Saturday, May 2, 2020

"The Little Love That Could: Stories of Tenacious Love, Underdogs, and Ragamuffins" - Pamela Capone

Given that "The Little Love That Could: Stories of Tenacious Love, Underdogs, and Ragamuffins" isn't Pamela Capone's first book, it's perfectly understandable that Capone, with the exception of the very first story in the book, barely references the childhood experiences that led to her own self-perception as a "rescue" and eventually toward a life of inspirational writing and speaking.

The youngest of nine children orphaned by their biological parents, Pamela was taken in by her foster parents at age 18 months and raised in a setting that was vastly different from that which her young self had ever known. She wrote about her experiences in "The Little Girl Within: Overcoming Memories of Childhood Abuse," a book she followed up with "I Punched Myself in the Eye."

Having not read Capone's first two books but being incredibly intrigued by the description offered for "The Little Love That Could," I forked over the dough for the Kindle version, something of a rarity these days as I've been reviewing more and more books, and sat down on a quarantine Saturday in Indianapolis for an afternoon of reading.

Inspired by the children's book "The Little Engine That Could," Capone has wrapped this collection of stories around the central theme of a "little love that could" show up in her life and turn a child that had experienced early life rejection into a loving, faithful adult.

"The Little Love That Could" contains 65 stories of varying lengths, though the vast majority are in the relatively short 2-3 page range. Similar in tone to an upcoming book I'd just completed from evangelical writer Sophie Hudson, "The Little Love That Could" is a little humorous, incredibly spirited, often quite heartfelt, and filled with spiritual stories and insights.

The stories are loosely organized, somewhat cohesive thematically yet widely varying in terms of subject matter and personal impact. At times, they are firmly wrapped around a scriptural foundation and other times simply in Capone's own life experiences. Sometimes, the personal connection seems vague at best while there are other times, typically in the book's weakest stories, references to pop culture or simply personal observations.

Capone writes from a place of modest privilege having built a happy, successful life with her husband of 30+ years, though at times it adds an inconsistent tone to stories. At least every several stories, Capone seems to share about a European trip, exotic locale, or experiencing the thrills of an airline's elite status. While there's certainly nothing wrong with any of this, it just adds a weird feeling to stories that are supposed to be focused on love and "underdogs."

I also found, at times, that Capone's writing would conflict with her own stated values. For example, at one point she questions a particular public figure for exploiting a situation/person yet, only a couple essays later does that very thing in telling the story of an unrelated child with whom her daughter worked.

How was that not exploitation?

Capone also, at times, tend to defer to vague descriptions of placed and things that makes it hard to relate to her stories. For example, she shares about a trip to Italy, one of her favorite places, and a particularly difficult phone call received during one day. However, she declines to give any indication at all about the call and it ends up feeling like the literary equivalent of vague-booking.

Occasional tonal and thematic concerns aside, "The Little Love That Could" will most likely appeal to those who appreciate faith-based inspirational writing. Sometimes, you simply don't connect with a book and, quite simply, I found myself for the most part not connecting with "The Little Love That Could" in the way that I expected. With the exception of a small handful of stories, "The Little Love That Could" is a light, breezy read that I easily finished in one day and did, at times, quite enjoy including Capone's experiences with 96-year-old friend Inez and often poignant reflections on her marriage and family.

While far from a book that I disliked, "The Little Love That Could" never quite clicked for me and ultimately lacked anything compelling enough to make me want to explore Capone's earlier works. While some will certainly feel inspired by her rise from a difficult early childhood, as a literary work "The Little Love That Could" didn't help me get to know Pamela Capone and didn't inspire me enough to want to.

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