Every Last Lie

Every Last Lie
by Mary Kubica


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Genre: Fiction, Thriller

Summary: Clara Solberg is waiting at home with her newborn son for her daughter and husband to return from errands when she hears a knock at her front door.  “There has been an accident,” the police officer says.  Clara’s life falls apart when she hears of her husband’s death but is puzzled when learning her daughter has survived without a scratch.
In the weeks that follow the accident, her daughter Maisie begins having night terrors and talking about “the bad man” that makes Clara believe something else might have happened to her husband.  When Clara starts to ask questions, she finds answers she wasn’t sure she wanted to hear.  But she must keep pressing to find the truth about what…or who…killed her husband.

I was headed on a vacation with my husband for five days.  Alone.  Without packing snacks and toys and a plethora of amusements for toddlers.  It was just going to be the two of us, my book and the beach.

But, therein lies the problem.  What book do I choose?  The decision nearly paralyzes me because I have so many books I want to read.  (To see what I mean, check out my Goodreads profile.  It is so overwhelming, but at the same time, what a delightful problem to have, right?)  In the end, I often choose a thriller in this situation.  The purpose of it being to drive the storyline forward at a pretty quick clip so I knew (hoped) I wouldn’t be bored.

Kubica is definitely a rising star (already risen?) in the thriller genre.  I love that she is local for me (her suburb is right next door to my suburb in Chicago) so she often uses local highways or familiar settings which is fun and adds to the creepy factor.  Also, her format is interesting.  The story follows two characters, Clara the wife in present time and Nick, the husband in the weeks leading up to the accident.  She used this same format in another novel of hers called The Good Girl.  Kubica does a nice job of weaving the two stories together while spinning the web into a cohesive story.

Without giving away too much, Kubica does do a nice job of throwing you off the truth by keeping you guessing.  Her characters are believable and though you might not make some decisions that the character’s do, she writes them in a way that you can sympathize with them.  Though I prefer to have all loose ends tied up at the end of a novel, some might enjoy the ambiguity of this ending.  If you are looking for a fast-paced thriller that will keep the pages turning, be sure to check out Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica!

My rating: 3 stars

To read more book reviews, click here.

What are some of your favorite thrillers?  What makes a good thriller for you?

The Power of When

The Power of When
by Michael Breus, PhD

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Genre: Nonfiction, Personal Development

Summary: After studying circadian rhythms and the world of sleep, Breus discovered that if we do certain things at certain times we can be more effective.  He takes you through four types of people: dolphins, bears, lions and wolves.  Each has character traits that make them who they are and at the same time stating their very different needs for certain activities to take place at certain times.  Certainly each type has overlap and over-generalizations, but the author can pinpoint pretty closely where you land.
Are you a Dolphin?  Dolphins are about 10 percent of the population and are intelligent insomniacs.  Not only are they light sleepers, but they also are wired with nervous energy.
A Lion?  Real lions are morning-oriented optimists that have a medium sleep drive and account for 15-20 percent of the population.
Are you a Bear?  Bears sleep with the rise and fall of the sun, sleep well and make up 50 percent of the population.  They are social and struggle significantly during afternoon hours at work.
Finally, are you a Wolf?  Wolves are nocturnal, creative extroverts with medium sleep drive and take up 15-20 percent of the population.
But why does all this matter?  Breus discovered that a wolf won’t be as successful in the morning at accomplishing goals or asking for a raise as a lion.  Dolphins were noted to avoid risky behaviors and striving for perfection, yet they are happiest when left alone to do their work.  When you know when your body functions at its best, you can make smarter choices in every aspect of your life.  I’m sure you also noticed how much Breus talked about sleep.  Each type needs sleep, but each one needs a different kind.  The Power of When can encourage you to discover the perfect time for every responsibility and pleasure in your life, to make the very most of your time.

Breus’s book gives you a quiz to determine your type, and then once you have identified it, you can simply use the book as a tool to learn your strengths and weaknesses (which you may not have even known you had!).  He helps you determine the best timing for a wide variety of scenarios in your life, such as “the perfect day”, goals for your schedule and the best times for working on relationships, fitness and health, sleep, eating and drinking, work, creativity, money and fun.

