4.5 stars. Why are there not half stars? George Eliot won me with Middlemarch. She kept me with Adam Bede. The full five stars were within its grasp, i...more4.5 stars. Why are there not half stars? George Eliot won me with Middlemarch. She kept me with Adam Bede. The full five stars were within its grasp, if it weren't for a couple of chapters where the author pushed the patience of even this lover of the pastoral pace. I probably didn't need the background of all of the Poysers' servants, who make no other appearance in the novel. But I've gotten a little better at knowing when to skim. Isn't reading delicious? The tale itself is about virtue and compassion, holiness and suffering, loyalty and betrayal, and consequences. It is set amid the advent of the evangelicals to Britain, and highlights the dichotomy between the comfortable morality of the Church of England and the passionate self-denial and soul-winning of the Methodists. There is some top-notch preaching given by the young Dinah Morris, who has become one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. This doesn't make Adam Bede a religious novel, however. It may surprise modern, post-Christian readers (it even surprised me, definitely not post-Christian) that George Eliot had completely rejected God by the time she wrote this novel. Her early life was full of strong religious influences, and it is obvious that the themes fascinated and did not entirely offend her. It is praiseworthy that she created Dinah Morris, so thoroughly committed to the way of Christ, as a deep and admirable character who does not fail to leave people better than she finds them. I am being unfair to the title character, however. Adam is the thread at the center of most of the tale, although several other characters get significant alone time with the narrator (who is also quite a character!). He is complex too, perhaps the most complex, because he so fully exceeds the standards of other men in his class, in thoughtfulness, intelligence, diligence, self-control, and loyalty. Furthermore, he grows, through brokenness, and learns compassion on top of them all. There are two characters who contribute exclusively to the suffering and brokenness of Adam Bede, and they are (amazingly) not caricatures either. Foolish, selfish, self-deceived, but real. I doff my hat to Ms. Evans (Eliot)--she had studied people very well. And there is comic relief; what hillside hamlet could be considered remotely genuine without its share of loud-mouthed men and women whose opinions everyone knows? And there is joy--the narrator's descriptive powers are almost magical, and I don't mind reading for pages and pages without anything "happening." Read Adam Bede. It's wonderful. (less)
For the past six weeks, I (along with my husband and a group of precious moms from church) have been living with this book. There is something extra w...moreFor the past six weeks, I (along with my husband and a group of precious moms from church) have been living with this book. There is something extra wonderful about digesting a book slowly, morsel by morsel, taking time to talk to God and others about it, and seeing how it looks when it becomes a part of "real life." The benefits of discussing a book like this are numerous, but some of the best are, one, that parts that seemed to speak to only one or two people in the group can come to life for the rest as the application is further explored through those people's experiences, two, that parts that may have been misunderstood if they were read by only one person who got sleepy while reading are less likely to be misunderstood by the group as a whole, and three, especially for a book as practical as this one, the accountability of the group makes the individuals in it strive truly to apply what has been read and discussed. This is a perfect book for a group, but, at the very least, to read with one's spouse or a close friend. I feel I do poorly with synopses, or maybe I just don't like writing them, but, anyway, the blurb above gives a good feel for what the book is about. I'd call this book "practical theology." Elyse and Jessica aren't trying to present something new or shocking, and you won't read anything within these pages that you couldn't see by reading your Bible faithfully and prayerfully. But that's the point--so many parents are bouncing around like pinballs much of the time, and, unfortunately, either on autopilot or being reactionary, or, even if there is a plan we're working out, that plan has too much to do with getting our kids to be "good" and protecting them from the world, rather than pointing them consistently toward the Gospel of grace. And, honestly, we do that because the Gospel isn't completely saturating our own thoughts. So here come some godly women who have really thought, studied, and prayed this through, to give us a boost. Some people have called this book repetitive. It is! I think it has to be, because we repeatedly (although usually unconsciously) compartmentalize the application of the Gospel in our lives. We apply it here, we ignore it there. So the authors of this book keep reminding us, as we ought to be reminding ourselves, in this situation, live the Gospel. And in that one, the other one, and don't forget the one over there, live the Gospel. For this reason, it is so much more than a parenting book. Parenting is an extension of the spiritual condition of the parents. If Jesus is beautiful to us, we'll make every effort, every chance we get, to display Him for our kids. It would take too long to enumerate every lesson I found poignant in this book, and the statements I disagreed with are too minor and too few to enumerate at all here (but good to discuss with your reading partners). I will say that this parenting book that isn't really a parenting book has made it to the very top of my list of "books that become old friends." I think that's primarily because it points me to, and helps me love even better, the oldest Friend of all.(less)
...books that become old friends... ...the soft sound of rain and low ceiling fan hum... ...soul words that open floodgates from eyes...
