Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

fathermothergod: My Journey out of Christian Science by Lucia Greenhouse

image from LibraryThing
I really didn't know much about Christian Science when I started reading this book.   What I did know was a vague understanding of no birthdays, no doctors and a some sort of cult that Tom Cruise was a part of.  I was partially right - but not about the Tom Cruise part.

This is a deeply personal story of a daughter coming to grips with choices her parents made and the consequences that the children must pay.  This is a story of a family - a close knit family that is pulled apart by religious differences.  This is a story of pain and more pain and in the end mostly pain.

Lucia is the middle child of three.  When she was little her parents joined the Mother Church - the Church of Christian Science.  Their belief is that physical pain is not real, so illness is not real.  It can be prayed away - they called it working on a problem.  I find it very interesting that science is in the name - yet the deepest tenet of the faith is a complete denunciation of medical science. That was not really explained.

Lucia's father, Heff, believed that Christian Science cured his stuttering.  And that was only the beginning.  As children, Lucia and her siblings they went to church and went to their large family gatherings. All in this uppercrust extended family were allowed to follow their own path - but no one really addressed it.  The problems in Lucia's family came as the children were growing up. When Lucia realized that her headaches were caused by poor eyesight she had a horrible fight with her father just to go to the eye doctor.  And when she and her brother had chicken pox she remembered her mom taking her to grandma's for funny tasting applesauce while dad was at work.  Those memories piled up and Lucia became very confused!

Even these spats were nothing compared to the all-out, family destroying brawl that was to come.

There are parts of this story that are difficult to read with out hitting someone over the head.  I just couldn't understand the blind focus on anything but medicine.  It just seems so obvious!!

But, I could understand the dedication they felt to their faith. Heff and Joanne, Lucia's parents, completely and totally believed and couldn't understand their children's lack of faith.  It was crystal clear to each side how ridiculous the other was.  That understanding was difficult for me  - especially when it was the children trying to convince the parents.

Lucia is a great storyteller - her tale winds sometimes - but stays true to the focal point - Christian Science killed her parents.  That isn't quite the same as the subtitle on the cover - but I think it's more the true title.

Interesting read.
I would recommend this if you are interested in faith traditions and family dynamics.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker

image from LibraryThing
When I was first teaching I used to spend quite a bit of time helping my 4th graders learn to listen.  We would put our heads down on the desk and I would set a timer and they would remain perfectly (as perfectly as a 4th grader can) still and simply listen.  When the timer went off we would talk about what they heard - making a list on the board.  At first it was really hard for them to hear more than the hallway noise and feet shuffling - but they did get better.

That was a long time ago. As I read this book I kept remembering that practice - pausing and listening.

This is a love story and a societal critique carefully woven together in an engaging, fictional tale.

Julia is searching for her father in a land of unknowns.
Her father simply disappeared one day from his successful New York City job and his settled family.

Simply vanished.

Julia has decided to try to track him down.  She has only a name - Mi Mi and Burma - his homeland.

So - that sounds as fantastical as it could possibly be.
Traveling completely around the world to a dingy tea room in an bustling town to hear the story of her father.

How! How? How?!

And that is this story.

Built on impossible odds in improbable situations a love that knew no ends was created. And Julia alone was there to hear the story.

Her father, Tin Win was blind as a child - what?  - and fell deeply and completely in love with Mi Mi - wh0? - a beautiful girl with deformed feet.

As a pair they explored the town and countryside where they lived - Tin Win carrying Mi Mi on his back and Mi Mi navigating through the Burmese terrain.  How???  Partly because Tin Win had learned to listen at a depth unheard of.  He had learned to simply be and hear the whosh of a bird's heartbeat inside an egg, the slish of a snake under a log and Mi Mi became his eyes to prove he truly heard.

Then all changed when Tin Win was moved to the city for surgery and eventually to the States to work. His hearing became unnecessary,  he could see.  

And his life moved on into the western world.

But -  he was always listening for Mi Mi's heartbeat.

I know that because...well I don't want to say anything.  But he was listening!

This is an engaging tale, interesting and easy to read.

But, to really 'get' it takes some quiet and some focus.

I think that would have made Tin Win happy!

Friday, June 27, 2014

City of Lost Souls and City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

image from LibraryThing
I love a good series almost as much as I love a
Image from Library Thing
big fat novel.  Cassandra Clare has met both of my requirements!  These are the last two books in the Mortal Instruments series.  In the midst of these books she also wrote the Infernal Devices series that is a prequel to these, and in an absolutely wonderful way is not completely a prequel!

These books tell the story of Clary Fray and Jace Herondale - both Shadowhunters. In this earth the world is defended from demons by Shadowhunters descended from angels.  And the world is threatened by Clary's evil brother Sebastian - I am not talking run of the mill evil - but demon spawn, everything is turned on it's head and life as we know it will end when he gets control evil!

