Sometimes books are about a plot line full of conflict and suspense, but other books quietly tell the story of a character. The Truest Pleasure by Robert Morgan falls into the latter category. Telling the story of a young Appalachian girl’s marriage and family, this book is full of wisdom and great characterization. The ultimate message, in an Ecclesiastical way, is to appreciate the important things in life. At first the narrator strives for spiritual connection and euphoria while her husband seeks pleasure in making money and expanding the land. Neither are happy; even though their pursuits are individually noble, their dreams don’t draw them closer. Only at the end of the novel does the narrator realize that the truest pleasure is to love those around her.
“You have a traitor there, Aslan,” said the witch. Of course everyone present knew that she meant Edmund. But Edmund had got past thinking about himself after all he’d been through and after the talk he’d had that morning. He just went on looking at Aslan. It didn’t seem to matter what the witch said.”
In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Edmund leaves his brothers and sisters to chase after the White Witch because what she offers to him seems more enticing. He soon learns that everything she told him was lies, and he is treated very poorly in her presence. After being rescued by Aslan’s army and talked to by Aslan, he seems completely changed. This quote describing the White Witch’s accusations against Edmund and his reaction remind me perfectly of Satan’s accusations against us.
Jesus has made me completely clean in God’s eyes and rescued me from my own White Witch, Satan. Even still Satan tries to come back and tell me that I’m a traitor and that I don’t deserve to be part of God’s family. He does this by attacking my service to God, convincing me that I’m not doing enough or that my heart is impure. My reaction sometimes is to give in to the lies and try to work harder when in reality God loves me no matter what I do. When accused by the White Witch Edmund looked at Aslan. Even when Satan tries to accuse me, I can simply look at Jesus and know that nothing Satan says matters.
“and they hummed of mystery.”
The last words of The Road by Cormac McCarthy ring true for the entire book. It’s a book of mystery, but it’s one I want to solve.
The story is simple: a man and his son travel south through a world where most people are dead and food is scarce. It’s been this way since as long as the boy can remember. Occasionally they meet another traveler, but they rarely want to meet someone else.
The meaning is complicated. The book is definitely about place, specifically a very lonely place. The world is covered in ash. Humans seem to have died right where they were. It feels like a desert when they’re traveling. They never seem to reach their destination.
His writing style is also very curious. The book is full of simple sentences. The dialogue is concise. The narration describes the world precisely. He lacks quotation marks, almost as if to flow speech with thought. Contractions which contain “not” lack an apostrophe, which might indicate an emphasis on the negative or that the negative simply is part of the word.
Having finished this book within the past hour, I am still pondering its meaning and purpose. If someone has read it, I’d love to discuss it with you. If you’re not connected to me personally, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Occasionally a young adult novel surprises me with its depth. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon is the latest to do that. She fills the novel with a likable, intelligent young lady who narrates her curious life alongside memorable side characters. The cast of characters is kept small, so it’s easy to feel close to each of the four main characters. The intermittent drawings, completed by Yoon’s husband, provide even further insight into Madeline’s character.
The novel is told from the perspective of 18 year old Madeline, who was diagnosed with SCID at a young age. This rare disease means that being in the outside world would make her extremely sick. She lives in a air controlled house with her mother and nurse. No one comes in without a thorough decontamination process. All of her books come cleaned and in shrink wrap. She completes classes via online tutors. Then a family moves in next door, and the interesting teenage boy catches her attention. Everything changes, and she starts to ponder a different future for herself in which she could love someone outside of her house.
My only question or complaint about the book is the fact that Madeline is 18 and still continuing high school classes, even at the end of the novel, which is about 6 months after the start. Yes, there are some seniors in public school who are 18, but Madeline has done all of her school work independently. She’s obviously bright and spends many hours a day studying. I feel like it would have been more plausible to either put her a year younger (although that would have messed up the idea of her applying for a secret credit card) or have her studying college material.
All in all I look forward to watching the film version and hopefully seeing a sequel in the future. I’d enjoy seeing her future life. No spoilers here, though, about what that future might hold.