"Charis. Grace. E...more...books that become old friends... ...the soft sound of rain and low ceiling fan hum... ...soul words that open floodgates from eyes...
"Charis. Grace. Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving. Chara. Joy. A triplet of stars, a constellation in the black. A threefold cord that might hold a life? Offer a way up into the fullest life? Grace, thanksgiving, joy. Eucharisteo. A Greek word...that might make meaning of everything?" "Thanksgiving always precedes the miracle."
And it does. Ann Voskamp lived much of her life with fists clenched tight, angry that God's gifts to her tasted bitter. Very bitter. The only time life made a little sense was Sunday mornings at church, but the moment she left those doors, things fell apart. One Thousand Gifts is her journey of opening her hands, cupping them to receive grace, whatever form that may take, with thanksgiving, and eventually allowing that grace to trickle through her to others. But I'm putting it so badly. Eucharisteo. All is grace. Thank you, God, for the rain. The hard eucharisteo. All is grace. Thank you, God, for this trial. Help me to see Jesus here. The full-bodied eucharisteo. All is grace, including me! Thank you, God, that I can be a blessing as I have been blessed. This author is a poet/philosopher/mother-of-six/farmer's wife and very, very real. As she makes her list of one thousand (and more) gifts, I begin to see that with every moment that passes there is an opportunity for thanksgiving. What a departure from how I tend to live, communion in the common. This book is better each time I read it. Or, maybe, I should just write down ...a heart to break and be remade... (less)
I loved this book! I love that it's written in dialect. I'm a mostly-auditory learner, and when I read, there is a voice in my head saying the words....moreI loved this book! I love that it's written in dialect. I'm a mostly-auditory learner, and when I read, there is a voice in my head saying the words. I could hear these three women--two black, one white, each with her own voice. I love good historical fiction. I love complex characters with layers to peel away and peel again. I hate that the events portrayed in this book represent a real, devastating part of our nation's history, but I love the way the women in this book learned to see things through one another's eyes, were brave enough to trust one another, to tell their stories. Kathryn Stockett created some genuinely lovable characters, and a couple that you'd love to see locked up somewhere! In the middle are the women who show glimmers of bravery, and alternately glimmers of cowardice--real, everyday people. I read this book in one day. My kids are 5, 3, and 1 and I'm already asking myself how old they have to be to read it. (Because of one scary indecent scene and a portrayal of spousal abuse, as well as some strong language, I think we'll wait for high school). But I will be reading this again before then! (less)
How can I describe how wonderful this book is? It's so wonderful that I could be in a complete stupor of new baby sleep-deprivation, my brain would li...moreHow can I describe how wonderful this book is? It's so wonderful that I could be in a complete stupor of new baby sleep-deprivation, my brain would literally be turning itself off, and I would keel over with the book in my hand. It's so wonderful that it took a woman who had formerly considered all things Western quite boring and made her want to watch a John Wayne movie. That's 27 years of aversion turned around, folks. It's wonderful. The story is one of faith, family, adventure, and loyal love. The characters are the Land family, Jeremiah (the father), and Davy, Reuben, and Swede, his children, with Reuben as the protagonist. Each major character is so rich and demands that you care about him/her. The setting is Minnesota and North Dakota in the 1960s, and the plot centers around the family's response when Davy is arrested for killing two boys from his school. I could try to offer a play-by-play, but I'd rather just say that, although the story is exciting and touching and poignant, Enger's writing makes literary magic. Each page is a joy, and I found myself putting the book down after certain turns of phrase simply to say, "wow!," and then pick it back up again. This book will be one for me to read and reread, a modern classic for sure. (less)
Oh, where to start? This book is so appealing on multiple levels--first, it appeals to the nosy snoop in me, which SO enjoys reading other people's ma...moreOh, where to start? This book is so appealing on multiple levels--first, it appeals to the nosy snoop in me, which SO enjoys reading other people's mail, especially people in whom I have such an interest. Thankfully, this book allowed me to do that without breaking any federal laws--here or abroad. Secondly, it made 'Jack' Lewis even easier for me to love than he had been before. The situation was this: Lewis, already known worldwide and well respected literarily and academically, received all kinds of letters from all kinds of people. Returning them (all of them) was an exercise in self-discipline and subjection of his talents, in spite of a rheumatic wrist and a supreme distaste for letter-writing. When he returned Mary's first letter, he was kind and brief, and invited no reply...but he got one anyway, and HER letter did beg a response (we don't see her letters, but by his responses we can tell that she expected one). What developed was a long-term relationship as 'lopsided' pen pals that lasted until Lewis' debilitating illnesses finally