Libri

I read books.

Future stack of stuff

Church History in Plain Language, Bruce Shelley

We Were Soldiers Once, and Young, Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore

King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa,  Adam Hochschild

For Kirk and Covenant: The Stalwart Courage of John Knox,  Douglas Wilson

On Fire for God: The Story of John Hus,  Victor Budgen

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BEARTOWN

I have no interest in ice hockey. However, this book is good, mainly because the writer, Fredrik Backman, has a wonderful way with words, and there are universal themes throughout the story.  Here are some of my favorites:

HOPE

…Places like this always have to pin their hopes for the future on young people. They’re the only ones who don’t remember that things actually used to be better. That can be a blessing. (4)

COST

This sport demands only one thing from you.  Your all. (8)

[David] didn’t have any friends, which is why he was able to devote all his time to hockey. He never bothered to acquire any other interests, which is how he’s managed to become the best. (38)

David doesn’t even know what “enjoyable hockey” is, he only knows one sort of hockey that isn’t enjoyable–the one where the opposing team scores more points…He’s uncompromising: he knows that isn’t going to make him any friends, but he doesn’t care. Do you want to be liked? It’s easy: just get yourself to the top of the podium. (39)

It’s only a game. It only resolves tiny, insignificant things. Such as who gets validation. Who gets listened to. It allocates power and draws boundaries and turns some people into stars and others into spectators. That’s all. (53)

GRATITUDE

His mom always says they must be grateful, the pair of them and he understands her. No one is more grateful than her, toward this country, this town, these people, and this club, toward the council, their neighbors, her employer. Grateful, grateful, grateful. That’s the role of mothers. But the role of children is to dream. So her son dreams that his mother will one day be able to walk into a room without having to apologize. (21)

WORK

–Please, Kira, I’ve got a meeting! If I’m late…” –“Absolutely, darling. Absolutely. If I get to work late an innocent person might end up in prison. Sorry, I interrupted you. Tellme more about what happens if you’re late?” (22)

PARENTING

Not a second has passed since she had children without her feeling like a bad mother. For everything. For not understanding, for being impatient, for not knowing everything, not making better packed lunches, for still wanting more out of life than just being a mother. (63)

Her work may be demanding and tough, but it’s straightforward and logical. and being a parent is never like that. If she does everything right at work, things usually go as planned, but it doesn’t matter if she does absolutely everything in the universe correctly as a mother: the very worst can still happen. (63)

Kira remembers every inch of the descent into darkness. The greatest terror of every parent, waking up and listening out for small breaths. And every night you feel so foolish when you hear them, as usual, for worrying about nothing. “How did I become someone like this?” you think. You promise yourself that you’ll relax, because of course you know that nothing’s going to happen. But the following night you still lie there wide awake, staring up at the ceiling and shaking your head, until you tell yourself,” Just tonight, then.” And you creep out of bed and put your palms to your children’s little chests to feel them rising and falling. And then one night one of them falls and doesn’t rise again as strongly. (68)

If they hadn’t had Maya, would they have bene able to go on living? How does anyone do that? …Then Leo came along. They were happy, or at least as happy as a family can be when it’s burdened by a grief too large to be absorbed by time. (68)

Her little Benjamin, the fighter with whom it’s far too easy for the girls of Beartown to fall in love. The boy with the most handsome face, the saddest eyes, and the wildest heart they’ve ever seen. His mom knows, because she married a man who looked just the same, and nothing but trouble lies ahead for men like that. (40)

A simple truth, repeated as often as it is ignored, is that if you tell a child it can do absolutely anything, or that it can’t do anything at all, you will in all likelihood be proven right. (79)

Being a parent makes you feel like a blanket that’s always too small. No matter how hard you try to cover everyone, there’s always someone who’s freezing. (110)

When the kids were little she saw so many other parents lose control in the stands at the rink, and she couldn’t understand them, but now she does. …Their significance eats its way even into adult brains. They start to symbolize other things, compensating for or reinforcing the parents’ own failures. (110)

But Kevin’s mother will always remember what she sees through the rear window that Saturday, and how her son looks as he stands in the parking lot. On the biggest day of his life he is the loneliest boy on earth. (117)