Unfortunately (fortunately) finishing this book means I now have to re-read a few other books to decipher the reasons she referred to them so often. The first is The Little Prince, which I only vaguely remember. She says its meaning changes everytime she reads it, so re-reading shouldn’t be a bore for me. The second is Flowers for Algernon which I imagine has a relation to how she feels trapped in her own body. I’ve got it on hold from the Overdrive app, so if you’re that person who has it checked it out and not actively reading it, please return it.
Spring break is great because I have time to read entire books and fully appreciate them, especially when it decides to snow ruining any ideas of being outside. The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes is one such book. Set between World War 1 France and present day England, the story focuses around a painting of a wife that was stolen after the war. Moyes put me directly into the war with the story of a woman whose artist husband is away fighting, leaving her to live with her sister and kids. She has a painting of herself done by her husband that reminds her of happier days. Over time some German soldiers demand her to cook them meals at the family hotel. The Kommandant is intrigued by the painting, and eventually she’s willing to give him anything if he’ll order that her husband be released from the prison camp. The next day she is taken from her home and thrown into a German truck.
Then the storyline shifts to a modern day British widow with the same painting in her bedroom. Boy was I mad when I didn’t have answers to what happened to the French woman, and I didn’t particularly care about this whiny British widow even if she had the painting. Things got interesting though when it was revealed that an investigation was underway to find this painting because it was stolen during the war (think Monuments Men). The book continues to spin the story of the court case, weaving in small details of the French woman, until a slam ending revealing the French woman’s fate and the owner of the painting.
Overall, the literary style was incredible. There were amazing descriptions and fine storytelling. Even though I was mad about the character and time shift, I recognize its cleverness. This book was one I just can’t let go of yet because of its writing style and storytelling.
Sometimes you have to read something to remind yourself of the reality in which some people live. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is just such a book. Told in stark honesty, this memoir tells the truth of the author’s life growing up with adventurous parents who never saw a need to fit into societal comforts.
In this family, the father dreams of building a glass house for his family. In the meantime his entrepreneur lifestyle and his wife’s starving artist mindset keeps the family scrounging for money, food, and a reliable mode of transportation. The situations described by the author in which she lived filled me with sadness.
I don’t think, though, that the author’s intent was to make readers sad. She never gets dramatic about her descriptions, nor does she give the impression that she regrets her upbringing. There were hard times and times without food, and she did leave before graduating high school, but the story ultimately was about how she became who she is. It’s a story of overcoming and life choices.
It’s a story that will stick with me as I look at people. When Walls first moved to New York, she didn’t tell anyone of her past. That reminds me that sometimes people have hidden hurts and not to judge them.
The Glass Castle is not for the faint of heart. It’s not overly graphic though there are some tough subjects and language. It made me sad and angry at times, but it reminded me of my blessings as well as to be a blessing to others.
Ah, Christmas break is amazing. After finishing the last day of school, I was able to sit down and just read for pleasure for several hours. I finished a very interesting book entitled The Debt by Angela Hunt.
Set in a fictional Kentucky town, a pastor’s wife must rethink her view of the church when her grown biological son shows up in her life. Her son, whom she never met nor told her husband about, is a minister of a different kind than her husband; he goes to less-than-obvious places to build relationships with people who might never set foot in a church. She begins to see the flaws in the way she and her husband have been doing church.
This book’s purpose wasn’t to condemn church work or even to say that every church member needs to visit bars and impoverished neighborhoods. Rather, it asks us to pause and look at the opportunities God gives to us to be carriers of his word. For some of us that may mean doing work within the church, but for some of us that may mean carrying his work beyond the church walls.
Another main idea of this book was the idea of the church in connection with the world. The church in the book launched a nationwide boycott of a bookstore chain because a book with which they disagreed was being sold there. The pastor’s wife begins to question the effectiveness of such a boycott in spreading God’s love. She begins to see that the church is simply pushing agendas against sin rather than spreading the hope of God’s remedy for sin. One particular quote stands out: “don’t be shocked when sinners sin”. Just like the characters in the book, we need to examine what we’re fighting against. If we spend all of our time telling sinners that their sin is wrong without telling them about Jesus, we’ve missed the call. Remember, God meets us in our sin and then begins to change us, not the other way around.
If you want a thought-provoking yet easy read, this might be a book to add to you Christmas wish list.