Truthfully, it was intriguing to see how my “type” (a Bear) played into my daily life.  His suggestions of delaying my morning coffee (…deep breath…) and keeping my hardest or most difficult tasks in the morning instead of the afternoon made a lot of sense.  It has certainly made me consider shifting a few of my daily tasks around.  If you like learning about how to work more productively, consider checking out The Power of When.  You might learn something new about yourself, your family and the best time to ask for that raise for which you have been pining.

For other book reviews, click here.

The Outside Boy

The Outside Boy
by Jeanine Cummins


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Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary: Christopher Hurley (“Christy”) is an 11 year old living as a tinker, a Pavee Gypsy that never stays put very long.  His life shifts dramatically at the death of his beloved grandfather and he still longs to learn more details about his mother who died giving birth to him.  His father has always avoided these conversations but his grandfather seemed to give him one last bit of information about his mother that no one else would.
With the patriarch gone, Christy’s father decides it is time to stop wandering the Irish countryside and give him an education and an opportunity to complete his first Communion.  Christy has always dreamed of being included in the schoolyard games and learning in a classroom but quickly learns his family’s lifestyle might keep him forever an outsider.

Books that fall into your lap that turn out to be everything you hope for?  THAT is why readers read.  My neighbor was looking for my book recommendations for her family vacation.  When she returned, she handed me this book.  Since I lead my own book club and do all the research for finding our books, I feel pretty aware of “popular” books and I was completely unfamiliar with this title or author.  Even better.

Cummins not only has a gift with words, I loved the way she connected everyday things to the overarching story.  For example, in the beginning of the story, Christy helps his Grandda deliver a colt and the mare doesn’t make it through the delivery.  “Maybe I knew the mare was going to die.  Maybe that’s why I felt so connected to the little colt, because my mammy died, too, when I accidentally killed her as I was being born.  I couldn’t help wondering if it was a similar night to this, if everyone waited, wretched and breathless, for the horrible news that was my birth.  Such a common truth: a travelling woman heaving her own soul heavenward while her baby boy slips, squawking and bloody, into the rough and dirty world to take her place.  There’s nothing worse than an ordinary grief.”  It was heartbreaking to see how he would carry the guilt of losing his mother in childbirth.

Cummins also has a remarkable ability to capture the mind of an 11-year-old boy.  Her descriptions were perfection: “Beano was the next to land, with his sister Kathleen in tow, and I knew it was him even before Martin said, “How’ya Beano,” because he just looked like the sorta fella who’d be called Beano.  He was hard to forget: big and sweaty and shapeless, with hands like two ham hocks sticking out the arms of his tight red jumper.  His black hair was matted acrosst his forehead in what might’ve been an effort at personal grooming.  He even looked to smell like beans.”  At times I laughed out loud, whether at her descriptions, or at the way an eleven year old boy would view the world.

Finally, I loved the charm of the narrator being so young.  His excitement was tangible: “I was sure Saturday would never come.  Something would happen.  I would get hit by a howling train or a runaway heifer before then.  Or I would catch consumption and die on Thursday.  Or maybe I would survive on my deathbed just long enough for Martin to return from the party and tell me all about it before I would cough up my last bloody tumor and expire.”

The Outside Boy is charming and funny and yet it is also gut-wrenching and sad.  The ending wraps up nicely, but not too perfect so as to ruin it.  The story of Christy’s mother propelled the story forward constantly and Cummins’ beautiful prose made me want to read everything she has written.  The Outside Boy has been my favorite fiction book all year and I highly recommend it to anyone.

For other book reviews, click here.

What is something that you discovered as a child that made you grow up a bit?  What was the first great loss of your life?  How did that affect you growing up?