Everyone has a thousand wishes before a tragedy, but just one afterward. (185)

Kira and Peter felt a terrible, lacerating guilt every time they laughed. Shame can still catch them when they feel happy, making them wonder if it’s a betrayal of their child that they didn’t disintegrate entirely when he left them. (185)

…after a funeral, how to put the pieces of a family back together again, how to live with the jagged edges. So what do you end up asking for? You ask for a good day. One single good day. A few hours of amnesia. (185)

{When they lost their baby} They wanted an enemy. Now they’ve got one. And now they don’t know if they ought to sit next to their daughter or hunt down the person who harmed her, if they ought to help her live or see to it that he dies. Unless they’re the same thing. Hate is so much easier than its opposite.

Every child in every town in every country has at some point played games that are dangerous to the point of being lethal. Every gang of friends includes someone who always takes things too far, who is the first to jump from the highest rock, the last to jump across the rails when the train comes. That child isn’t the bravest, just the least frightened. And possibly the one who feels he or she doesn’t have as much to lose as the others. (275)

“I know you’d have killed for me, Mom. I know you’d have given your life for me. But we’re going to get through this, you and me. Because I’m your daughter I’ve got wolf’s blood. ” (323)

The love a parent feels for a child is strange. There is a starting point to our love for everyone else, but not this person. This one we have always loved, we loved them before they existed. No matter how well prepared they are, all moms and dads experience a moment of total shock, when the tidal wave of feelings first washes through them, knocking them off their feet. It’s incomprehensible because there’s nothing to compare it to. …It send the soul flying. (357)

AGE

There are two things that are particularly good at remind us how old we are: children and sports. (37)

WINNING

“Don’t pay any attention to what people say, Benji. They’ll like us well enough when we start winning.” (40)

We love winners, even though they’re very rarely particularly likeable people. They’re almost always obsessive and selfish and inconsiderate. That doesn’t matter. We forgive them. We like them while they’re winning.

Adrenaline does strange things, especially when it leaves you. When he was a player, Peter kept getting told how important it was to “control your adrenaline” but he never understood that. For him, his complete, unquestioned focus and concentration out on the ice, his ability to live absolutely in the moment, came quite naturally. It was only when he had to watch the game from the stands for the first time that he realized how close adrenaline is to panic. What rouses the body to battle and achievement are the same instincts that instill mortal dread in the brain. (148)

TEAM

They weren’t old enough to know their multiplication tables, but they knew that a team didn’t mean anything if you couldn’t depend on each other. That’s both a big and a small thing. Knowing that there are people who will never abandon you. (50)

SIGNIFICANCE

Sune has never told Peter he loves him. It can be just as hard for father figures to say that as it is for real fathers. But he knows how afraid Peter is of disappointing everyone. All men have different fears that drive the, and Peter’s biggest one is that he isn’t good enough. Not good enough as a dad, not good enough as a man, and not good enough as GM. (94)

Benji always sought out the strongest physical sensations because they displaced other feelings. Adrenaline and the taste of blood in his mouth and throbbing pain all over his body became a pleasant buzz in his head. He liked scaring himself, because when you’re scared you can’t think of anything else. He’s never cut his own skin, but he understands those who do…Because sometimes, when it seriously hurts on the outside, it hurts a little bit less in other places. (275-276)

Ana is standing naked in front of the mirror in her room, counting. She’s always been good at that. Top grades in math all her life. When she was little she used to count everything…mostly she just counted faults. She would stand in front of the mirror and point at them: all the things that were wrong about he. Sometimes that made it feel more bearable, when she had already said them out loud to herself before anyone at school did. (315)

–“Do you think I’m less of a man because I can’t fight,” he whispers? –“Do you think I’m less of a woman because I can?” she asks.

When a child learns to hunt, they are taught that the forest contains two different sorts of animal: predators and prey. The predators have their eyes close together, facing the front, because they only need to focus on their prey. Their prey, on the other hand, have their eyes wide apart, on either side of the head, because their only chance of survival is if they can see predators approaching from behind. When Ana and Maya were little they used to spend hours in front of the mirror trying to work out which of them they were.