made him retire from all activity, and he died soon afterward. Lewis' responses are interesting in and of themselves, but they also give a glimpse into the woman to whom he wrote, and I admit that finding her between the lines was not the least of this book's charms. (Mary herself was not very charming, from what I could tell: she tended to complain, was somewhat prideful, and was--above all--presumptuous! But somehow the relationship between them was charming.) But what I loved most in this brief collection (which became, for me, a real page-turner) was seeing Lewis as 'the man at home,' who got sick, experienced grief, and still made time for pen pals everywhere, personality notwithstanding, and prayed for them daily. I do believe that I detected the inklings of a genuine enjoyment of his correspondence with Mary toward the end, and it is neat to think that they have met at last in Heaven. As for me, I am excited to read more of his works while I can, and meet Lewis when I can't read anymore. <><><><><><><><><><><><><><><> Second time through--August '12 Becoming more intimately acquainted with the trials of old age and ill health since my previous reading (by becoming a caregiver for my grandmother) made C.S. Lewis's many physical hardships truly stand out to me. And even though I am still young, I thought of the things that slow me down or stop me in my tracks even now--most particularly, the sinus headaches that won't go away (from which, oddly, both Jack and Mary, his American correspondent, suffered). Add to that rheumatism, a weak heart, trouble sleeping at night, trouble staying awake during the day, a wife with cancer, a wife who died of cancer, two stepsons whose mother died of cancer, and also his regular work as professor, lecturer, and author, it is a wonder to me that he responded so faithfully to the inevitable onslaught of the post. I was genuinely inspired by his example of putting others first. Although I can't stop my body from acting up sometimes (and I'm sure much more as I age), by the grace of God I can stay humbly dependent on Him and serve Him with as much energy as He's granted for that moment. Lord, may this be my pursuit. (less)
When I get to heaven, I want to meet Lucy Maud Montgomery! What insight the woman had, and what depth. I loved the first book for its tenderness and v...moreWhen I get to heaven, I want to meet Lucy Maud Montgomery! What insight the woman had, and what depth. I loved the first book for its tenderness and vitality, the second for its insight and humor. This book had all of those things, but added something more--tremendous depth. I believe the theme of this book is maturity, and the old characters as well as some new ones gain and display this quality without making the book at all dry or humorless--it is quite the opposite. Of course, there are other themes as well, not the least of which is love. But I wouldn't spoil the book for you--just read it! (P.S. This book helped me to realize that the movie "Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel," which I have loved all my life, must now be sold. I will never be able to enjoy it the same way again, knowing what the story was meant to be!) (less)
I have not been this touched by a book in a long time. I read it as a girl, but a girl whose head was too full of Nancy Drew and Babysitter's Club to...moreI have not been this touched by a book in a long time. I read it as a girl, but a girl whose head was too full of Nancy Drew and Babysitter's Club to appreciate the depth and heart of Anne's world, and I contented myself with the movie version, which was very good (for a movie). What I didn't realize was that Matthew, Marilla, Anne, Diana, Gilbert, and the rest could be more real to me through the pages of this book than even a well-acted movie version could convey. Montgomery's own imagination must have been a well-honed organ to be able to incite mine so well. I was never tempted to cry over the movie (except when going through my "where's my Gilbert?" phase), but I found myself tearing up repeatedly in response to the beauties of this book. Marilla's struggle between her love for Anne and her undemonstrative nature, Matthew's abject fear of the feminine sex but his care for Anne's ability to dress like the other girls, Anne's honest desire and struggle to do what is right despite her inclinations, and her naivete about her own heart with regard to Gilbert--all these things were transmitted so clearly and affectingly from the page to my heart. Even Mrs. Lynde was more endearing by Ms. Montgomery's telling. If this wonderful book has somehow not found its way into your personal library, buy it--put little stars next to the most wonderful parts, read it again. It is a treasure.(less)
I feel a bit inadequate to treat this book as a thoroughly knowledgeable reviewer, and so I know that I will come back and edit my comments as I spend...moreI feel a bit inadequate to treat this book as a thoroughly knowledgeable reviewer, and so I know that I will come back and edit my comments as I spend more time in medieval literature and history, especially Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur. That said, I wanted to have a record of my inital impressions, however ignorant they may be. That White's novel is as much a commentary on medieval England and the order of knighthood in those days as a retelling of the Arthurian legend is wholly evident. His magnum opus is evidence of his own thorough study of medieval history and literature, and of his attempt to understand it both by its own merits and, ultimately, by