Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Middle Passage

When I lived in Oregon, one of my jobs was to visit members of the parish who lived in assisted living facilities. My favorite one to visit was in the nearby town of Mount Angel. After visiting those seniors who were a little less cheerful than their nameplates ("Dot 'n Lil Bit"), I would often make a short detour here before driving back through the hop fields to the parish office. I would stop in at the library or just sit in the parking lot, contemplatively, blessed in the view.

These days, it is not often that I experience (or even acknowledge) such moments of stillness. But finding this book helped me remember that it's necessary.

Lauren Winner's book Still is about what happens to a recent convert to Christianity when faced with a spiritual crisis. When the book opens she is no longer an enthusiastic seeker of God, but in a darker, doubt-filled, middle place. And since this middle lacks the fervent excitement of the newly converted or the quiet strength of the veteran believer, what is left? Through poetry, scripture, friends, and new rites, she tries to come to terms with a more imperfect faith. She also comes to realize that even though it requires a little more struggle (or even a lot), God is still to be found.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Calling Invisible Women

Fiftysomething women are waking up invisible. Not the-nobody-whistles-at-her-on-the-street-anymore invisible but the blank-space-between-scarf-and-hat invisible. What really galls Clover is that her husband and children don't even notice. Luckily she spots an ad in the paper and meets a support group of other invisibles. Together they give each other courage not only to go back to work but to take down the pharmaceutical company responsible for their plight.

Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray is a funny, even plausible, take on the dilemma of women everywhere who wish not only to be seen but heard.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Various and Sundry

I've been devouring books in anticipation of the beginning of the semester (one day in and already I am behind in grading).

Here's three I would recommend from the lot:

Say Nice Things About Detroit by Scott Lasser
A murder mystery set in Detroit

Swimming Home by Deborah Levy
A novel of discontent set in Southern France 

The Elephant Keepers' Children by Peter H√łeg
A ("madcap" "picaresque" "surreal") adventure of three children searching for their parents set in Denmark

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Just Like You Said

A friend of mine answered the door the other day holding a book. She said she had been going down a list of Newbery winners and couldn't stop reading this one.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is narrated by a young girl named Miranda. She loves A Wrinkle in Time and hates when her mother wears striped tights. Her best friend Sal seems more interested in basketball than walking home with her; her new friend Annemarie has a crush on the boy she likes. Living in New York City, she braces herself every afternoon for the walk home which takes her by a rowdy group of boys and a mumbling homeless man she calls "the laughing man." One day she comes home to an unlocked apartment and a mysterious note tucked into her library book. Later, she finds another note which outlines three dates that prove the note writer is a time-traveler.

Time travel, L'Engle, The $20,000 Pyramid, and 1979 New York meant I couldn't put it down. The second time either.   

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Man on the Moon

As I review the list of quirky books I've read this past year, this song keeps popping into my head. In these books, moon missions, antarctic expeditions, and even bike rides are presented through unique narrators in unforgettable settings.

Tales of the New World by Sabina Murray

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

First You Try Everything by Jane McCafferty

The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Office Girl by Joe Meno

Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer