Thursday, May 14, 2015

Wow!  I can't believe it has been almost a year since I have written anything in this blog.  To be honest, for the first time in my life,  I have had a hard time reading.  There has been some stress, blah, blah, blah no one wants to hear about that, but I have been feeling like I need to be on "high alert" and wasn't really able to concentrate. Perhaps I was afraid of the appeal of disappearing into a story...way too easy to want to stay.

Anyway I read bits and pieces of some wonderful books for book club in the last year which I will finish (I swear) but my kids gift to me on Mother's Day was uninterrupted time to read. (Which means they all had to work so I got to spend the weekend with my nose in a book.)

I read the Tent City series by Kelly Van Hull.  It is set in a dystopian America  (possibly "post- apocalyptic, I'm never sure if it has to be one or the other but saying both just seems too depressing.)

Tent City has a strong heroine which seems to be so popular right now. I ALWAYS want my book club to read these novels because there is so much to discuss. I'm sure they groan when they see I've read another.  But, when the laws of order have been altered or ended it always brings up alluring topics for discussion.  What saves this from being another version of Hunger Games, or Divergent , is a captivating thread in the story which follows the Biblical plagues of Exodus.  While not written to be a theology book there are  meaningful theological inquests in which one could delve, or what we would call in the church world, "catechisma."

Dani the main character finds strength she didn't know she had and develops skills she would have thought herself incapable of at the beginning of the story.  Like all great adventures, parents have to stay out of the picture. In the words of my friend Lisa "No one can have a righteous adventure with their mama hanging around making all the decisions!"  (cue Disney)

Kelly Van Hull is a mother of five and miraculously finds time to write, and I'm so happy she does.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

TBT Gone With The Wind

I know, I know but let me just say this about that.  It is a GREAT read.  I was 15 when I read it and it was the first time that I realized that the Civil War (and subsequently all war) has more than one point of view.  It forced me to think about opposing views to a same subject.

The southern voice was fascinating to me.  The genteel way of life was mesmerizing.  I hadn't, until I read "Gone With The Wind," realized that the southerners were fighting for a way of life, that certainly included slavery but was also more than that.  It was very reminiscent of "Regency" England.  It was a battle for all things proper, and orderly and refined, as they saw it.  Of course all of that was afforded on the backs of slaves.

Was it elitist?  Of course.  Did the country need to change?  Without a doubt!  Was the treatment of fellow human beings abhorant?  Absolutely!  Yet the part I found fascinating was the realization that there were people who believed strongly, and correctly, that if the South fell it would be the end of a regal era, as they knew it.

The movie was magical, but the book was an epic, grand, larger than life experience that you should revisit.  So Fiddle-dee-dee, don't think about this tomorrow, just read or re-read it today!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

TBT The Color Purple

Alice Walker's "The Color Purple" was insightful, emotionally raw and like nothing I had read before.  It became a phenomenon that was made into a movie and then a musical.  Of course it will always be tied to Oprah Winfrey because of her role in the movie and her passion for the story.  One of the best review statements which I have read was from jlind555 who said,  " 'The Color Purple"' is one of the strongest statements of how love transforms and cruelty disfigures the human spirit that this reviewer has ever read!"  

The story is about Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate, and continuing over the course of her marriage to "Mister," a brutal man who terrorizes her. Celie eventually learns that her abusive husband has been keeping her sister's letters from her and the rage she feels, combined with an example of love and independence provided by her close friend Shug, pushes her finally toward an awakening of her creative and loving self.

Sometimes I remember snippets or passages from books, but most times I remember the feeling I got when I read the book.  The "Color Purple" left me feeling so fortunate to be born into a loving and healthy family, but also sad, encouraged, embarrassed, hopeful, guilty, overwhelmed and heartbroken.  It's a good book that can still elicit those feelings 30 years after having read it!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Chapter Chatters Do More Than Read!

Today was awesome as we took our book club to a Habitat For Humanity site in White Bear Lake.  Most of us put up siding. Sarah F. and  Deb H. bless their hearts shoveled rock in the basement all day.

We shared a little bit about our book club with the rest of the crew and felt great about learning a new skill and being part of an effort to give someone affordable housing!

Matthew 25:35-40 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 3I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Thursday, June 12, 2014

TBT A Clockwork Orange

In last week's Throw-Back-Thursday I referenced Mrs. Dietsch and her list of 100 books one should read before going to college (That list has changed BTW check out one of many 100 reads before college lists)

So as disturbing as Camus', The Plague was, it suffers in comparison to A Clockwork Orange.  If you choose to read this book be prepared to walk into a big wide world of weird.  It's Extremely violent and disturbing.

