Something I frequently ponder is how to practically apply a faith in God to real life. The Beech Bank Girls – Every Girl Has a Story by Eleanor Watkins shows how this might be done. It naturally and simply portrays a real, relevant, caring and present God. This elevates an otherwise ordinary girls’ story set in England, to something more universal. The six girls in the tale have varying degrees of faith in their Christian God. From Annie, who hasn’t met him before, to Chloe who begins to doubt his faithfulness.
The form and plot of the book underscore God’s personal nature. The text is divided into six parts, one per character, with each part told in first-person. This lends the narration a diary-entry feel.
As per the title, the story itself is about girls, friends, each of whom has their own set of challenges. We meet Annie who has just moved homes because her parents are divorcing. Willow, a leader and faithful friend, who is tempted to put her love of designer clothing above her friendships. Rachel, who is aggrieved when her stepfather’s four children are forced to move in with Rachel and her family. Holly, who feels conflicted by the attentions of a good-looking soccer player. Amber, who can’t forgive her parents for failing to tell her they were going to euthanize the family dog. And Chloe who tries to hide her brother’s serious health challenges.
For all of these problems the friends turn to (or even away from) God. They pray together at school, attend a youth group at the ‘Beech Bank Club’, and reflect on him in private. God responds by hearing and acting on those prayers, revealing himself to be a God of relationship. An attentive God who strengthens, teaches empathy, forgiveness and perspective, and who remains faithful in the face of faithlessness. The range of issues, from the childlike to the more serious, and the drawing of a God who responds so individually to prayers around those issues, gives this easy-to-read book a sense of importance.
The preparation of a surprise celebration by five of the girls for Chloe is a plot that runs in the background. In the different parts we see varying angles of the preparation, all leading up to the actual celebration and the book’s satisfying conclusion. Apart from a slightly rushed opening part, and the occasional adult voice breaking through the childlike narration, The Beech Bank Girls is a balanced, cleverly written story. I think I would have warmed to it as a youngster, and as an adult I look forward to reading the next three in Watkins’s series: Beech Bank Girls – Making a Difference, Beech Bank Girls – Christmas is Coming and The Beech Bank Girls – A Time Remembered. The books, suitable for ages 10 to 14, are available from Dernier Publishing (www.dernierpublishing.com). They can also be purchased on Amazon Kindle.