam. He seemed like a self-righteous, proud, flawed punk who didn’t really seem to deserve someone as fun-loving, likeable, and loving as Charly. But as I said before, this is likely due in large part to the fact that we often view ourselves with all our flaws, while in those we greatly admire, respect, or love, we only see strengths. I asked my friend Stephanie why Charly was with a guy like Sam, and she explained that it wasn’t so much that Sam was a dreamboat or anything, but that they were in love. They were truly, madly, deeply in love, and that is the type of love that every girl (and lots of guys too I’m sure ) dreams of, and that is what made their story so special.
Thus, the love that bound the two becomes the point of the book. From the very beginning, it was apparent that they would get together (otherwise why would there be a book?) But they seemed destined for each other: he was uptight, closed-minded, and awkward; she a spontaneous, fun-loving, likable girl. As the story progressed, it was easy to observe the effect that each had on the other; Sam said things that only Charly would have said early on, and Charly became more down to earth and responsible, although she never lost her fun-loving attitude that made her so unique among the girls that Sam dated. This continued development of both individuals in the marriage relationship teaches a great lesson about the power of a strong marriage. At my friend’s wedding a few weeks ago, some advice was given that went something like this: Don’t try to reform each other, but instead provide support for each other’s continued development. (Only in a more poetic form ) Sam and Charly didn’t try to reform each other, but they were patient with each other as each struggled with their weaknesses and worked to overcome them.
Two examples from the time that the home was being built. Charly, frustrated at the slow progress they were making on their home, wanted to compromise her standards and work on Sunday instead of going to Church. Sam, too proud to accept offers of help from anyone, was unable to provide the shelter for his family that he was responsible for. While Charly decided not to go to church, Sam finally broke down and explained their plight to the local bishop. Members from the local congregation came to help work on the home, and Charly overcame her frustrations and began attending church again. In this difficult situation, flaws in both characters were revealed, but rather than point them out and try to change them, each merely supported the other as s/he suffered the necessary trial in order to overcome their respective weaknesses and progress.
In the end, I would recommend the book. Obviously this is a classic in Mormon literature (Stephanie could hardly believe I had never read it or seen the film). But the heart touching story of the short love between Charly and Sam contains lessons of patience, love, and of course the blessings of the gospel of Christ that will entertain, inspire, and uplift the reader regardless of his/her background.