 

 

Jellicoe Road

Jellicoe Road
by Melina Marchetta

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Genre: Fiction, Young Adult

Summary: Things seem to just happen to Taylor Markham.  She is seventeen and living at boarding school because her mother abandoned her.  When she reluctantly becomes the leader of the territory wars between the Cadets and the Townies, Hannah, the only seemingly trusted adult she confides in is suddenly just…gone.  She doesn’t like her position in any of it, especially when she sees the leader of the opposing Cadets,  Jonah Griggs.  His leadership brings out the worst in her and they will be spending a LOT of time together.  As the summer unfolds, Taylor is forced to grapple with more questions until she starts to push back to discover the answers she has long searched for.

This is my first experience with Melina Marchetta and I do not often dive into YA fiction.  Marchetta intricately (and brilliantly at times) weaves past, present and sometimes even dreams together.  The text flips between plain and italicized sections, present and future, reality and dream sequences.

This complexity is what shows the expertise of Marchetta but at times it was so confusing!  Continually reading the jacket description kept me moving forward in the story (because it sounded intriguing and straight forward on the jacket!) but the storyline jumped around so much it was difficult keeping things in order.  After discussing the story with our book club, I concluded that I felt the sense of place lacking.  The sense of place might have grounded the context of the big story.

Secondly, I felt the characters weren’t developed enough to differentiate them well.  The story follows 5 kids on Jellicoe Road and since some of their names were nicknames or gender neutral, I kept getting them confused.  (Wait, was this the sister?  Or his girlfriend??  Oh wait, that’s a BOY not a girl???  Ugh!)  Sometimes, Marchetta would differentiate using italics but sometimes she wouldn’t.  (One reviewer said she listened to this on audio and she really didn’t like it for this reason.  It was SO HARD to tell characters-and narrators-apart from each other.  I can completely understand this would make the story even harder to follow).

Jellicoe Road weaves together an amazing story and ties up loose ends, which I appreciate.  Marchetta’s characters are flawed making them believable, the dialogue was good,  and (appropriately) they didn’t necessarily finish “happily ever after.”  The book does address some pretty intense and adult themes but the desire to solve the puzzle made it a great page turner.  Finally, deep loss permeated Taylor’s story but I also loved how the author addresses the importance of how and from whom we can receive love.

Do you have a favorite YA fiction book?  What was the toughest thing you had to experience in high school?

For other book reviews, click here!

All Over But the Shoutin’

All Over But the Shoutin’
by Rick Bragg


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Genre: Memoir

Summary:  Rick Bragg is a celebrated author and former journalist for the New York Times.  He is even a Pulitzer Prize winner.  But Bragg didn’t always live a glamorous life.  In fact, he came from a very poor area of Alabama, was a son of an alcoholic father and was raised by a hard-working mother that would often go without so he and his two brothers would have enough to eat.  This book was written to honor his mother.  “Maybe, if I tell it right, she will live again in these pages, that all the things she could have shared about who we are, who I am, will not be so badly missed.  I like to believe that.”

Bragg’s account is such a great example of why I love memoir.  His sparse language takes out all of the over-dramatization of his tough upbringing and yet gives it enough weight to feel the oppression of his poverty.  Bragg is unapologetic about his successes, but equally as resistant to self-glorification.  One of our book club member said he seemed so humble about his success, he was almost self-righteous about it.

In his words, “This is not an important book.  It is only the story of a strong woman, a tortured man and three sons who lived hemmed in by thin cotton and ragged history in northeastern Alabama.  Anyone could tell it, anyone with a daddy who let his finer nature slip away from him during an icebound war in Korea, who allowed the devil inside him to come grinnin’ out every time a sip of whiskey trickled in, who finally just abandoned his young wife and sons to the pity of their kin and to the well-meaning neighbors who came bearing boxes of throwaway clothes.”

One of the most fascinating aspects of the book for me was his exploration of the relationship with his father.  Though Bragg was angry to have lost his father to alcoholism, he seemed to never hold the man himself in much contempt. His analysis of what traits of his father were passed on to the three boys was also interesting.  I think it was Bragg’s very honest and transparent analysis of his own qualities that made him all the more endearing to me.

