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Xenia read-along: Chapters 4 & 5

Well, things are starting to move along, aren’t they? In the first three chapters, we saw Xenia’s misstep and the aftermath. But in talking with Fr. Andrew, other things come to light. In a desperate move, she pushed her priest into making a deal with her — he will do his best to get her a spot on the upcoming Helpers 4 Humanity trip, if she will oblige him by joining a little group that a friend of the church is starting. And lurking underneath all that, something more important, with longer-lasting impact.

She has gotten a sense from Fr. Andrew that there is a spiritual element to what is going on with her. He has told her that it’s important to guard against being cold-hearted towards others, and Xenia wants to try to address that. But for now, she’s not ready to include the Every Tuesday Club in those efforts. To Abigail’s dismay, Xenia prefers to start things out on her own.

In chapters four and five, we begin to see how the things will play out — how the ripples from that one action begin to spread. First of all, though, we have to finish out Xenia’s eventful night … beginning with some unwelcome news from her father. There’s one consequence to her actions that Xenia definitely hadn’t foreseen.



On the way home from church, Xenia’s father tells her about a decision he has made.

“… I’m changing the wi-fi password.”

Brain says: What?

“Why would you do that?” she asked, alarmed enough to be almost loud. “How will I get on the internet?”

“You won’t,” her father replied calmly. …

No internet?

“What will I do?” she asked plaintively.

“You’ll read a book,” he answered tersely.

That did not sound like something she wanted to do.

Xenia is grounded, at least as far as Web-surfing is concerned. She will still have internet access at the family computer in their living room, but she’ll be closely monitored. And she won’t be able to go online from her laptop or smart phone. Relatively speaking, she’s in an internet blackout, until her father decides she has learned her lesson.

Unfortunately for Xenia, that was her destiny.

When I thought about writing this book, I realized that Xenia really had to be forced offline. If I was dealing honestly with how a character like Xenia would be spending her leisure time, wouldn’t it always be an endless series of attempts to transcribe comment threads, chatroom exchanges and emails? Nothing against millennials, but a book full of that sounds about as interesting as watching bread dough rise. So really, her father and I had to kick her off the internet. Sorry, Xenia!

It might be just as well, though. Judging from her unsavory online friend Jason (“Blakkdogg”), she is better off being disconnected for now. More about him later on, but for now, Mr. Murphy and I have taken her offline, so let’s see what comes of her forced blackout.


A little more time in front of screens

Chapter five serves as a transition — out with the old and in with the new. Xenia’s off the internet, and it’s only by being sneaky that she can even attempt to capture a little of that gamer life she had. A conversation with Randy makes it plain that the game that she was playing isn’t even worth trying to resell — “So much for Queen Amarya” — and also gives us a momentary glance into a side issue that Xenia has.

“See? That’s what I mean. You’re not much of a team player.”

Xenia wasn’t prepared to hear more criticism that week, especially about something that she secretly prided herself on.

“Conquest of Crowns is all about competition,” she said. “You told me that yourself.”

“Against your enemies, yes. But it’s also about how you cooperate with allies. You get friends and then work with them. I also told you that,” Randy reminded her. (pages 71-72)

Even in the gamer world that Xenia thinks so much of, it pays to have friends you can rely on. That’s a theme, and we’ll see it coming back around later on. But Xenia has to take things at her own pace.

On Wednesday night, we see that she has done some research. Being Xenia, she wanted to just try to look up the answers to her problems online, but it’s proving difficult. Christian websites have no shortage of inspirational material, but don’t have a lot to say on the subject of social skills. Non-Christian websites have to say about socialization, but the context seems all wrong — it’s more about niceness and getting along than it is loving your neighbor as yourself.

What she may have missed is that in even making the attempt — and then talking it over with her father — she has taken the first step.

“Thanks, Dad,” she said, writing busily in her notebook.

Mr. Murphy stopped, touched by that simple expression of gratitude. He had wanted to really forgive Xenia but had been finding it difficult. It meant a lot, however, that she wasn’t still angry at him. So much like the Xenia he knew and loved. She had never been the kind to bear a grudge. How could he not forgive a daughter like that?

“You’re welcome,” he said. (page 81)

She may not have noticed the bonding moment that she had with her dad, but it’s an important part of her ability to move forward. She will need his help all along the way, and he will need her advice and insight at key points.

One of the best thing about talking things over with someone else — perspective. With a little of that, and the help that is just beginning to filter in, Xenia might just have a chance at warming up to others. But she’s also got a long way to go.

Coming up:

Wednesday: Gaming culture, part 2 — Some of the perks and benefits of being a gamer

Friday: Chapters 6 & 7 — The Historical Sleuthing Society, and more research

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