It is a story of a post modern society and follows the life of Alex, a cruel and ferociously violent young man.  As we follow his path of disturbing and amplifying ruthless antics it becomes clear that he is the protagonist in the story and yet it's hard to feel empathy for him. It becomes a little easier once he is incarcerated and forced into a brain washing treatment meant to cure him of his desire to be violent.

Anthony Burgess forces us to examine how we o feel about "forced morality." It brings up the questions of  recidivism, reform, government involvement in behavior modification, to name a few.  So many moral issues, so much to think about.  Forcing a "bad person" to do "good things" is so unnatural it is like a clockwork orange, something which is suppose to be alive yet is robotically mechanical. As you read you ask who get's to decide what is bad, what is good, where is the line, what is the response.

A Clockwork Orange is one of those books you don't think twice about reading at 17  but would have nightmares after page 4 and would probably put it down by page 12, if you read it in your 40s. But I will say it is thought provoking if you can stomach it!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

TBT Camu-The Plague

My Junior year in High School, Mrs Dietsch gave us a list of the 100 books you should read before going to college.  Yes I'm a nerd so I read them all. (and an only child who didn't get my license until I was 17, and didn't have friends in the neighborhood because I went to a parochial school miles away from home, and lived with my grandparents, and... well yeah, a nerd)

One of the oddest and most memorable was Albert Camus' The Plague.  One of the problems with reading 100 books in a year is that you don't have time to absorb and remember the details of all of them.  (That and having read it 30+ years ago) While I don't remember all the details or even characters of The Plague, I do remember the sensation and feelings I got when reading it.  It was weird, and wonderful, and so dramatically deep and profound (as only metaphorical existentialism can be to a 16 year old girl)   I wasn't sure what all of it meant, but I knew it was important that I try to figure it out.

It was where I was introduced to the concept of  Absurdism.  Trying to seek out the meaning of life only to find that it is not possible to do so.  I remember having long conversations about the meaning of  life, was it possible to know, was it the same for everyone, are we suppose to know, does that definition exist, change, develop, and on and on.  One felt so smart even contemplating those things.  Of course it was even better when discussed under the influence... (wait what?  hey kids I mean this was WAY after High School, and the drinking age was 18 for my friends, who may have legally drank once or twice, not me of course...oh never mind there's no way my kids are reading this anyway)

The Plague is set in the 1940s and poses the questions of immortality, fear, self preservation, loyalty etc It forces you to reflect what you would become if you were quarantined in your city with death an imminent threat.  The characters react in predictable ways as human nature tends to steer us towards heroism, recklessness, survival or whatever it is which makes us what we are.

A few years ago I realized that I don't sit around and have deep thoughts anymore.  Is it because I am not reading that which is thought provoking; or because I think I have figured it all out; or maybe that trying to figure it out is just too exhausting?  Perhaps we get to a place where we accept that the meaning of life is unfolding as we go, or we have a glass of wine and just really don't care that much!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Back in the Fight- A Great Discussion with J. Robinson

Book club last night was very interesting.  As you know my only complaint with reading a biography is that it is not always conducive to a great discussion.
Q:  "Why did the author set the book in that city?"
A:  "Ahhh because he lived there?"
But last night our lovely host Deb, invited Army Ranger/Viet Nam Vet/Head U of M Wrestling Coach/ Motivational speaker J.Robinson to book club. While we didn't exactly meet with Joe "Kap" the author, one could argue that Army Rangers (and Special Force members in general) are all cut out of the same cloth (and that cloth is definitely camo!)

Coach Robinson fleshed out some of the details which we couldn't picture from the book.  What exactly is a base camp (Fire camp) how big, how is it used?  What is the difference between night and day patrols etc.  The Rangers (SEALS, Delta Force, Green Berets) are a special breed.  They are tough men doing a tough and often thankless job, which is alright with them because they are not in it for the thanks.

There were so many take aways from our evening but the one that really resonated with me was advice which coach Robinson's parents gave him: (please excuse the paraphrase...should have been taking notes) "Surround yourself with people better than yourself."  The idea is they will pull you up instead of dragging you down. That in a nutshell describes why I belong to this book club.  It is a group of intelligent women with respectful differing views, who frankly make me better.  I love them all!