Bragg said of his brother Sam: “Sometimes I wonder what will happen if Sam and I are called to stand before Saint Peter on the same day, and my sins include everything from trifling with loose women to sleeping in church, and Sam just says, ‘Well, Pete, once I did fish on a Sunday.'”

Finally, Bragg’s use of language was fresh and almost sizzling.  His use of words and descriptions were among some of the best I have read.  Some of the people he encountered when on the job were fascinating.  I have said before (though maybe not here just yet), that a book’s rating will be decided by simply how it makes me feel.  This book was funny in the descriptions of southern life.  It was heart-wrenching as Bragg told of poverty, the loss of his father and trying to use his craft to get out of town.  He covered heart-breaking stories.  But above all these, the whole book was written to honor his “Momma,” as she was adoringly called.  His conversational style and highest regard for Momma made me fall for this beautiful, southern story.

To read other book reviews, click here.

What is your favorite memoir?  Does it matter to you how a book makes you feel?  Which book has drawn the strongest reaction from you?

 

Rhinestone Jesus

Rhinestone Jesus
Saying Yes to God when sparkly, safe faith is no longer enough
by Kristen Welch


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Genre: Nonfiction, Christian living

Summary: Kristen Welch, a native Texan and blogger at We Are THAT Family, agreed to take a trip to Kenya with Compassion International to highlight the work the organization is doing there.  It was on that trip, sitting in the slums, surrounded by raw sewage, starving children and families that Kristen’s heart shattered.  She asked God why He would allow this to happen to his people and God responded with the same question to her, “Why would you allow this, Kristen?”  In that moment she decided she must do something but had no idea what that would look like.

This book is Kristen’s story of how she, along with her family (as well as many Kenyan natives) started Mercy House, a place for pregnant girls to live, learn a trade, finish school and have a fighting chance at not only surviving but thriving in their community.  It is Kristen’s story of her struggle with learning business, starting a non-profit here and overseas, and battling her own feelings of insufficiency and lack of training.

Sharing her fears, dreams, stumbling blocks and frustrations along the way, Kristen challenged her readers to remember that many women tell her they could never do what she does because they are “just a mom”.  She used this book to show that she feels exactly the same way, it was completely God who led her and He is the One making all of the success happen.  Kristen often encouraged readers to continue to dream big because when we come to the point that we know we can’t, that is the place that God can and then He will get all the glory.

Finally, I loved the story of Kristen sharing how she is living a true deep relationship with Christ now.  She credits it to what she calls “living scared.”  It has allowed her family to trust Christ more, take more risks, live more generously, have better perspective and therefore get to see more miracles.  “Whenever I’m down in the dumps and whining about the obstacles, I’m almost always reminded that if it were easy, I wouldn’t need God.  This work wouldn’t be miraculous and dependent on God if I had all the answers.  If I made it happen nice and neatly, I would get the glory, not Him.”

Kristen’s challenges were thought-provoking and inspiring for me.  In times when women (her intended audience) are feeling like what they do everyday (doing dishes, folding laundry) isn’t enough, she reaffirms their ministry of serving their family.  “Since the family is God’s means of telling His story, our goal is to build a strong family.”  And when we are feeling afraid of dreaming because of the hurdles that make it impossible, she encourages to dream even bigger.  For God’s glory alone.

“Why are God-sized dreams so compelling?  Because we powerfully experience God’s presence in our lives through them.  It’s not about destination.  It’s not what we will get if we complete the dream.  It’s about a relationship…The pursuit of any God-sized dream is ultimately about the pursuit of the One who placed it within you.  It’s like a homing beacon for your heart.”  –Holley Gerth

Have you ever done anything out of obedience or love of God that terrified you?    When did you feel the most dependent on God?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

To see other book reviews, click here.