his own beliefs. The Once and Future King IS a magnum opus, to be sure. White teaches the reader to interact with Arthur's tale on every level--as a beautiful story of humanity, as a foundational piece of literature, and as a commentary on its time. His own interpretation is quite different than Malory's must have been, since he treats war as unpardonable barbarism, knightly quests and tournaments as foppish and pointless, and the ultimate salvation of mankind in a "live and let live" mentality (as long as no one hurts anyone else). White's Arthur is great because of his political innovation and his devotion to right over might, whereas I am sure Malory's Arthur didn't mind conquest quite so much. As for the affair between Guenever and Lancelot, White's Arthur loved his two friends so much that he took every pain not to think about their treachery, and didn't seem to be emotionally hurt by it at all (although in the end it was the source of many evils he had to endure). Perhaps he, like White himself, was not particularly interested in women? But, aside from the elements that make it blatantly modern, White brought tremendous care and compassion to his telling. The reader truly pities each character as his doom grows nearer, and somehow the terrible errors each major character makes do not wholly define him--he is human. Also, White was funny--truly witty and winsome. I laughed aloud more times than I can count, and appreciated his voice as much as that of any other in the story. I truly enjoyed this book, even though I do not share all of White's worldview. It deserved the highest rating and I heartily recommend it to everyone. (less)
Corrie's story of faith and God's enduring faithfulness needed to be told. It may seem odd to some that those truly are the themes of a book about two...moreCorrie's story of faith and God's enduring faithfulness needed to be told. It may seem odd to some that those truly are the themes of a book about two elderly spinsters who undergo the horrors of concentration camp life, but they are. Early in the book, Corrie looks back on her past and says, "I know the experiences of our lives, when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work He will give us to do." God's work for Corrie and her family was a challenge beyond what most of us could imagine, and so His equipping for them was equally immense. He gave Corrie and her siblings a family that was truly an inspiration--their mother was often bed-ridden with sickness, but when she was up she was always serving others. Their father was gentle, wise, and absolutely saturated with Scripture, and shared many insights that stayed with Corrie (and will also stay with me) through the most difficult times. Her older sister Betsie was blessed with the spiritual gift of faith--she truly had an eternal mindset, and she was Corrie's role model. Their brother Willem was granted both the passion to help the Jews and the means to do it, as well as equip others in that work. And, when the time came, they all received the wisdom and bravery, and even providential intuition and just-plain grace, to accomplish what was set before them. The result was not only that lives were saved, but that a spirit of peace and a knowledge of God's love through His Word was spread to people who needed Him. Corrie is very appealing, too--she is so honest about her own struggles and flaws, but always with a redemptive purpose. And she continually gives credit to God for his provision. An example of this happens when she returns home to Holland and attempts (and fails miserably) to resume her underground work: "If I had ever needed proof that I had no boldness or cleverness of my own, I had it now. Whatever bravery or skill I had ever shown were gifts from God—sheer loans from Him of the talent needed to do a job." But as much as we recognize that God is sovereign, it is such a joy to read the story of a family who laid themselves down to be used by Him, and to know that Corrie's active ministry continued to bless people who had been wounded by the horrors of Nazism for many years after the war was over. Finally, I am so pleased to be able to say how well-written this book was. It was not fancy, but it was cleanly done, effective, and very involving. Not only that, but although the writing made me feel I was along for the journey with Corrie and Betsie, I was not completely traumatized by the experience. This is not "just another Holocaust story," and I don't recommend it to "just another Holocaust buff." It is a faith-challenging, soul-uplifting, prayer-requiring book that points directly to Jesus Christ, who is the only way to the true Hiding Place. (less)
I love Sherlock Holmes! (Not as a man, as a detective and a protagonist.) Conan Doyle's works are genius--the interplay between Holmes and Watson offe...moreI love Sherlock Holmes! (Not as a man, as a detective and a protagonist.) Conan Doyle's works are genius--the interplay between Holmes and Watson offers so much humor and insight, and the cases themselves are always so enticing (in a criminal sort of way). A definite must-read. (less)
Wow, this was an amazing book! Lowry takes a look at what life would be like if all risk were removed from life, and skillfully addresses issues such...moreWow, this was an amazing book! Lowry takes a look at what life would be like if all risk were removed from life, and skillfully addresses issues such as euthanasia and abortion without sounding preachy. This is not the kind of book you throw at your child, though--an upper-middle school child may be ready, but read it together!(less)