Home Repair by Liz Rosenberg

home-repairTitle:  Home Repair

Author:  Liz Rosenberg

Paperback:  352 pages

ISBN:  9780061734564

Challenges:  ARC Challenge

But it was more than facing the clutter and the mess, this grip of cold gloom that surrounded her.  She had never been prone to depression, not even after Ivan died, but what she suffered now felt like a disease of the soul.  She wandered aimlessly around the house.  The flowers in their clay pots out on the front porch were long dead and withered.  A few brown leaves stuck out from the stems.  She seemed to be staring at the demise of everything.  Everything she’d already lost, all the losses still to come.  It all headed toward grief in the end.  Humans were soap bubbles, clinging to any solid surface.  They rested briefly, then were gone.  Her mother would be gone soon, and not long after, it would be herself, and one day even her own children…

A chill stabbed her heart.  Why on earth bother?  Why clean, take out the trash, make the beds.  Why not let it all alone to rot?

Home Repair by Liz Rosenberg, pages 183-184 (ARE)

I’d first like to thank Jennifer, aka Book Club Girl, for the opportunity to read Home Repair and participate in a discussion with Liz Rosenberg, the book’s author.  You can listen to her July 8th broadcast on Blog Talk Radio with the author by clicking here.  It was my first time participating in a live discussion with an author, and was an interesting experience.  It would definitely be more interesting to have the author’s voice at a book club discussion more often.

One of the things that sticks out most for me with Home Repair is that it truly has a feeling of authenticity.  Often in books, when the tragic or fantastic occurs, it feels contrived or manufactured, a vehicle for the author to get the characters from one point to another, or to teach a lesson.  However, with this book, the events feel natural.  When Eve and her seventeen-year-old son, Marcus, get into a fight about him going for a ride in his friend’s new sports car, it had a very familiar feeling to me, a mother of two teens of my own.  The events that followed the argument also felt familiar and made me think back to something that had happened within my own family.  Another aspect of Home Repair that I kept thinking of while reading it was that the characters were very real to me.  At times I could see my own mother in Charlotte, Eve’s mom, with Eve playing my part, at other times Mrs. Dunrea could’ve been me.  Also, Rosenberg has set Home Repair in her home town of Bignhamton, New York, adding even more realism to the book.

Home Repair by Liz Rosenberg begins on a bright, sunny and unseasonably mild day as Eve holds a garage sale to clear out some of the clutter in her family of four’s life.  As the day progresses, she becomes aware that her husband, Chuck, has taken the opportunity to clear out for good.  Eve is left with the task of explaining to her two children, Marcus and Noni, that he’s left them, and to somehow manage to dig down within herself and soldier on.  The book takes us on a year journey as Eve rediscovers who she is, develops friendships and connections with new and different people, and deepens her relationships with those she already knows.  When her mother moves up from Tennessee to “help,” Eve is faced with her mother’s own eventual mortality and humanness, as she struggles in the in-between land of mother caring for her own children while being a child caring for her mother.  Home Repair is the story of healing, family and friendship that will stay with you and gives hope that “This too shall pass.”

“Why does anyone get married?  Why do middle-aged men leave their wives, or women abandon their families and run off to Tahiti?  Why does anyone bother to become friends with anyone, or adopt a child, or own a pet, for that matter?  We’re all going to die sooner or later, if that’s what you’re thinking,”  Charlotte said.  “That’s life.  Nothing we do can change that.  We’re all going to someday say good-bye.  We’re all going to have to cry, little girl,” she said, putting one hand out to touch Eve’s hair.  The touch did not quite happen, but hovered, and then settled back down, like a butterfly, still quivering.  “We might as well be happy while we can.”