 

The Turquoise Table

The Turquoise Table:
Finding Community and Connection in Your Own Front Yard
by Kristin Schell

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Genre: Nonfiction

Summary: Kristin Schell agreed to host a dinner party at the last minute for a friend (the host of the party) who had an unexpected conflict.  In a moment of panic, she ordered two picnic tables for additional seating and when the delivery truck arrived, they set the tables down in the front yard.  In that moment, she had a glimpse of what those simple tables could be.
After the party, she decided to leave the table in her front yard, paint it a festive color (Nifty Turquoise to be precise) and “just show up.”  This looked a little different everyday but included coffee after getting the kids on the bus, book clubs, craft projects, homework and even meals.  She used it as a tool to get to know her neighbors and now she is starting a revolution.  She is hoping people will join her by creating their own Turquoise Table.

My wonderful friend recommended this book to me after hearing the premise.  First, it is a beautiful book just for the cover alone, but also it is beautiful for its mission.  Schell was craving community with her neighbors but felt overwhelmed with her own schedule as well as her four children and family responsibilities.  She felt encouraged to be the one to start the community but had no idea how.

You see, Schell had experienced one of those uniquely French dinners.   Imagine a rustic table, festive atmosphere, guests that weren’t rushed to get anywhere and delicious yet very simple food to keep people at the table.  Oh, and she described boisterous discussions and LOTS of laughter.

Does that sound like dinner at your house on a Tuesday??  It certainly doesn’t look dinners at my house!  You might start to say this is Thanksgiving or Christmas at your house but do you worry about breaking someone’s china or cracking the crystal?  Schell felt lured to the simple.  To the festive.  To the people.  “I was a stranger in a foreign land, yet being at the table in France fed a basic need–a need every human shares–to belong.  The experience at the table was more than a meal; it was nourishment for my soul.”

In many little ways Schell just “showed up.”  She would bring her morning coffee outside instead of drinking inside.  If she saw anyone (dog walkers, runners, moms with strollers) she would offer a hello or offer for them to join her if the mood seemed right.  Often, the brightly hued table was enough of a conversation starter.  Once a friend called her asking if she could bring someone over to the table because her friend was new in town and wanting to meet people in the area.

Schell gave up early on the idea that she needed Pinterest, Southern Living or Martha Stewart to do this.  She knew she couldn’t keep up with that.  In the end it was the people that brought her to the table everyday.  Avoiding Instagram feeds that put the best of hosts to shame, she brings back the simplicity needed to welcome everyone in the true spirit of hospitality.

This book isn’t really a how-to or step-by-step of creating your own Front Yard Group, though there are little tidbits throughout that can help you do that.  It is more of Schell’s stories that resulted in simply showing up and sharing her table.  I really loved this book and though some ideas weren’t necessarily revolutionary, we needed to be reminded of them because of our hasty culture.  The Turquoise Table is a beautiful book celebrating the art of true hospitality.  I cannot wait to add this to my own personal collection and I think this would be particularly lovely as a gift.

“Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends, to get to know their inner selves more fully, and even dare to be silent with you.”   –Henri Nouwen

Who is the most hospitable person you know?  What about them makes them especially hospitable?  What is one thing you try to do to make your guests feel welcome?  Please share your thoughts below!

 

Circling the Sun

Circling the Sun: A Novel
by Paula McClain


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Genre: Historical fiction

Plot summary:  A fictionalized story of the real Beryl Markham, celebrated horse trainer (one of the first women recognized in Africa) as well as record-setting aviator.  Pursuing a new job opportunity, Beryl’s father brings the whole family from England to Kenya.  Not long after, her mother decides she cannot fathom staying in Kenya and returns to England with Beryl’s brother.  Though she is content in Kenya and staying with her father, she is baffled and deeply hurt over her mother’s departure.  Seeking out the motherly relationship she lacks, she finds it among the tribes that surround her father’s land.  She also finds great satisfaction in training horses with her father.
Battling loneliness and depression, her insecurities spin her into a long line of bad relationships.  Her nature seems to mirror the wildness of her surrounding Kenyan landscape.  Beryl’s refusal to be tamed makes her tough and perfect for the work and environment, but miserable in her relationships.

