Looking for Lydia; Looking for God,written by retired English teacher Dean Robertson, is a story of transformation. Set in Norfolk, it describes the changes that occur in a few women who attend a weekly Bible study led by the author, who is recovering from illness, injury, and depression at the Lydia Roper Home. This is a book for everyone who is adjusting to growing older.
Chartered in 1921, the Lydia Roper Home was created to be a safe haven especially for “widows of Confederate soldiers and others who had no sons to provide for them,” as stated in the book. It has operated continually since then as a home for elderly women. The home provides a harbor for Dean and the women she befriends and teaches. As she moves through her slow recovery, Dean uses the Bible as a tool to unlock the deep human need to connect with each other and with God. As I read the narrative, I became involved in the characters’ lives as well as those from the Bible passages the women study.
This book is an account of the personalities and relationships within the weekly Bible study. As I read, I wanted to know more about each woman who regularly attends. Kate, age 97, is the first to arrive, “a little late from her weekly hair appointment,” Dean writes. “Her hair, as always, is shiny clean and in one of those careful styles that looks like no style at all.” Kate is beautifully and casually dressed. “She wears small gold earrings…and a red enamel bracelet with intricate gold insets, a gift from her grandchildren who live in Italy.” As she reaches across the table there is, “an intimate glimpse of pale skin, marked with the spots and prominent veins of old age. The wrist, feminine and beautiful, catches the eye,” writes Dean. Kate’s elegance and poise transcend age and time.
Kate is an early and regular Bible study attendee, anchoring the group as they explore the most basic questions beginning with the very young Mary of the Annunciation and continuing with the stories of the women who followed her, through Bible chapter and verse. Every woman, every week, brings more questions and more nuanced answers. Led by Dean, the women grow and change as they become a true community.
As the Wednesday Bible study continues, there are more and more questions. What is a second chance? What is forgiveness? Who is the Prodigal Son? And so, inevitably, Bible study expands beyond assigned topics and everyone wades into “deeper waters, getting a little afraid…consoled by the palpable sense of keeping company together in this small room, curled up in couches and armchairs,” writes Dean.
Looking for Lydia; Looking for God is a spiritual and historical memoir. The narrative shifts from the present, back to the Civil War, farther back to Adam and Eve, and forward to Roper family history. This is story of women in their ninth and tenth decades learning more about themselves and God. Learn with them. Look for Lydia.
Dean Robertson will be presenting a Looking for Lydia; Looking for God Book Talk on Saturday, September 12 at the Slover Library (235 Plume St. Norfolk VA) from 2:00 to 4 p.m.