Home Repair by Liz Rosenberg, page 324 (ARE)

Home Repair by Liz Rosenberg is a comfort, homey read that reminds us that we’re not alone and gives us hope.  It tells us that we’re stronger than we think and love is the best home repair.  I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

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They Plotted Revenge Against America by Abe F. March


Title:  They Plotted Revenge Against America

Author:  Abe F. March

Paperback:  254 pages

Date Published:  February 3, 2009

Publisher:  All Things That Matter Press

ISBN:  9780982272220

“Pandemics happen,”  U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt had said.  There have been ten in the past 300 years, and “we’re overdue and under prepared” for the next one.  Would America be ready for a flu pandemic at least as deadly as the one in 1918 that killed roughly 50 million people worldwide, including 500,000 in the USA?  David and his scientists didn’t think so.  The scientists working with David were scientists for hire and worked underground.  Knowing the strong arm of the Mossad, they were trusted to keep any work they did secret and confided only to the originator.  They were now assigned to work on a deadly virus…. people had become more vulnerable today than in 1918 because many more now lived in cities that are dependent on food brought in for outside.  In a disaster such as an earthquake or hurricane, help can come from outside the region, but with a pandemic, there is no outside.

… Bird and fish virus were the ideal candidates for David and his scientists.  The initial target would be the northeastern part of the United States.  The forests and waterways would be used to begin the infestation of both fish and birds whose virus would be transmitted to millions of Americans.

They Plotted Revenge Against America by Abe F. March, pages 30-31

They Plotted Revenge Against America by Abe F. March is glimpse into the minds and motivations of a group of would-be terrorists.  Christian, Jew and Muslim, they are bonded in their desire to punish Israel’s biggest supporter in the hope of removing the teeth of the Israeli bite.  The plan is simple:  Go to the US, blend in, observe fish and wildlife in the Northeast and poultry farming in the South, then release viruses that will transmute into a deadly flu, killing hundreds of thousands of Americans. 

However, it is much easier to maintain their hatred for the US and desire revenge for their families deaths while living in the Middle-East.  Once in America, the teams meet and get to know the people who live in the places they are planning to infect; they begin to have second thoughts and feel guilty, seeing their new friends as their potential victims and not enemies.  Things become even more complicated when one of them is detained and interrogated, another falls under the suspicion of a community member, and David, the leader, becomes romantically involved with Samantha, the team liaison.

While this book has moments that seem preachy/teachy about the evil, white-devil America and her meddling in Mid-eastern affairs, it is an intriguing read.  As I read this book, Obama-Netanyahu met and “agreed to disagree” about Israeli-Palestinian settlement and peace, and the Swine Flu scare had schools closing in random locations across the US, which added some tension to my reading.  I couldn’t help but look at H1N1 with a suspicious eye and think that that might be the work of terrorists… interesting how a deadly, potentially-pandemic-capable virus broke out in a popular vacation spot around the time of US Spring Break.

While I don’t believe the author is anti-American, infact March served in the US Air Force from 1957-1961, They Plotted Revenge Against Americamight be viewed as excusing, even condoning, terrorism against the US by more Conservative, right-wing, politically impassioned people.  In much the same way as some Christians jumped on Harry Potter with both feet, proclaiming it “of the devil,” this book might not be received by those who are strong supporters of Israel and believe in US involvement in the Mid-East.

For the most part, I enjoyed reading They Plotted Revenge Against America by Abe F. March, and it will stick with me for a while.  I give it 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

If you’d like to read other reviews of this book, I reccommend the following:

The Book Tiger

Malcom’s Round Table

The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis

Title:  The Last Battle

Author:  C. S. Lewis

Paperback:  767 pages

Publisher:  HarperCollins

Publish Date:  2001

ISBN:  0066238501

Miscellaneous:  The copy I have read is in a complete book.  There aren’t 767 pages in The Last Battle alone.

 

 

 

“Look!  What’s that?”

 “What’s what?” said Puzzle.

 “That yellow thing that’s just come down the waterfall.  Look!  There it is again, it’s floating.  We must find out what it is.”

 “Must we?” said Puzzle.

 “Of course we must,” said Shift.  “It may be something useful.  Just hop into the Pool like a good fellow and fish it out.  Then we can have a proper look at it.”