COMMUNITY

A door opens. A voice calls out to her””Would you like to come over for coffee?”…Difficult questions, simple answers. What is a community? It is the sum total of our choices. (312)

 

 

 

 

 

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A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future (Os Guinness )

Book Club tonight will discuss this serious treatise on the demise of the American Republic and what Guinness proposes can be done to avert the seemingly inevitable.
Below are my pulled quotes and a few thoughts on the parallel with the American church.

Guinness, Os. A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2012.

From the Augustine of Hippo:

Suppose we were to define what it means to be a people not in the usually way, but in a different fashion such as the following: a people is a multitudinous assemblage of rational beings united by concord regarding loved things in common. Then, if we wished to discern the character of any given people, we would have to investigate what it loves…Surely it is a better or worse people as it is united in loving things that are better or worse.  –City of God, quoted in A Free People’s Suicide(front leaf)

 

Freedom is unquestionably what Americans love supremely, and love of freedom is what makes Americans the people they are. Thus the present crisis of sustainable freedom raises questions about the health of the American Republic that must be taken seriously….Freedom is, and will always be, America’s animating principle and chief glory, her most important idea and her greatest strength. But unless sustained, freedom could also prove to be America’s idol, something trusted ultimately that cannot bear ultimate weight. (17)

Three challenges:

1.  Historical:

…Freedom always faces a fundamental historical challenge. Although glorious, free societies are few, far between and fleeting. In the past, the high view of human dignity and independence that free societies require was attained by only two societies with world influence: the Greeks with their view of the logos, or reason within each person, and the Jews with their notion of the call of God to each person. The roman ways owed much to the Greeks, of course, just as contemporary humanists owe everything to the Jewish, Greek and Christian ideas from which they come and on which they depend. (19)

2.  Political:

Free societies must maintain their freedom on two levels: at the level of their nation’s constitution and at the level of their citizens’ convictions…If the structures of liberty are well built, they last as long as they are properly maintained, whereas the spirit of liberty and the habits of the heart must be reinvigorated from generation to generation…(19)

3.  Moral:

…Freedom always faces a fundamental moral challenge. Freedom requires order, and therefore restraint, yet the only restraint that does not contradict freedom is self-restraint, which is the very thing that freedom undermines when it flourishes. Thus the heart of the problem of freedom is the problem of the heart, because free societies are characterized by a restlessness at their core. (20)

The core problem can be expressed like this: Such is our human propensity for self-love—or thinking and acting with the self as center—that the virtue it takes for its citizens to remain free is quite unnatural. (21)

What kind of people do you think you are?

American’s grand promotion of debt-leveraged consumerism has stood Max Weber’s famous thesis about the rise of capitalism on its head. It has scorned the early-American stress on hard work, savings, thrift and delayed gratification, and turned Americans into a nation of perpetual debtors who are now chided even by the Chinese and the Indians for their irresponsibility and “addiction to debt.” (25)

America’s fabled economic dominance has masked the fact of its dire financial indebtedness and therefore of the severe constraints on its real freedom. Few, if any, superpowers in history have been in deeper debt than the United States today….American citizens consuming more than they save and with the government spending more than it earns and promising to spend still more… (29)

The American way, far from the last best hope for the world, is becoming a riot of indulgent freedom that is anything but positive and liberating. ”License they mean when they cry liberty.” John Milton warned. (30)

There is a straightforward reason why the United States is vulnerable to such a crisis of cultural authority. As the world’s first new nation, American is distinctively a nation by intention and ideas. Unlike most other nations, the core beliefs that make up American identify and character do not trail off into the mists of antiquity, and they are not the product of centuries-old habits of the heart. Taking off from their sturdy seventeenth-century beginnings, they arose in a sunburst of brilliant thinking and daring institution-building by a generation whose vision charted the course of America’s meteoric rise to greatness. (31)

 

…Unlike the ancients, who saw time as cyclical, they were shaped by the linear worldview of the Bible and the Enlightenment. Thus, like contemporary Americans, they were optimistic. But unlike most Americans today, their optimism was never at the expense of a holiday from history. (72)

Respect for the great thinkers of the past: The exiled Machiaelli actually changed into his best clothes to enter into his nightly reading conversation with the ancients (73)

We don’t even dress for church or special dates any more with living people!

