Fifty Shades Darker by EL James

Note: Fifty Shades Darker is a sexually explicit book. Please be aware of that before purchase

Fifty Shades Darker: Book Two of the Fifty Shades TrilogySummary: Christian Grey and Ana Steele separated at the end of the last book.  They are in love, but can they be together?

I know am stepping out on a limb talking about the Fifty Shades series as a Christian.  I know there are many that will (and should) stay away from the books.  Here is a good blog post about why this blogger will not read them (I don’t entirely agree, but she raises some good points.)

(Note some plot spoilers if you have not read the first book.)  At the end of the first book, Ana decided that she could not deal with Christian’s anger and emotional hostility that he exhibited through BDSM and she left him.  I am sure it is not surprising that fairly quickly into the second book they reunite.

As I was reading it, I appreciated the pain both exhibited while they were apart.  They were in love and found the person that moved them and ‘completed them’.  After thinking about it later, I realized that this is the same type of emotional devastation that was written about in Twilight when Bella and Edward were apart. (Fifty Shades was original inspired by the Twilight series.)

And one of the main complaints about Twilight is true of Fifty Shades, the love story is nearly obsession.  As the books progress, I think Fifty Shades moves toward a more healthy point of love but not an obsession, but the beginning is quite reminiscent.

One of the storylines of this book is that Ana as the submissive is in control (she is not really a submissive, which is where a lot of conflicts comes).  What Ana agrees to or does not agree to defines what is done.  And while I am not advocating a BDSM relationship, that is real in other relationships as well.  A spouse that does not want to do something often controls whether it is done.  That is true in a marriage of things like sex or how often to visit in-laws.

Another thread of the story is Christian Grey’s redemption.  His mother died when he was 4.  He was abused and neglected by her and the people around her.  Even though he was adopted into a loving home, his sense of self was shattered.  He was then brought into a six year relationship by a friend of his mother’s (Ana refers to her as Mrs. Robinson) starting at age 15.  Ana views this as sexual abuse (and I think the book as a whole rightly does as well).  And it was from this relationship that Christian learns about BDSM (he was her submissive).  Christian views his relationship with Mrs. Robinson as redemptive as well.  Christian was a violent and rebellious teen and Mrs. Robinson focused him and turned his attention toward his work which made him billions of dollars.  The book is clearly showing that Mrs. Robinson’s redemption came at the price of Christian’s mental health.  Ana’s redemption for him is continually shown to be life-giving and healthy.

The main thread of the book is whether Ana and Christian can be together.  Commitment within difficulty is what they have to work through.  Ana’s mother has been married four times (the first husband died, the second husband is the one Ana considers her father, the third husband was a very bad marriage and four marriage is current and good.)  The last time Ana was confronted with difficulty, Ana ran.

I am always concerned about books and movies that portray marriage or relationships as salvific.  Because you will learn something from every relationship, you are changed by a relationship.  But salvific relationships like this one are different.  This is especially true of Christians that date and marry non-Christians.  Quite often people assume that the non-Christian will become Christian.  And that happens, but it happens quite often the other way.  Or people assume that they can love a person away from alcohol or drugs or physical abuse.  Broken people are rarely fixed by marriage.  They may be healed while they are married, but that is different from actually being healed by the marriage itself.

On the positive side, Christian Grey’s real strength in the relationship is the way he cherishes Ana.  Occasionally that turns to domineering, but for the most part, the reader can see the difference between when Christian is overprotective and domineering and the Christian that cherishes Ana.  My wife suggested that this is the main attraction of Christian.  He is beautiful and rich, but what the fact that he cherishes her well is what really makes his character.  Men would do well to understand this in relationships.

Ana spends a lot of time in this book trying to figure out what parts of BDSM relationship she wants.  She is excited by parts of it but is repulsed by any expression of anger or hostility through sex.  I think a lot of Christians get sex and the theology surrounding sexuality and marriage wrong.  Historically enjoyment has been a part of the theology of sex.  It is not the only part, but it is a part.  Ana likes sex with Christian and she wants to explore BDSM as part of her love of Christian, but those lines are difficult to find for them.  There are sexual activities that I am uncomfortable with, in this book, but none that are treated as positive in this book do I think are immoral.

This book also marks a change in the series from a romance book to a romantic thriller.  That is just hinted at in this book, but it is a significant part of book three.

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