 … He flung it down in front of Shift and stood dripping and shivering and trying to get his breath back.  But the Ape never looked at him or asked him how he felt.  The Ape was too busy going round and round the thing and spreading it out and patting it and smelling it.  Then a wicked gleam came into his eye and he said:  “It is a lion’s skin…. We’ll make this skin into a fine warm winter coat for you.”

 …As soon as he was alone Shift went… into his little house.  He found needle and thread and a big pair of scissors… Then he came down the tree and shambled across to the lion-skin.  He squatted down and got to work…

 Late in the afternoon Puzzle came back.  He was not trotting but only plodding patiently along, the way donkeys do…  “Come and try on your beautiful new lion-skin coat,” said Shift.

 … The skin was very heavy for him to lift, but in the end… he got it on to the donkey… No one who had ever seen a real lion would have been taken in for a moment.  But if someone who had never seen a lion looked at Puzzle in his lion-skin he just might mistake him for a lion…  “If anyone saw you now, they’d think you were Aslan, the Great Lion, himself.”

 

The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, pages 671-673

 

Thus begins the great deception and the beginning of the end of Narnia.  Shift the Ape manipulates and bullies Puzzle the Donkey into believing that Aslan himself wants them to go to the people of Narnia and claim Puzzle is really the Great Lion, and to rule the land through this pretense.  Puzzle has been used by Shift for so long (under the guise of “friendship,” though “servitude” might better describe the Donkey’s side of the relationship), that he is unable to stand up to the damn, dirty Ape (nod to Heston and “Planet of the Apes” hehe).

It is through this false-Aslan that Shift enslaves the land of Narnia, using the Animals as slaves and threatening anyone who dares to question his authority with the Wrath of Aslan.  “He is not a tame lion” is repeated over and over to fill their minds with terror, and, even when they know this new “Aslan” is the opposite of everything they’ve always been taught is the nature of the true Aslan, the Narnians are unable to throw off the Ape’s bonds and fight back.

Even when Shift brings in Calormene soldiers and announces that the Narnian Animals are to be sent to work, and all their wages are to be paid to “Aslan’s” treasury, for only “Aslan” can care for their true needs.  Compounding a lie with a lie, the Calormene Captain and Shift tell the Animals that Tash, the Calormene god to whom men are sacrificed, and Aslan are one in the same; two different names for the same person.  This new god is called “Tashlan,” the meshing of the two names.

When Tirian, the last King of Narnia, calls on Aslan to rescue his country, the Great Lion is silent, so Tirian, remembering how children from another world had saved Narnia in it’s darkest periods of history, calls on the friends of Narnia to come and save his land.  And, after a vision-dream of the seven legendary Friends sitting down to dinner and seeing the phantom of Tirian among them, he is surprised by the appearance of Jill and Eustace.  Along with Jewel the Unicorn, who is Tirian’s best friend, the two children and a Dwarf named Poggin, the stage is set for the last battle of Narnia.

 

In the shadow of the trees on the far side of the clearing something was moving.  It was gliding very slowly Northward.  At a first glance you might have mistaken it for smoke, for it was grey and you could see things through it.  But the deathly smell was not the smell of smoke.  Also, this thing kept its shape instead of billowing and curling as smoke would have done.  It was roughly the shape of a man but it had the head of a bird; some bird of prey with a cruel, curved beak.  It had four arms which it held high above its head, stretching them out Northward as if it wanted to snatch all Narnia in its grip; and its fingers – all twenty of them – were curved like its beak and had long, pointed, bird-like claws instead of nails.  It floated on the grass instead of walking, and the grass seemed to wither beneath it…. [They] watched it… until it streamed away… and disappeared.  Then the sun came out again, and the birds once more began to sing….

“I have seen it once before,” said Tirian. “But that time it was carved in stone and overlaid with gold and had solid diamonds for eyes…. [It was in] the great temple of Tash… carved above the altar.”

“What was it?” said Eustace in a whisper.