“We Americans seem to know everything about the last twenty-four hours…but very little of the past sixty centuries or the last sixty years.”  Bill Moyers, quoted in (74)

Montesquieu: “To comprehend modern times well, it is necessary to comprehend ancient times well.”

Churchill: “The longer you can look back, the further you can see forward.” (74)

Ted Hughes (poet) “Decay of libraries is like Alzheimer’s in the nation’s brain.” (75)

Patrick Henry “I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging the future but by the past.” (75)

Rousseau “If Sparta and Rome perished, what state can hope to endure forever?” (86)

The United States is in its very early days as a superpower. 230+ yrs. old (87)

Modern people believe that labor-saving technologies and instantaneous communication have brought them closer to conquering time as they have conquered space. According to such thinking, they are increasingly masters of their lives, their world and now even of time itself. Do they not have perpetual health and sustainable life almost within their grasp, both for themselves and for their institutions? (88)

Against such foolish thinking, the plain fact is that progress in science and technology does not mean progress in morality and humanity. (88)

Will time stand still for the United States any more than it idid for Britain, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Rome or Greece?…Will the giant figure of Lincoln in his memorial last longer than the Roman Consuls on whose curule chair he was placed? (89)

CURULE: relating to or being a high-ranking dignitary of ancient Rome entitled to occupy a special chair

: of, relating to, or being a chair or seat reserved for Romans of high rank that resembles a backless stool with curved legs; also : of, relating to, or being a 19th century seat with legs of a similar style

THE TYRANNY OF NOW

The postmodern mind, in contrast to the modern, is obsessed with relativism and fragmentation. In this view, time is neither linear nor cyclical. It is pointillist – like truth and certainties of all kinds, it is pulverized into a thousand scattered points, each unrelated to the others and to the past and future. There is no building on the past to construct the future. There is no building at all.In fact, there is no duration, bond, tie or commitment. There is only the endless succession of the fleeting now and is array of endless choices that open the future. So there are only separate moments, episodes, rather than stories, fragments rather than buiding blocks, shifting kaleidoscopes rather than meaningful narratives….the old is obsolete and the past is a ball and chain. (89)

 

Misunderstanding of the phrase “The Past is Prologue “ carved on National Archives

Often thought to mean” it’s all about us!”  – really means we are standing on the shoulders of what has gone before, and being all the wise for their wisdom (92)

Character of George Washington –

The American Revolution would not go the way of other revolutions. Washington was a victorious over the temptation to Caesarism at Newburgh as he had been over the British at Yorktown. (from I Wish I Had Been There )

GW was “the indispensable man” of the AR, and was so “by force of his character rather than his ideas or his eloquence. ..He was a one-man check and balance on the abuse of power, and decisively so well before the Constitution framed the principle in law.

Montesquieu ”Great men who are moderate are rare & it is always easier to follow one’s impulse than to arrest it…

Lincoln: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man, give him power.”

GW shone even brighter when he became president

Even King George III was impressed – when told GW would retire after the war, he said  “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.” (95)

Sustainable freedom depends on the character of the rules and the ruled alike, and on the vital trust between them—both of which are far more than a matter of law. The Constitution…should be supported and sustained by the faith, character and virtue of the entire citizenry… (99)

Leadership without character, business without ethics and science without human values—in short, freedom without virtue will bring the Republic to its knees. (101-102)

Eugene Ormandy, director of the Philadelphia Orchestra “People always ask me where I was born. I was born at the age of twenty-one, when I arrived at the United States.”

Would he visit the town where he was born  (in Poland)? “What for?”

Reminds me of the couple we met at the Holocaust museum  – in 1954, when we arrived in God BLESS America…we finally knew what it was to be safe and free.

Europe is moving toward “cosmopolitan, global vision and the United States pressing toward its own vision of ‘hegemonic liberalism’.

hegemonic = ascendancy or domination of one power or state within a league, confederation, etc, or of one social class over others

Europe relapsing into “irresponsible, near-utopian pacifism, while sheltering under the shield of American arms. (132)

But Europe has tradition that holds it together, whereas America is vulnerable to a crisis of cultural authority because it is a nation by intention and by ideas and it relies so deeply on them. (133)

Postmodernism: The founders, not heroic pioneers of freedom with a tragic blind spot, but dead, white, European, male slave owners whose hypocrisy vitiates their claims about freedom. (140)  Nietzsche (1880’s) – advocates do not believe in truth or objective moral standards, of any kind. Instead, all that was once considered objectively rue or right and good is now seen as a cover for power, or some interest or agenda. Everything is therefore relative and socially construction; nothing is what it appears to be; and the outcome is a giant game of suspicion, skepticism, or cynicism (141).