{If you would like to check out other book reviews or other book club selections, please look here!}

Beryl Markham was unknown to me before reading Circling the Sun: A Novel by Paula McClain.  (You might be familiar with Beryl’s friend, Karen Blixen, who wrote Out of Africa under the name Isak Denisen.  Out of Africa then became an award-winning film starring Robert Redford and Kathryn Hepburn.).  McClain’s descriptions of the beautiful, exotic Kenya were breathtaking.  She certainly can offer a wonderful sense of place.  Because it is so different than where (and when) we live, it is needed to guide the reader in understanding the nature of Beryl’s home and life.

Though much more rustic than England, it is unfathomable to me that Beryl’s mother would leave behind her child regardless of her own discomfort.  This happens in the beginning of the book (as well as the beginning of Beryl’s life, she wasn’t even 5) and from that moment, Beryl became wild and opinionated and stubborn.  It felt like she was fighting to prove she didn’t need anyone while at the same time silently begging people to notice and care for her.

Beryl was fiercely independent but also struggled to manage her fear.  Her complex relationship with Karen Blixen revealed opposition (because of a love interest) but also a confidant.  She said to Beryl: “We’re all of us afraid of many things, but if you make yourself smaller or let your fear confine you, then you really aren’t your own person at all–are you?  The real question is whether or not you will risk what it takes to be happy.”

Frustrations mounted for me throughout the book.  Clara, Beryl’s mother was among the worst.  Expecting sympathy from her daughter after being abandoned without much of an after-thought.  “She didn’t seem embarrassed to be speaking of the past with me.  She didn’t seem to remember I was a part of her past in the colony, in fact.  Though maybe that was best, when I thought about it–if we could treat each other more impartially, as if there were nothing to apologize or make amends for.  As if nothing had been lost.”  

My greatest enjoyment was the setting.  Seeing the rich landscape through Beryl’s admiring eyes, made me appreciate it so much more.  Reading a tough, independent, hard-working narrator is great though I was easily frustrated by her very poor relationship decisions.  And she never got better at it!  She knew, from the beginning, that Kenya was truly her first love.  It brought her the most joy, the most freedom and her deepest sense of peace.  Also, the native Kenyans seemed more “her people” than the transplants she befriended, married and with whom she socialized.

One final note, the jacket describes this book to be about Beryl the aviator.  If you read the book for that purpose you will be sorely disappointed.  While it is true she set records with feats in this realm, it is only discussed in the last chapter of the book (Imagine if I said Unbroken was a book about an Olympic runner.).  This book is much more about Beryl’s early years with her father and her life as an accomplished horse trainer.

What were your thoughts about Circling the Sun?  What did you learn about the real Beryl Markham?  Can you relate to her independence?

Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life

Our June book club selection was Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life by C. S. Lewis.  (If you missed last month, check it out here!)  The jacket described this as Lewis’ story of conversion to Christianity and though I see that now, it didn’t feel that way in the midst of it.  You don’t actually hear of his conversion until the last 5 pages.  So as I was reading it, I felt like it was more of a story of his childhood and the hurdles he had to overcome to find the Joy he spoke of from the beginning.

Summary: C. S. Lewis is probably best known for his children’s fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia.  In this nonfiction book, he writes about his young life.  How the loss of his mother at a very young age had such an impact on him.  His strained relationship with his father and unique bond with his brother deeply shaped who he became.  He also explored how reading and his education led him to some of the greatest realizations of his life.

This book was quite a departure for our group.  Though a shorter book than we usually pick up, the dialogue felt headier than others.  Surprised by Joy starts with Lewis explaining a couple of instances where he experienced a moment of capital-J Joy.  He said it came quickly, left very shortly after, always leaving him wanting more.   Describing it as something completely different from Pleasure or Happiness he said, “I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world.  But then Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.”

Lewis was an intellectual and struggled to fit in.  He didn’t have his mother and a self-described “awkward” relationship with his father.  However, he adored his brother and cultivated his vivid and wild imagination by dreaming up imaginary lands with him.  He was not athletic at all, though he pretended just to participate in social activities with classmates.  Struggling to find friends, the ones he did find seemed to be teachers or superiors.  His greatest solace was found among books.