 

The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, page 712

 

 The entrance of the Calormene god Tash takes this final fight into the realm of the supernatural, as it becomes the epic battle of the ultimate good, Aslan, and his antithesis Tash:  Life versus Death.

 The message of The Last Battle, I believe, is this:  We are not always meant to win the good fight, only to FIGHT the good fight.  Early on in the book we know this is a lost cause, the side of evil will prevail, and the heroes’ lives  will be forfeit.  But, even then, Aslan will have the final say.

 In The Last Battle, Lewis also addresses two major questions of Christianity.  First, how can a person who has known the goodness and greatness of Christ turn his or her back on Him, choosing, instead, their own will.  Second, what of those people who have never heard the Gospel and therefore had no chance to believe?  Will He condemn them to Hell?

 Missing for the Friends of Narnia is Susan, and somehow I knew this immediate when I counted eight helpers of Narnia, but only seven Friends of Narnia.  Somehow I knew the missing person was Susan.

 

“Sire,” said Tirian… “there should be another… Where is Queen Susan?”

“My sister Susan,” answered Peter shortly and gravely, “is no longer a friend of Narnia.”

“Yes,” said Eustace, “and whenever you’ve tried to get her to come and talk about Narnia or do anything about Narnia, she says ‘What wonderful memories you have!  Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.”

“Oh, Susan!”  said Jill.  “She’s interested in nothing nowadays except nylons and lipstick and invitations.  She always was a jolly sight to keen on being grown-up.”

“Grown-up indeed,” said the Lady Polly.  “I wish she would grow up.  She wasted all her shool time wanting to be the age she is now, and she’ll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that age.  Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can.”

 

The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, page 741

 

Susan turned away from Narnia and Aslan and, instead, made vanity and things of the world her focus.  BUT, Lewis did not say she could not become a Friend of Narnia again.  Further, someone had to survive to tell The Chronicles of Narnia.

 As the Seven plus Tirian go “further up, further in,” they meet a Calormene who tells them of his meeting Aslan:

 

“Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him.  Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him.  Both the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my fourehead with his tongue and said, ‘Son, thou art welcome.’  But I said, ‘Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash.’  He answered, ‘Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service to me.’ Then by reason of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, ‘Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one?’  The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, “It is false.  Not because4 he and I are one, but because we are opposites – I take to me the service which thou hast done to him.  For I and he are such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him.  Therefore, if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him.  And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted.  Dost thou understand, Child?’  I said, ‘Lord, thou knowest how much I understand.’   But I said also (for the truth constrained me), ‘Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days.’  ‘Beloved,’ said the Glorious One, ‘unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly.  For all find what they truly seek.’

 

The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, page 757

 

 Honestly, it was impossible to review this book without incorporating the religious aspects of it.  That is not to say it can’t be enjoyed without being religious.  It stands alone as the heart-wrenching finale of a much loved and favorite literary classic series.  I couldn’t help but cry at the end; for the beauty, for the Friends, for all who had been were together again… and for Susan, who, by her folly, missed the train (if you’ve read this, or when you do read this, book you’ll get that reference).

 The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis is beyond words, and I sigh with a bittersweet happiness, as I have come to the end of my journey through Narnia.  I leave you with the last paragraph of the last book of Narnia:

 

“And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them.  And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after.  But for them it was only the beginning of the real story.  All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and title page:  now at last they were beginning Chaper One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read:  which goes on for ever:  in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

 

The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, page 767

 

5 out of 5 stars.

hated it!didn't like itit was okayliked itLoved it!

Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis

Title: Prince Caspian
Author: C. S. Lewis
Paperback: 767 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publish Date: 2001
ISBN: 0066298501
Miscellaneous: Second book to be published, Lewis intended it to be read fourth in the series. ALSO, a few of you have wondered about the number of pages listed in my Narnia books. Don’t fret! The book I’ve been reading is a collection of all seven books. The books themselves average 100-150 pages.

“Oh!” said Edmund in a voice which made everyone stop talking and listen to him.

“I’ve just seen it all,” he said.

“Seen what?” asked Peter.

