“Three Lives in Mine”
Over the years, my dear wife Shirley Winnifred and I got to know author Grace Irwin very well. We saw her once when she lectured at Wheaton College, Illinois, and another time when we visited her home in Toronto.
Shirley went to be with the Lord on Sunday, 24 August 2008, at the age of 84. A month later, Grace Irwin went to her eternal home at the age of 101.
I would like to share Shirley’s review of Grace Irwin’s “Three Lives in Mine” published by Irwin Publishing, Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada, in 1986.
“A book in praise of men! You’ve got to be kidding. I couldn’t relate to that.” Whether or not you are to relate to what you are reading is incidental. Grace Irwin’s seventh book about three of God’s good men is well worth reading.
Like a modern Jane Austen, she has captured almost a century of Torontonian social history. For the Christian, she has done even more. She has described a Christian environment which existed as living proof of the promise Paul made to the Galatians that the fruits of the Spirit would be “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Could this be how Toronto came to be known as “Toronto the good?” These attributes are to be found in Grace Irwin’s description of her times.
As a devoted reader of her books, it is impossible for me not to be prejudiced in her favor. Ever since I discovered her first book, Least of All Saints, and reviewed it for the Winnipeg Free Press, I have appreciated the skillful way in which she has recorded much of what is also my history. I refer to her Andrew Connington trilogy, and her personal story, In Little Place. I wonder how many Canadians are still required to memorize those lines from Tennyson’s Ulysses:
“I am a part of all that I have met; yet all experience is an arch where through gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades forever and forever when I move.”
What a tonic to the imagination! I have been chanting that since high school days and find it popping up in more than one recent Canadian book like a trademark to an educational system of which we were justly proud.
Certainly, if you have read the vivid portrayal of the life and conversion of the slave trader/hymn writer John Newton in Miss Irwin’s Servant of Slaves; and if you have been encouraged by what God can do for an entire country just by the faithfulness of one man, Lord Shaftesbury (The Seventh Earl), it will increase your interest in this new book. As usual you will find your vocabulary enriched by a choice of words biased by a lifetime as a Latin Teacher.
Grace Irwin’s life has been full and rich. She takes issue with the prevailing wind of “self-fulfillment” for women. “I do not find my sense of personal worth in any or in the aggregate of my limited achievements. Rather it lies in the grateful realization that I have been privileged in varying degree to support, encourage, enable, cheer these men who have so immeasurably enriched me.”
She refers to her father, her brother John, and her architect/preacher friend H. H. Kent. There is no sign of weakness or wavering in this author. She writes with youthful vigour.
We may not be able to turn the clock back, but our God has still the power to change individual lives and countries. One must be careful when talking about “the good old days,” or “when I was young,” but surely in Three Lives in Mine, we catch a glimpse of what Christian living which is historically accurate and refreshing to read. With God’s help and some ingenuity, we ought to see if we can emulate the pattern of home life and standard of work ethic which is recorded in abundant detail in this book. Many of us can still relate to such a way of life and we’re grateful to Grace Irwin for letting the world know that Christians did and do make a difference!