No great country or civilization will endure if its intellectual leaders and opinion shapers are at odds with what made the country or civilization what it is, particularly in such a wholesale way. (141)

 

Ayn Rand: Man’s destiny is to be a self-made soul.” (155)

Secular view of freedom “blends easily into the scientific revolution” – but ignores the  fact  the modern scientific revolution came out of a Christian matrix and was pioneered almost entirely by devout Christians such as Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, Rober Boyle and Isaac Newton

 

Problems of the current day:

Hubris – seeing ourselves as the rest of the world sees us (personal application in Guatemala? – taking care to respect those we go to serve, and not have a know it all attitude??)

Most Americans are dangerously UNAWARe of what is going on in the rest of the world (183) – HOW TO SOLVE THIS PROBLEM – news media not helpful!

Guinness’ solutions:

  1. Teach a true liberal education, including a return to”citizenship”
  2. Reinstitute vigorous public square discussions
  3. Checks and balances in all spheres
  4. Restore the integrity and credibility of faith and ethics

The role of the CHURCH? #’s 1 and 4  can be addressed in a big way – and may make a dfference in the culture. But if NOT, it will still make a difference in the CHURCH!

Parallels in the modern church

  1. Individualism
  2. refusal to consider the good of the group over the individual
  3. lack of self-control and self-limiting on freedom (license)
  4. lack of strong foundation for truth, rather than “my truth”
  5. hubris in dealing with other believers, churches, and ethnos (Guatemala, missions in general)
  6. Ignorance of the past and of Biblical history – how has God worked in the past? What can we expect Him to do in the future?
  7. consumerism – what am I getting out of this??
  8. lack of connection with tradition – the new and improved trumps the “old and obsolete”
  • neophiliacs – lover of all things new, easily bored and desirous of constant change

My big take away from this book is – “How should we then live?” – to steal a famous quote from Francis Schaeffer…as strangers and aliens – our country is the Kingdom of God. We should work to be salt and light in the culture without despairing of its imperfection or even its downfall. THIS IS NOT OUR HOME!

I Peter 2: 9-20

9But you are A CHOSEN RACEA royal PRIESTHOODA HOLY NATIONA PEOPLE FOR God’sOWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;10for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.

    11Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.12Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.

    13Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority,14or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.15For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.16Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.17Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.

18Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.19For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.20For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.

 

 

 

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Overdue Books

So I have not reviewed any books lately, but I HAVE been reading!

Since my last post:

Mere Christianity (again) by C.S. Lewis – my go-to argument for why I am a Christian, even on days when my doubts overwhelm me like the tide. How can Jesus be anything but God? And why do we always default to “that’s not fair” if there is no standard outside ourselves to which we refer? Even die-hard atheists have a hard time coping with that one. Yay for Jack Lewis.

No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency – Alexander McCall Smith – fun, easy read about a clever woman in Botswana who sets up her own business and solves everyday mysteries using common sense. First in a series,  of which I intend to read more.

Clifton Chronicles 1 & 2: Only Time will Tell and Sins of the Father  by Jeffrey Archer – I loved these! Can’t wait for the third book to come out so I can find out who gets the money and who gets the girl…Set in the early part of the 20th Century in England, you’ve got your boarding schools, your class system, your labor law problems, and a good bunch of back stories that all weave together in surprising ways. Fast reading but surprising well developed story and characters. Recommended.

Standing Under the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg – this starts out lighthearted and fun but turns pretty melancholy toward the end. The characters are endearing, but I found myself getting a little depressed as the hero grows from his happy boyhood as the son of a homemaker/radio announcer and ends up old and sad! I think this one connected too many memories of my own small town life to be a favorite.