“Why, the whole thing,” said Edmund. “You know what we were puzzling about last night, that it was only a year ago since we left Narnia byt everything looks as if no one had lived in Cair Paravel for hundreds of years? Well, don’t you see? You know that, however long we seemed to have lived in Narnia, when we got back through the wardrobe it seemed to have taken no time at all?”

“Go on,” said Susan. “I think I’m beginning to understand.”

“And that means,” continued Edmund, “that, once you’re out of Narnia, you have no idea how Narnian time is going. Why shouldn’t hundreds of years have gone past in Narnia while only one year has passed for us in England?”

“By Jove, Ed,” said Peter. “I believe you’ve got it. In that sense it really was hundreds of years ago that we lived in Cair Paravel. And now we’re coming back to Narnia just as if we were Crusaders or Anglo-Saxons or Ancient Britons or someone coming back to modern England!”

“How excited they’ll be to see us -” began Lucy, but at the same moment everyone else said, “Hush!” or, “Look!” For now something was happening.

Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis, page 330

In Prince Caspian, the Pevensie children return to Narnia after what was to them a year’s time, to find Narnia almost unrecognizably altered. Lucy’s naive statement that the Narnians will be happy to see their return is quickly quashed, when many that they encounter feel bitter towards the Kings and Queens of Old as having abandoned them.

In the hundreds of Narnian years that has passed, Narnia has slipped into a dark age. A group of people who were once pirates of Spanish descent called Telmarines, rule with an undying prejudice and hatred of the original Narnians, talking animals, Dwarfs, and other magical creatures. To Lucy’s dismay, the trees have lost their voice and retreated within themselves, and many other Narnians have withdrawn and taken to hiding in the mountains and deep forests where the Telmarines are afraid to go.

The rightful heir to the throne, Prince Caspian, survives an assassination attempt by his uncle, who wishes to secure the throne for his newly born son. With the help of the Pevensies and Narnians, Prince Caspian stands against the cruelty and evil rule of his uncle. But is it enough? Or have the Pevensies returned too late?

I read this book a couple weeks ago, but evidently forgot to blog the review. It was during a crazy time of the year: Two birthdays, a double birthday party at the hotel, the heat went out, the digital part of my cable (my internet is through my cable company) went out a couple times (and stayed out both times for more than a day), and other various craziness. But, at any rate, here it is 🙂

Prince Caspian is the second most read and well-known book in the Narnia series. Second to be written and published, most people reading it in the order of publication, manage to get through the second book. Like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian has been made into a movie, a BBC mini-series, dramatic audio recording, and audio books.

In this book, Aslan is absent for most of the story. Lucy alone sees him, but chooses not to follow him because her siblings do not believe her as they didn’t see him. The main message of this book is that seeing is not believing, and faith comes from believing and leaning on those around you no matter what “reality” says nor how the odds seem to be stacked against you.

Like the rest of the Narnia books, Prince Caspian is written as a Christian Allegory. Trusting that God is with you, even when you don’t see or feel the evidence of his presence, and that He has planned for you to prosper, not fail.

My favorite character in Prince Caspian, second to Aslan of course, is Reepicheep. This warrior mouse proves that the size of the body is NOT the indication of the size of the heart found within. He is courageous beyond those ten times his size, and inspires loyalty in his followers, who are willing to even cut off their own tails so that their leader does not have to carry the dishonor of the loss of his own tail alone.

While Prince Caspian is not my favorite Narnia book, that would be The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, nor my second favorite, The Horse and His Boy is, I did enjoy reading it. It’s definitely worth reading, and should be counted among the must-read classics in English Literature.

I give Prince Caspian four out of five stars.

hated it!didn't like itliked itreally liked itLoved it!