Some of his greatest hangups seemed to be the “intrusion” of religion on his life.  “I was also, as you may remember, one whose negative demands were more violent than his positive, far more eager to escape pain than to achieve happiness, and feeling it something of an outrage that I had been created without my own permission…It was also perhaps not unimportant that the externals of Christianity made no appeal to my sense of beauty.  Christianity was mainly associated for me with ugly architecture, ugly music, and bad poetry.  But, of course, what mattered most of all was my deep-seated hatred of authority, my monstrous individualism, my lawlessness.  No word in my vocabulary expressed deeper hatred than the word interference.  But Christianity placed at the center what then seemed to me a transcendental Interferer.”

The most fascinating part of the whole book for me was the last two chapters.   The focus on how his life was being interrupted by the great Interferer, was truly beautiful.  His studies in philosophy made it hard for Lewis to let go of previously held beliefs.  “Even if my own philosophy were true, how could the initiative lie on my side?  My own analogy, as I now first perceived, suggested the opposite: if Shakespeare and Hamlet could ever meet, it must be Shakespeare’s doing.  Hamlet could initiate nothing.”

For those who struggle with God or Christianity, I loved what Lewis said at the very end: “The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.”  The best part of all of his story was that it was HIS story.  He didn’t say how it should be for other people or what the conversion experience should look like.  He simply shared his experience.  I believe he wanted to share the many hindrances that he had to overcome to find his true Joy.  I also believe he would be thrilled to hear if it helped others to find theirs.

What is your favorite CS Lewis work?  What hindrances have you had to overcome in your faith journey?  What books, music, art has changed how you look at your faith?  Please leave your comments below!

Small Great Things: A Review

Small Great Things: A Novel by Jodi Picoult

Product Details
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Plot summary: Ruth Jefferson is a veteran labor and delivery nurse performing a routine exam on a newborn when the husband of her patient suddenly asks to see her supervisor.  Baffled, Ruth returns with her supervisor and discovers the parents are white supremacists and are requesting a new nurse.  Ruth is reassigned.
But, the next day when staff is needed in the OR, Ruth is left alone with this new baby and goes into cardiac distress.  Does Ruth ignore orders and help the baby and risk losing her job or does she abide by the parent’s wishes and not touch the child?  Her decision in that moment will have a much greater impact on her life than she ever dreams.
Told from three different perspectives, this book will challenge you to think about what you would do in that situation, but also if you ever dared to consider yourself as guilty as you really might be.

So, I have a confession.

This is the first Jodi Picoult book I have ever read.

*Gasp*

I know!  I haven’t even seen the movie “My Sister’s Keeper.”  Of course, I knew her name and saw her books all over the place.  Though I had never opened one of her books, I put her in the same category as Mitch Albom.  You know the type: perfect beach read, emotionally draining, tough topics but easy read.

A rainy, gloomy Saturday morning gave me the opportunity to fly through the first 150 pages.  In one sitting.  From that moment the story would not stop penetrating my thoughts throughout the day.  Picoult writes in a way that is fresh and engaging.  I hesitate to say too much about the plot because it truly is something that you need to wrestle with on your own.  I’ve even heard this title recommended with the suggestion that you don’t even read the summary and jump straight in.

Book clubs will have lots to discuss about Small Great Things.  Characters decisions, upbringing, career paths and even choice of spouses offer a plethora of great discussion material.  Whether you agree with the arguments made on all three sides of this story, there is much to consider.

“It was so much easier to hate them than it was to hate myself.”

Small Great Things was a fast-paced read and very engaging.  Characters were believable and though the different perspective angle is getting overdone in fiction, I found it to be particularly interesting in this book.  It made you sympathize  with characters that you normally wouldn’t sympathize with.  The tough and controversial topic kept it from being cheesy and I was surprised on more than one occasion about the turn of events in the story.  Thus, not very predictable which is a good thing!  A great read, perfect for your beach bag and for lots of great discussion.

What have been your favorite books to read about controversial topics?  Do you enjoy the heated discussion that follows or do you avoid it?  Weigh in on your thoughts about Small Great Things in the comments!