The 39 Clues to Family.

So, I’ve been rereading an old favorite series of mine called The 39 Clues. Only the first ten books, it got weird, dark, and gritty after that.

But the first ten books were actually brilliant in their own way, the series went wrong because it deviated from their theme. They were concerned with the actual clues.

Let me summarize if you are not up on the plot (and the books aren’t all that well known so don’t feel bad if you aren’t.) Our main characters are Amy and Dan Cahill, they belong to an old and powerful family of over 500 years of being the most gifted, powerful individuals in the world. Many famous historical figures were supposedly Cahills; but, thankfully, this is not your typical Illuminati type story.

Instead of trying to rule the world, the Cahills contribute to it, with arts, science, strategy, inventions, and impressive physical feats like scaling Mt. Everest. The Cahill family has 5 branches, four of which have a them that relates to some particular gifting. Strategy and Cunning is one; Intelligence in inventing and science is another; Creativity in the arts; and physical prowess.

Amy and Dan start off not knowing about any of this, or what the family’s big secret it is. Or that the 5th branch, is one without a particular gifting, but they do have a focus: Reconciliation. Because, like most families, the Cahills a have a lot of junk and an ongoing feud of five centuries full of blood, backstabbing, and theft, all in a quest for power.

(Spoilers if you read past this point, but the books have been out for so long, I doubt it matters.)

The secret turns out to be a serum that give you all the gifts I listed above, the four branches each got one fourth of it, but the completed serum would make you a better superhuman than Captain America…and also corrupt you.

Amy, in book 10, reflects that she’s glad she and Dan come from the Madrigals, the branch without serum in their DNA, because though it does not make you evil, it does make the temptation to power hunger so much stronger. Messing with genetics is never a good idea and never without its drawbacks.

However, Madrigals, like most different groups, are hated by the rest of the branches, who also hate each other. So, she and Dan don’t broadcast their heritage till it unfortunately comes out by circumstances beyond their control…or fortunately, as it turns out.

Long before then, Amy and Dan learn that their parents were part of the clue hunt, and were killed by the mother of two of their rivals, Ian and Natalie Kabra, Isabel Kabra, the culprit, is a psychopath in fine degree. Who tries then to kill Amy and Dan several times, enlisting the aid of her children, who blindly assume she is not actually going to go throug with it.

Amy at first hates Isabel when she finds out, and almost gets Dan killed by angering the woman; but then she ends up being given the chance to either get ahead in the game, or to save the life of Ian, who by the way, pretended to like her and then dumped her and tried to bury her alive…yeah, nice guy.

Amy has just found out she’s a Madrigal at this point, and that they are supposed to be evil, even that her parents were supposedly responsible for a lot of the deaths of innocent people (they are later cleared, but she did not know this yet,) and yet she drops the item that would give her the huge advantage, and saves Ian.

She later tells Dan what is one of the most important themes in the series: I saved Ian, I can’t be inherently evil. Just because we’re madrigals, doesn’t mean we still can’t be good. (Not a direct quote by the way, just a paraphrase.)

Amy and Dan become full Madrigals and learn their branches true task, but they are not sure they can embrace it and try to unite the branches, because they are not sure they can forgive them. In the end, though, they realize that this is what they want to do.

But how? And that is what begins my look at what these books got right.

As I reread book 1, it struck me how the series is a perfect illustration of a thing that Christians call “Generational Sins.” Or, “Generational Curses.”

The idea comes from a verse in the Bible where it says God is a jealous God, “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me.” (Deuteronomy 5:9.)

Science has, in the last century, proven what was obvious long before then, that families pass down sins.

In L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series, it becomes a running joke about certain families, like Sloans, Pyes, Pringles, Drews. Macallisters, and so on. Each family has characteristics, sometimes shown by physical appearance like goggle eyes, other times jut a reputation for pride and nastiness.

It’s not contested much in the books, but it’s the idea. It’s also part of the Classic Southern Mindset about old families. And the English idea of needing to marry into a respectable family. It’s in nearly every culture.

Yet outside of medical issues, it can be completely ignored in American culture. Or if it isn’t, the reason for it escapes people.

The verse above says God punishes the the third and fourth generation’s sins. Which seems unfair, at the time however, there was no way to get rid of sin, and it would be passed down. Adam and Eve tainted the whole human race by sinning, it has become part of our DNA. (Seeing the connection?)

God later promises to no longer punish children for their father’s sins, once they have been redeemed from sin’s power. Then people will stand on their own merit. Even pre-Christ, there were times when the children of a wicked man would turn out good.

The same sins tend to get repeated. Alcoholism can be genetic, so can other addictions, or tenancies. We’ve all heard “You have our father’s temper” or something like that said to us or our friends.

I have an odd mix of my dad and mom’s tempers, so I get it both ways.

It doesn’t take Amy and Dan Cahill long to notice that each branch of their family is subject to certain kinds of cruelty. Whether it’s by manipulation, inventing things that destroy, abusing creative power, or being violent, yet cruelty and callous disregard for life are the common thread. Even though some Cahills are good and kind, there are far too many like that. And they see the same flaws in their family members on the quest.

Pride is a big part of it also. Big shock there.

Amy and Dan don’t have a lot of knowledge or wisdom about what to do, but they end up dong some things right by accident.

Time and again in the clue hunt they spare people’s lives, or help them when they do not have to, or refuse to play dirty;  ultimately Amy even chooses saving someone over getting the serum.

At first the other competitors look down on them for this…but overtime as Amy and Dan continues to pull ahead, and also to prove themselves compassionate, the other members of the family begin to wonder. Why are they trying to kill each other? (Good question right?)

They start to see the real difference between them and Amy and Dan. A difference of heart.

In the end the difference becomes crystal clear, and they all decide to follow Amy and Dan’s lead in trying to forgive and reconcile.

Generational sins suck,majorly. All of us have our own flaws, bu it can be discouraging to realize we have family flaws too. Ones we’re taught, that come out when we least expect, and that seem ingrained in us. Even in our DNA.

Like Ian and Natalie Kabra in book 10, we may have a shocking realization of how messed up our family actually is.

Like Hamilton, we may start to feel guilty for all we did with our family, blindly believing they were right.

Like Jonah Wizard, we may be horrified at the cruelties we’re capable of, and want to shake our family line.

Or, we may be the peacemaker, wondering why our relatives just can’t let go of their hate and envy.

Whatever position you find yourself in, these books provide at least part of the answer. IT is only by practicing compassion, and making a choice to extend mercy, that we can begin to heal.

When a person who has been severely wronged still decides to be merciful, it is one of the most powerful things int he world. Pride breaks, fear dissolves, curses end, and depression lifts.

Mercy is not pretending someone never did wrong, it is giving them the chance to be better by setting them free of your wrath for it.

That is all I’ve got for now, I recommend checking the series out, until next time–Natasha.

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