Tuesday Thingers -Reco Me This, and Reco Me That

Today’s topic: Recommendations. Do you use LT’s recommendations feature? Have you found any good books by using it? Do you use the anti-recommendations, or the “special sauce” recommendations? How do you find out about books you want to read?
I have looked at the recommendations feature on LibraryThing, but I’ve never went by it.  And the anti-recommender is the anti-Christ when it comes to telling my what I won’t like… I wrote a post about that a few weeks back called Does A Christian Have a Brain?  if read more on that.  The special sauce is interesting but, again, I don’t use it.
Actually, the three ways I find out about the books I’d like to read is:
1.  BookMooch Recommendations -though I’m not entirely sure if it just throws out a bunch of books or if it’s really guessing at what I’d like.  The thing suggests books I’ve mooched and posted, so I don’t know if it has a brain.  At least LT’s algorithm sorta-kinda makes some sense.
2.  ARC sources such as Shelf Awareness, publishers’ and authors’ emails offering me books, and other “free” book places.  Hey, of course I’m gonna take free books!
3.  From my fellow LT’ers and bloggers.  I take your recommendations over an automated guesser any day!  At least you have a soul.  At least you have emotions.  At least you have some sense of aesthetics.  What’s the bot going to tell me?  Because I have Nietzche I won’t like The Purpose Driven Life… which I actually do have in my library?  Yeah…. whatever. (that goes back to the unsuggester is the anti-Christ.)
4.  Jan and Obie at my Waldenbooks… they know me so well! And Jan’s only been wrong once.  She suggested Annie Freeman’s Fabulous Traveling Funeral, but I thought it was just mneh.
5.  My momma.  Though, lately her taster is running on the off-side for me.  Lately she’s been reading about some retired old ladies running a B&B and solving crimes or something… I don’t know, maybe they are killing the guests.  I forget.  Maybe I watch too much Law & Order and read too much Stephen King.
6.  Then, of course, there’s just little me, touching-feeling-looking at the actual book on the shelf and reading the back cover.  However, with Mt. TBR and Mt. TBarc at capacity, I can’t even go to the mall for fear I’ll be drawn into Waldens and won’t be able to resist the lovely books… they want to come home with me…. they jump on the counter and make me buy them….
Okay, that’s enough silliness.

The White Mary by Kira Salak

 

The White Mary by Kira Salak

The White Mary by Kira Salak

Title: The White Mary: A Novel
Author: Kira Salak
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company, LLC
Publish Date: 2008
ISBN: 9780805088472

The White Mary is journalist and author Kira Salak‘s first fictional novel. Salak opens the book with a letter to the reader explaining her own background and similarities to her main character, Marika Vecera, and with a little background of Papau New Guinea. As authors are so often advised to write what they know, Salak draws on her own experiences reporting in dangerous places and her extensive research of PNG for her book Four Corners: A Journey into the Heart of Papau New Guinea. With her wealth of experience to draw on, Salak recreates an amazingly real world within the pages of The White Mary.

Marika Vecera is a broken soul. Experiencing pain and loss from the age of 6, when she lost her father in their native Czechoslavakia when he was executed as a spy against the communists. Her mother never recovered from the loss and eventually suffered a mental break, leaving her with schizophrenia. Marika has no one left in the world to care about her, and after reading a book by journalist superstar Rob Lewis, decides to follow in Lewis’s footsteps and becomes the rare female war reporter. Then when she least expects it, she finds love and the potential for happiness with Seb whose working on his psychology doctorate. When Marika hears the report of the suicide of her idol, Lewis, she decides to write his biography. While researching and interviewing Lewis’s sister, Marika comes across a letter that claims Lewis is still alive in Papau New Guinea. When she can’t get this idea out of her head, she decides to fly to PNG and find him.

This book is about one woman’s journey of learning to love and forgive herself, and to accept that life isn’t done to you, but that you have the choice to live in happiness or misery.

Real courage isn’t about visiting the world’s hells and returning alive to tell about it -it’s always been easy for her to risk her life, and even easier to get herself killed. What takes real courage is choosing to live, choosing to save herself at all costs. Which means looking into her darkness and pain, and figuring out how she got there, and how she can get out… She won’t do it just for herself, but for the world. For all the ugliness in it. And for all the grace.

