Monday, January 30, 2017

My Sisters the Saints

This is a Spiritual memoir by Colleen Carroll Campbell, and it is fantastic! The best way to describe it is the blurb from the back of the book. "... Campbell tells the story of her fifteen -year quest to understand the meaning of her life and identity in light of her Christian faith and contemporary feminism.... Along the way, she wrestles with the quintessential dilemmas of her generation: confusion over the sexual chaos of the hookup culture, tension between her dueling desires for professional success and committed love, ambivalence about marriage and motherhood, and anguish at her father's descent into dementia and her own infertility.

Dissatisfied with pat answers from both secular feminists and their critics, she finds grace and inspiration from an unexpected source, spiritual friendship with six female saints: Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Faustina of Poland, Edith Stein of Germany, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Mary of Nazareth. Their lives and writings speak to her deepest longings, guide her through her most wrenching decisions, and lead her to rethink nearly everything she thought she knew about what it means to be a liberated woman."

There were so many ways I could identify with Campbell! Her book was incredibly helpful to me. I read it as a book club entry and would really love to discuss it. I have another meeting that night as well that I must attend and will get a half hour at book club. Boo- hoo! I look forward to investigation of St. Edith Stein especially in my future. There are entire pages highlighted in that chapter. A memoir highly recommended.

The Essential Blake

This is a slim volume of the poetry of William Blake selected by Stanley Kunitz. I had only read a few of Blake's poems before picking up this little book; I was quite excited to find it because on the basis of the limited information I had I thought Blake a Christian with strong creative and redemptive themes throughout his body of work. After reading this book, which includes some prose and some of his dreams written out, I can see why his contemporaries thought him mad. At the very least, he was a humanist who believed mankind controlled their own destiny. A disappointment to me, since his poetry is so beautiful at times. This volume contains Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience in their entirety, lyrics and other poems, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (complete), and a miscellany.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Funeral for an Owl

A novel by Jane Davis. It took me a long time to get through this book, only because it is the Kindle book I read while waiting at various offices. Jim Stevens is a teacher at an urban London high school. He is badly injured on the job and spends much of his recuperation remembering a seminal event from his youth. He has already shared part of this memory with Shamayal , a teen from the school whom he has befriended. He finally shares the whole story with Ayisha, a colleague. While Jim is in hospital, it falls to Ayisha to protect Shamayal, with mixed results. And as he gets back to work, Jim bumps against his past in an unexpected manner.

The narrative bounces between Jim's present and his past. The chapter headings are clearly marked, but because I was reading the book so disjointedly I would find myself confused. The novel deals with teen runaways, so mind your triggers.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Confessions of a Prayer Slacker

By Diane Hale Moody, I found this non-fiction work to be extremely helpful. Perhaps because it went hand-in-glove with other things going on in my life as I read it. Moody takes us through the dynamics of prayer, common reasons (excuses) why we don't pray, how to address those.... it's a reminder of the incredible importance of daily, heart-felt communication with the Creator of the universe who wants relationship with us! It's a guide of how to prepare for that communication and why to prepare at all. Moody is chatty with some lame jokes which didn't detract from her material, maybe because I needed to read the material. Recommended.

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Wednesday Wars

This is a Newberry Honor book by Gary D. Schmidt. And it is fantastic! Holling Hoodhood is in seventh grade; his teacher is Mrs. Baker. She hates him. She makes him read Shakespeare. Only him. You see, every Wednesday afternoon, half of Holling's class goes to Hebrew school at Temple Beth-El. The other half leaves for Catechism at St. Adelbert's. Holling, however, is Presbyterian. That leaves him alone in the 1967 Long Island classroom with Mrs. Baker.

Mrs. Baker becomes a mentor to Holling rather than just a teacher. Holling's growth in many areas is delightful to see. We also get a glimpse of the current events of that era (the Vietnam Conflict,  the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the Cold War) and how those events affected suburban families. I have talked this book up to my kids, but made them wait until I finished. A great book.

Friday, January 6, 2017

A Man Called Ove

By Fredrik Backman, this novel is fabulous! It is set in Sweden, but is universal. Ove is a curmudgeon. And dealing with many changes in his life. And grappling with a decision. Well, actually, he's made the decision, but life circumstances continue to intervene to keep him from being able to follow through on his decision. It all started when his mailbox is crushed by the new neighbors. They're an ethnically mixed couple with two daughters and a child on the way. They talk too much; they don't know how to do things properly and they won't leave Ove alone. Then there is the cat. And his other neighbors, as well as the young men at the café....

I laughed with this book. I cried with this book. I thought of people I know who are similar to Ove (hello, Dad).  It is funny and harrowing and oh, so poignant! Highly, highly recommended!