As usually happens in YA lit - the teens save the day.  And there is a bit of romance - between a werewolf and a shadowhunter, between a shadowhunter and a warlock and between Clary and Jace! Sometimes that can be annoying - but in these I was ok with it.  It's mostly longing and wondering and hoping.  The cover art makes it look much hotter than it actually is!!!

This is a complicated story - one that takes hundreds of pages and multiple books to roll out...and I loved every minute of it! Watching these awkward mundanes (non-magical or not yet magical) teens grow up on the pages of the book. In that way it reminded me of Harry and Ron and Hermoine.  The hope of every teen to be something amazing and the horror of every teen to be something amazing all rolled up together.

I highly recommend these books!  and in typical series fashion - at the end of this one is a small tidbit of the next series.  The twist Clare makes is each series is intertwined and foreshadowed!  I LOVE THAT!! I would love to see her planning notes.  How does she keep it all straight??  I stand in awe of writers who are able to craft a story in the way she does!  Bravo!!

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

image from LibraryThing
Joe's life is about to end on a sunny, spring, Sunday afternoon as he quietly pulls sprouts out of the foundation of his family's home.  He is helping his judge father while him mother does a little work at the reservation office.  But, she doesn't come home.  And when she does nothing will ever be the same again.

His mother has been attacked and escaped with her life.  But, she slips into a deep, dark depression as Joe and his father struggle to figure out what happened, who the attacker could be and how to be a 13 year old boy whose very normal life has disappeared.

Erdrich weaves stories of reservation life and loyalties into this narrative - some through the nightime talk of Joe's very ancient grandfather or his reformed stripper aunt.  But mostly we learn the ins and outs of life from Joe and his three friends.  Riding bike, smoking stolen cigarettes, sharing stories and histories all come together to create a world where justice is not expected and history means more than current day.

This story spins and pulls the reader deeply inside the reservation world - deeply inside the psyche of a 13 year old in the summer of 1988.  Another one that I would recommend!

This is our book club book for June.

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

image from LibraryThing
This is one of the books that hooks you early and won't let go.  Moriarty creates a story woven between three families - each holding part of a life shattering event.

The story opens with Cecilia finding a letter from her husband asking her to open in the event of his death. What would you do?? Cecilia's life is neatly and tidily organized - she is a mega-multi-tasker - a tupperware phenom and the mother of daughters.  Every part of her life is carefully orchestrated.  And then she finds this letter.

Tess has a great job, a great marriage, a great child and a wonderful best friend. And then it all explodes via tearing betrayal.  She takes her son and escapes to her mom's house to get her bearings and help her mom recover from a broken leg.

And finally there is Rachel, the still grieving mother.  Her daughter was murdered 30 years ago and she has been frozen in time and grief ever since.

These women cross paths in a most unexpected way.  All that you think you know when you begin reading evaporates.  I cried and I laughed and I couldn't put it down!

This is a wonderful story of the strength and pain in a woman's life.
Read it!!

Friday, May 9, 2014

A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy

image from LibraryThing
I am clearly in a nostalgic mood - this is another old favorite author!  Maeve Binchy is one of my very favorite!!! Her books are filled with the day to day life of everyday people. Her writing elevates their lives to simple poetry.  I know - that sounds a little ridiculously flowery - but she brings it out in me!

This book did not disappoint!  Chicky Starr is content to live her life out in the small Irish community of Stonybridge until a smiling yank sweeps her off her feet and carries her across the ocean to New York City. When that romance fades she can not tell her family what has happened - so she remains in New York creating a story of her life.  Over the years she settles in a boarding house and learns the trade and perfects her story - returning home now and again but maintaining the facade. When her favorite niece is ready to come to NY to see the glamorous life her aunt is leading Chicky makes a fateful decision - her husband is suddenly killed in a car accident and she decides to return home.  But - what will she do?  Refurbish an old genteel house on the coast and turn it in to a small hotel.

And that is where the story begins. Sort of. Binchy has a great way of layering different perspectives on top on one another.  As Chicky's story ends it is time to tell Rigger's story - the wayward son of Chicky's best friend.  And this story takes us a bit closer to the week in winter when Stone House will open.  Then it is Orla, Chicky's favorite niece's story.  And finally it is the stories of the guests who arrive that very first week in winter. Each arriving with their own lives of passion and boredom and intrigue and quiet.  Each a bit apprehensive, a bit concerned, a bit frazzled, and a bit overwhelmed at the healing sounds the ocean waves create.

Not all the stories end happily - or even end. Rather this feels like we have all been invited on a memorable week vacation - and it is time for us to pick up our own lives again.

I LOVE Binchy!!! Read this one!!