The White Mary by Kira Salak, page 347

For my part, I could really relate to Marika. I understood her motivations, and could really feel for her. The walls she built to protect herself from pain, her distrust of anything good and happy, her self-destructive behaviors in order to not think or feel for five minutes, are all very real to me. The journey through Papau New Guinea was on the surface a search for her hero, but really it was a journey within herself and ultimately presented her with the choice of shutting down and becoming bitter and withdrawn or choosing a life of happiness and love and a part of society.

I would have to say, though, if you are religiously sensitive to polytheism, animism and atheism, this book might not be for you. Given the subject matter, you must realize it’s got a bit of an agnostic at best spiritual thread. It opens with a Gnostic quote, argues a angry, cruel and unjust god who plays favorites throughout the book, and ends with Marika acknowledging “God/the Universe/Whoever/Whatever” moves in the world. It weaves in a little Hinduism and Buddhism along the way, as well. And, for good measure, throws in a pervie pastor. It’s not specifically anti-christian, but it could offending the religiously sensitive.

Also, this book contains graphic imagery of rape, genocide, and torture. One particular scene towards the end is stomach turning and difficult to read. It has several graphic sexual passages, including outside the normal types.

One side note: I think The White Mary would make a brilliant movie. I think it would translate to the big screen very well. It’s full of exotic scenery, suspense and action, with a spirituality very popular today. The book had a Sean Connery’s Medicine Man feel to it with the surly antisocial doctor gone somewhat native and the outsider woman who finds him.

Book Club Classics -Classics Meme!

In order to promote her new site, LitGuides.com (a site dedicated to helping teachers/students navigate classic lit), Kristen over at Book Club Classics has started her first meme – and S. Krishna has tagged me for it! The questions are below, and I’m tagging: Katleen, unfinishedperson, meghan, Mrs. Hall, and Traci.

  1. What is the best classic you were “forced” to read in school (and why)?
  2. What was the worst classic you were forced to endure (and why)?
  3. Which classic should every student be required to read (and why)?
  4. Which classic should be put to rest immediately (and why)?
  5. **Bonus** Why do you think certain books become classics?

What is the best classic you were “forced” to read in school (and why)?

The best classic I was “forced” to read was The Pearl by John Steinbeck. I was in 7th grade, and this book was my introduction to critical reading. It was the first time I was taught I could think for myself, not just espouse my parents’ ideas. When I started teaching my daughter to read the same way, The Pearl was our first book. The school’s no longer seem to be teaching logic and reason, only sheep-think.

What was the worst classic you were forced to endure (and why)?

Oh gawd! That would be Walden by Henry David Thoreau. I seriously do not think most teenager have the patience for this largely philosophical book. It bored me to tears, and most likely went over my head. I should try to reread it, but I’m just not that masochistic!

Which classic should every student be required to read (and why)?

To be honest, and I’m sure this will offend a few people, The Bible. My reason for saying this is, in our Western society, so much of our collective conscious comes from this classic. Shakespeare took from Solomon’s writings, the moralities many books are built around are Judeo-Christian ethics, and most social structures stem from it. We would not be the society we are without The Bible.

Which classic should be put to rest immediately (and why)?

I really don’t know of any that should be put to rest. Maybe some should be saved for older ages, but a classic is a classic because it is always relevant.  Even Harry Potter is relevent for all ages (though I don’t think I’d count it as a classic yet.  We’ll have to see how it goes).

Why do you think certain books become classics?

As I said above, a classic is always relevant. It’s not restricted to it’s own time or place, but speaks to everyone, everywhere, at any time. It reveals something of humor nature, whether it’s arrogance and assumption as in Pride and Prejudice, or the desire to be important and matter as in Vanity Fair, or the evils of the pursuit of power and control as in Animal Farm and 1984. Sometimes they warn us not to give up our power because of fear as in The Giver and Fahrenheit 451, and some mock society to reveal it’s failings as we read in Candide and Le Tartuffe. They challenge us to think and act, and broaden our views of the world around us.