If you’re a Latter-day Saint, you might enjoy this book. You’ve probably never heard of Frederick Babbel, but when President Ezra Taft Benson went on a special mission to administer relief and essentially reorganize Church activity in war-torn Europe immediately after WWII, Babbel was President Benson’s secretary. His job was to write down everything that happened that year.
If you’re not a Latter-day Saint, you wouldn’t know President Benson. During the events related in this book, he was one of the Twelve Apostles, and later in life he became President of the Church; in other words, he was a prophet. So he’s a beloved figure for Latter-day Saints.
I did enjoy this read; it’s full of interesting details about the miracles that happened as President Benson somehow managed to visit all ten missions in Europe despite military restrictions and complete lack of transportation in many cases. They accomplished impossible tasks pretty much every day, it seems.
It’s also full of shocking details about conditions for the common people all throughout Europe in the days immediately following WWII. To be truthful, I hate reading about that sort of thing most of the time. I can’t stand reading about a recently widowed German woman forced to walk back to Germany out of Poland, and along the way had to dig graves for her babies in the frozen earth with a teaspoon, and later her bare hands after they died and/or froze to death during the long journey by foot… Anyway, normally that would be too much for me to handle reading about. But right when this woman was in the peak of despair, she dropped to her knees and prayed. She was given such a measure of comfort from the Lord that could not refrain from sharing the joy of the gospel, despite being on the verge of starvation.
This is the reason I like this book. It’s not the writing style. I’m sure Brother Babbel is a captivating speaker when he talks about his time in Europe with President Benson. But his writing is rather lackluster. He used his journals from the time to write it, so it reads like a journal. It was full of typos, too, despite being a later edition. And… sadly, my paperback was not very high quality. It was in very good condition when I started to read, but the glue in the binding was so brittle that the pages were falling out by the end.
So in any case, it’s not a masterpiece of writing, and because of its journal-type nature, I found some parts a bit irrelevant and uninteresting.
BUT. There’s some amazing content in there. It IS a very interesting book, even if it is an unpolished one.
I read this book for Amy’s Up and Coming Classics Challenge 2017, for the history/biography category. Is it a classic? The verdict: I’m don’t think I’ll get rid of it, but I don’t think I would even notice if I couldn’t find it on my shelf later if it decided to walk away tonight. Frederick Babbel is probably a lot more fun to listen to than to read. I really think this will be a very interesting book that is simply lost to history. So… no, I wouldn’t call this one a classic.