To be continued…

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The Hunger Games

Most compelling thing I’ve read in a long time…made me shiver to think about how controlling our government is becoming. In the style of the city-states of the Roman Empire, each district owes its allegiance to the Capitol, whose cruel totalitarian control is climaxed each year in the “Hunger Games”, where young representatives from each district are pitted against one another to the death. And the winner? Well, that is the story for Book Two in this fast-reading trilogy. Cheer for the human spirit as the young heroine, Katniss Everdeen struggles to maintain her dignity and her sense of humanity when faced with unspeakable circumstances. Don’t start reading until you have time to read all three books, because you will. Highly recommended!

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Those Who Save Us (Jenna Blum)

Reopening book club in November with this offering:

This is an extremely well-crafted but disturbing first novel by Jenna Blum. It features a beautiful Aryan German girl who finds herself in a terrible moral dilemma: should she die at the hands of the blood-thirsty Nazis or do whatever it takes to save the life of herself and her half-Jewish daughter? Truly, what is a mother to do?

Anna’s own father is a part of the Fascist regime, and she only escapes his wrath because he is too shamed to confront her and leaves town when she turns up pregnant with a Jewish child. Taken in by the baker, Anna and her daughter Trudie find purpose in helping to smuggle food and messages to the prisoners next door at Buchenwald, the adjacent Nazi concentration camp. Anna hopes she is helping her baby’s father as she assists in this small way, but when they are discovered, she is confronted with a grave choice.

Blum provides graphic detail of the horrors Anna suffers at the hands of a Nazi officer, and it makes for very hard reading. Much of the story is developed as the daughter Trudy (no explanation for the spelling change) begins to research her own history while teaching at an American university.

Painful, poignant, powerful. Strong caution for graphic sexual violence and imagery. Recommended if you can handle it.

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Books Last Year’s Club Members Recommended

The Biographer’s Tale
Eat, Pray, Love
The Secret Life of Bees
Outlive Your Life
Bel Cantu
The Namesake
Ahab’s Wife
Tea Rose
Deep Dish
Fast Food Nation
Raney
Life at the Bottom
Seven Layers of Organization
Daughter of Fortune
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A Thousand Gifts (Ann Voskamp)

Not often that a book completely changes my paradigms…but this book has done it. I started reading it a few days before the birth of my grandson Samuel Job, who is with Jesus for safekeeping until we meet him again in heaven. I had begun practicing eucharisteo, framing God’s gifts with intentional thankfulness, and thus my entry # 34 was Samuel Job, 4 lb. 13 oz.  A good gift that we did not get to enjoy on this earth, but another reason to yearn for heaven.

‎…Giving thanks is only this: making the canyon of pain into a megaphone to proclaim the ultimate goodness of God.” Ann Voskamp

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The Girl Who Played With Fire (Steig Larson)

I’m done with this trilogy after only two books. I was intrigued by the strange girl-woman in the first book, enough so that I braved another volume to find out what happened to her next, and what was her terrible past. But it’s not worth it. Gratuitous profanity, vile sexuality and completely pagan characters in a weirdly written novel (translated from the Swedish may be part of the problem)  all added up to a waste of my time. Boo. NOT RECOMMENDED.

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Unaccustomed Earth (Jhumpa Lampiri)

Did not love this short story collection about several different Indian families, although I did feel that I gained understanding of the culture by reading it. Everyone seemed hopeless and unhappy, and I don’t really like short stories because there is just not time to develop the story line and characters. Just when I start getting interested, it’s over. Well-written and believable, but just not my cup of tea.

Never had the book club on this one, but no big loss for me.

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Animal Dreams (Barbara Kingsolver)

I love Barbara Kingsolver’s ability to craft an image with words – this is one of my favorite of her books! While it has a political theme (as usual) – this time the U.S. is on the wrong side of the rebellion in Nicaragua – she still captivated me with her believable characters. Codi and Hallie are sisters from Grace, Arizona (fictional), reared by a widowed father who is caring but distant. When Codi has to return to her hometown to care for her ailing father, she confronts all her fears and insecurities that she had been running from her whole life. This small town life was very familiar to me, and I empathized deeply with Codi’s struggles to deal with the past. I loved her passionate relationship with her sister – their letter-writing was especially sweet. I also found the native American insights intriguing, and really liked Loyd (with one “l”).

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