I cannot even begin to write what the book is about without revealing the plot. While the book was not 'fun,' it is absorbing while dealing with heavyI cannot even begin to write what the book is about without revealing the plot. While the book was not 'fun,' it is absorbing while dealing with heavy issues. This book does not wrap up neatly; there are lots of questions, about the characters and the science, left unanswered.
This book includes a motif that showed up in her "Sleepless" series. Nancy Kress is a brilliant woman; her "Probability Moon" was one of the few books I read thinking 'I am not smart enough to understand this book.' I find that smart people like to write about other smart(or smart enough) people. When Nancy Kress writes a novel about events all over the world, she includes dumb people. She includes unstable and stunted people. And they ring true.
The last sentence was so sweet and hopeful, while also being a dramatic twist and change in perspective....more
So deep and so dense. This book, with its profound questioning and occasional flights of fancy, is an intensely Jewish novel. That may seem obvious, sSo deep and so dense. This book, with its profound questioning and occasional flights of fancy, is an intensely Jewish novel. That may seem obvious, seeing as it is about a rabbi, but it has so many Jewish characteristics. Firstly, it questions the status quo. Secondly, characters have more than one opinion. The Rosh Yeshiva is proud he trained a woman rabbi, but he doesn't believe in women rabbis. Thirdly, all the characters, including God, are spiritually flawed. The characters who hate and hurt others have redeeming qualities.
There is an appreciation for making every day experiences beautiful, not just through Rebecca's actions, but on a meta level, through Lester's prose. At the same time, Lester warns people not to be seduced by the beautiful. One can enjoy food, but Patric's relationship to quail at the expense is unhealthy. One can enjoy a woman's beauty, but one is not to objectify her with lust, as characters did to Allison and Rebbecca.
Jewish characters feel renewed by finding Jews in unexpected places(the scene with William Fein and Chai mountain is so sweet), and the main character is humbled by the realization that she needs to appreciate the gentiles around her. Her reaction to hearing Devora talk about Allison is heartbreaking. I did, however, find the description of Allison odd. I do not think I have ever met a woman who, against her will, drove all the men around her mad with desire. I live, however, in a community of very gentle men, who do not understand the type of obsession that drives the plot in this book.
One of the ideas that resonated with me is how important wounds are. Rebecca tells Evan to let his wound be his teacher. We see how Rebecca allowed her wound to teach her; she never limps on the inside, which protects her from Allison's fate. Her wound still teaches her throughout the novel, thirty years after it was inflicted. She learns that she needs to share her wound, and not use it to keep people out. I loved the brief story of how Brian Moon's wound helped him help so many others. Lester's vision of the best of humanity is of the walking wounded, who manage to face their hurt every day without self pity and use it to empathize with those around them.
The one way I found the book not so Jewish is its emphasis on mourning and death. Jews are forbidden to mourn excessively. One of our principles is "Choose Life." If someone dies at a wedding, you hide the body so the bride and groom will not be disturbed, and you ignore the death until after the wedding. Rebbecca, like so many children of Holocaust survivors, cannot choose life.
The book both rejects and accepts the idea of a Judeo-Christian tradition. When I was reading the reviews on Goodreads, I noticed that some people thought that the story devolved when Allison's plot was introduced. That is not a Jewish attitude. Rebbecca knew all about holiness, but in spite of her success as a therapist, she did not really know how to relate to people. She didn't understand that small talk is important. She didn't know how to hear Allison's cry for help. In the end, she is tried and tested. She needs to understand how important her fellow man is, and once she is confronted with God's humanity, she passes. It is a very Jewish idea to say that one person is equal to all of creation. Rebbecca had distanced herself from humanity and needed to understand that truth.
I loved Lester's vision of God as someone both wonderful and terrible. Rebecca's, and our, painful job is to learn to love God while condemning evil. We face the hard task of forgiving and comforting and holding ourselves to a higher standard. I am not sure I understand the book's last paragraph, but I found it beautiful. ...more
What a tease! I have always been confused about the Dark Ages and have struggled to find books that would tell me about them. Who exactly were the MerWhat a tease! I have always been confused about the Dark Ages and have struggled to find books that would tell me about them. Who exactly were the Merovingians? What were the northern Europeans like? What was their religion? Did it involve bison, like in Guy Gavriel Kay's Sarantine Mosaic books? This book uses archaeology to begin to answer these questions, but frustrates me by not going all the way. Why did they throw swords into rivers? What did it mean? How are Christmas trees related to old European religions? If they were talking to the Middle East, were they still trading with the Middle East? What were they trading other than garnets? Peter Wells, you torment me!...more
While this book is technically about the Galapagos, Paul Quarrington devotes a fair amount of space to Toronto. It is an irreverent take on the islandWhile this book is technically about the Galapagos, Paul Quarrington devotes a fair amount of space to Toronto. It is an irreverent take on the islands; Quarrington does write about their beauty, but he also writes about how godforsaken parts are, which is an odd choice of words because he is there to find God. As an uneasy mix of humanist and Jew, I felt squeamish during several of the religious passages.
I checked this book out of the library because my fiance suggested we go there for our honeymoon. After reading the book, I checked out the tour prices and found out that most of the rooms within our budget are already booked for July 2011. I don't know how we are going to afford it, but after reading this book, I am determined to go.
One of the benefits of this book is that it does a literature survey of the Galapagos. I now want to read "Voyage of the Beagle" by Charles Darwin, "The Encantadas" by Melville, and "Galapagos: World's End" by William Beebe.
The book would have been improved by a recipe for quince marmalade.
UPDATE: I have since figured out that the "quince marmalade" was membrillo. I wish the book had mentioned this....more
I wish this were a genre of book. Charles Mann tries to summarize what we now know of the history of the Americas before contact. It is hard, however,I wish this were a genre of book. Charles Mann tries to summarize what we now know of the history of the Americas before contact. It is hard, however, to cover an entire hemisphere in one book, so he is forced to make choices. Instead of focusing on a region, he decided to focus on questions, like "How many people were there in the Americas when Columbus arrived?" These simple questions have long, complicated, and ambiguous answers, written by someone who actually understands the science referenced. I learned so much and it has changed the way I look at our world. The book stays and stays with me....more
This book is full of incredible illustration. It made me feel better about the book of Esther because I had not realized that the part where it suddenThis book is full of incredible illustration. It made me feel better about the book of Esther because I had not realized that the part where it suddenly became murderous stopped making sense grammatically; they think some Helenizers messed with the ending. It makes me curious as to what the original ending was. Perhaps one day, archaeologists can answer that for us.
Reading this book made be feel disconnected from my heritage, but it also made me feel that that may not be a bad thing. I found parts of the book creepy....more
I think I would have liked this more if I had not already read "A Handbook of American Prayer." Both characters are about ambiguous poets with near diI think I would have liked this more if I had not already read "A Handbook of American Prayer." Both characters are about ambiguous poets with near divine powers with a beautiful woman in their lives who is deeply connected to a regional culture in a warm part of the United States. Green Eyes, however, is Shepard's first book and is not as well written as the novel he wrote twenty years later.
The first half of the book was fun; the last couple chapters were a slog....more
A beautiful set of short biographies of medieval thinkers, published as a modern version of an illuminated manuscript, that could have used an editor.A beautiful set of short biographies of medieval thinkers, published as a modern version of an illuminated manuscript, that could have used an editor. Some sections of this book educate in truly impressive ways. I studied art history and saw Giotto in person, but this book taught me why Giotto mattered. That is an impressive achievement. On the other hand, Cahill's thoughts on the world(and Catholicism) today intrude far too often on his reflections of earlier Catholic thought and institutions. The structure could have used some help, as well. The last chapter is supposedly about a bad ruler, but the man is not named until the last sentence of the chapter, and his deeds are left to the reader to research elsewhere. It is a pity that Cahill's editor did not prune the text, since it is an excellent introduction to medieval art and thought....more
When I finished reading this, I looked out the window and my heart hurt. This is not a light-hearted book. While there are some devilishly funny passaWhen I finished reading this, I looked out the window and my heart hurt. This is not a light-hearted book. While there are some devilishly funny passages poking fun at Victorian England, the core of the novel focus on the fierce determination of two Tsunami young survivors to protect the people under their care. Terry Pratchett pulls off the task of realistically depicting two teenagers who manage to lead an island full of people older, stronger, and more knowledgeable than they are. This is a novel bristling with ideas and I will read this book more than once. I respect Pratchett's ability to look at people and institutions the way they are. With the exception of some idealization of scientists and the Royal Society, Pratchett never passes up the opportunity to show how we do(or could) go wrong, while never giving up on humanity. ...more
So what do you do if you have outlived your glory, but are as good as ever? If most of your friends have died, or gotten dementia? If you are still thSo what do you do if you have outlived your glory, but are as good as ever? If most of your friends have died, or gotten dementia? If you are still the world's greatest barbarian, even if you have to wear wool long underwear underneath your funny leather clothes? When you have proved yourself against the world, and only the gods are left?
A great story, fantastically enhanced by the illustrations, which are half the fun. After all, when it comes to elderly barbarians in long johns and S&M gear, isn't a picture worth a thousand words? ...more
Terry Pratchett did it again; he wrote a Christmas classic about Death and a serial killer. Along the way, he deals with class issues, education, pagaTerry Pratchett did it again; he wrote a Christmas classic about Death and a serial killer. Along the way, he deals with class issues, education, pagan religion, and the mentally handicapped, all wrapped in a rollicking fun ride. I have given this to so many people as Christmas presents! ...more
This book was in the science fiction section of the library, which testifies to the current sad state of affairs, as it is a book about religion, notThis book was in the science fiction section of the library, which testifies to the current sad state of affairs, as it is a book about religion, not fantasy. There is no evidence of anything paranormal; the narrator himself is constantly full of doubt. I find it sad that a novel about doubt and faith is labeled "science fiction" if it is not about Jesus.
The narrator in the book is sent to jail for manslaughter, and while in jail comes up with a new way to pray. Complications ensue. Something I liked about this book is that just when the reader starts to forget that Wardlin killed and spent ten years in jail, the author reminds us. That sort of experience is never going to be wiped away.
Another theme that got me thinking was on the nature of divinity. Wardlin has coffee with a University of Michigan professor who talks to him about how unlikeable many divinities are; they may be paternalistic, but he sure would not want one as a father. This rang true for me....more
This was a fun read, with a generous sprinkling of the absurd. I do not know how much I learned about religion, but I had a fun time reading this. I fThis was a fun read, with a generous sprinkling of the absurd. I do not know how much I learned about religion, but I had a fun time reading this. I felt smart reading the chapter on Buddhism since I had read its main source, "Jewel in the Ashes," in school....more