Wednesday, September 2, 2009
I tried to read Little Women. I really did. But it just didn't capture me. So after slogging my way through several chapters out of a sense of commitment, I finally bailed.
Initially I was drawn to some non-fiction. As I told Mimi in an email I sent her at the time, I was itching to read real words spoken by real people. So I gobbled up two or three volumes...Acedia & Me by Kathleen Norris among the most powerful. Since then I've read a bunch of other stuff...most recently the novel "Restitution" by Lee Vance which was an absolute page turner.
Now we are on to September. For the life of me I don't know whose pick it is for this month or what we were scheduled to read.
But honestly, I'm not sure I care.
We are all at different places in our lives right now. Maybe we aren't up for a typical book club where we read the same thing. But that doesn't mean we have to discard this effort all together does it?
What I like BEST about Page Nibblers is that it gets me thinking, helps me CONSIDER different books that I might not have otherwise read, and give me a place to talk about those books. We are a fairly diverse group, each of us different ages, different religions, different political views, different lifestyles, different family status (from no kids to young kids to older kids to grown kids). But the one thing we have in common is our love of reading.
So I say let's keep it going, even if we don't read the same stuff.
Tell me what you ARE reading and what you think of it. Because really, sharing our ideas about books is the draw for me. We can still SUGGEST books for each month if others want to join in. But I hope no one will feel bad if their book doesn't snag others. (Mimi, THANK YOU for being so gracious when I bailed on Little Women...I really did not want to let you down, and felt bad at first when I opted out. It helped a lot that you were so nice about it.)
I rather like the idea of a gathering place to talk about books with NO guilt, NO demands, NO expectations. We have enough places in our life where we have to Keep Up with someone else's priorities. Let's let this be a place that NOURISHES our love of reading rather than adding more stress.
Now, I'm not queen bee... this reading group is a collaborative effort with no specific leader and no one IN CHARGE. I certainly do not presume to change the rules when honestly there are no hard fast rules. We do this for the fun of it. We are a delightful literary anarchy. So if the rest of you DO want to keep making an effort to read books in unison, by all means, go for it. I just don't think that fits for me right now.
SOMETIMES when I hear what you are reading I may want to read it too. Sometimes not.
And I think that's just fine.
But I truly am curious. What are you reading these days?
Monday, August 3, 2009
On that note, a bit about Louisa May Alcott from The Louisa May Alcott
Louisa May Alcott was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania on November 29, 1832. She and her three sisters, Anna, Elizabeth and May were educated by their father, philosopher/ teacher, Bronson Alcott and raised on the practical Christianity of their mother, Abigail May.
Louisa spent her childhood in Boston and in Concord, Massachusetts, where her days were enlightened by visits to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s library, excursions into nature with Henry David Thoreau and theatricals in the barn at Hillside (now Hawthorne’s "Wayside").
Like her character, Jo March in Little Women, young Louisa was a tomboy: "No boy could be my friend till I had beaten him in a race," she claimed, " and no girl if she refused to climb trees, leap fences...."
For Louisa, writing was an early passion. She had a rich imagination and often her stories became melodramas that she and her sisters would act out for friends. Louisa preferred to play the "lurid" parts in these plays, "the villains, ghosts, bandits, and disdainful queens."
At age 15, troubled by the poverty that plagued her family, she vowed: "I will do something by and by. Don’t care what, teach, sew, act, write, anything to help the family; and I’ll be rich and famous and happy before I die, see if I won’t!"
Confronting a society that offered little opportunity to women seeking employment, Louisa determined "...I will make a battering-ram of my head and make my way through this rough and tumble world." Whether as a teacher, seamstress, governess, or household servant, for many years Louisa did any work she could find.
Louisa’s career as an author began with poetry and short stories that appeared in popular magazines. In 1854, when she was 22, her first book Flower Fables was published. A milestone along her literary path was Hospital Sketches (1863) based on the letters she had written home from her post as a nurse in Washington, DC as a nurse during the Civil War.
When Louisa was 35 years old, her publisher Thomas Niles in Boston asked her to write "a book for girls." Little Women was written at Orchard House from May to July 1868. The novel is based on Louisa and her sisters’ coming of age and is set in Civil War New England. Jo March was the first American juvenile heroine to act from her own individuality; a living, breathing person rather than the idealized stereotype then prevalent in children’s fiction.
In all, Louisa published over 30 books and collections of stories. She died on March 6, 1888, only two days after her father, and is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord.
Ok – questions:
1) The first chapter ends with a discussion between the four girls and their mother about Pilgrim’s Progress and how it applies to their lives. For those who have read Pilgrim’s Progress – how does your recollection of it match up with the way that the March family approaches their lives? For those of us who have not, how does the family approach match our impression of the book. For all – does this make a good framework for the story?
2) What is your impression of the four March girls? Which one most closely matches how you see yourself? Are the characters realistic?
3) I’m intrigued by the character of Beth. My mental impression of her has been that she was always sickly, but upon this reading, I am seeing a different character. What has struck you about the character of Beth, and does it match your previous impression of her?
4) For those who have read the book before (spoiler alerts in this question and answer) – knowing how it unfolds, are you seeing foreshadowing? If you have not read the book before – what is your impression of where the novel is going?
5)What did you think about Marmee and Jo’s discussion about anger and besetting sins? Do you think what Marmee said about the continual wrestling with a passion resonated with you and your experience? What did you think about Marmee and Mr. March’s agreement that he’d help her learn to curb her anger?
Thursday, July 30, 2009
I went to the library today and picked up my copy of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Actually, the book I got is the full Trilogy that includes Little Women, Little Men and Jo's Boys all in one volume. I'm only familiar with the first one so I'm exciting to see all three gathered together.
Then, just to make it interesting, I also picked up a copy of "Invincible Louisa - The Story of the Author of Little Women" by Cornelia Meigs. I was a little wary about how much I'd be able to get into the read since it was located over in the Juvenile section. But once I got started with it I thought, Holy Cow! This book is intended for KIDS??? The vocabulary and the complexity of the sentences seems WAY beyond what most 8th graders would read. So I don't have to worry about it being over simplified. Not sure yet what I think of this particular biographer's writing style. Still, I think it will be fun to first learn more about the life of Louisa May Alcott before I dig into our August choice.
Thanks so much, Mimi, for getting me started down this path. The last two books I've read have been Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child. While they have been absolute page turners I could barely put down, I am definitely ready to move away from mayhem and into classics!
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
I remember when I first read that opening line of an Anna Quindlen essay (and isn’t that a great essay title?) While I’m pretty sure my Dh did not know immediately there was no question for me. In fact, I posit that most women considered Jo their favorite, I think that we do relate to Meg, Beth, and Amy as well. And, who can forget poor Joey on Friends (that's a line we quote often in our house)?
I remember several of the adventures of the March girls (although, not quite what got Amy into trouble, thanks Alana) and have very clear flashes of reading it, but none of them are in my adulthood. Therefore, I was thinking about wanting to re-read the book. I think that I’d understand a lot more of the political interactions (especially after having read Geraldine Brooks’ March) find moments I remember with a grin, and maybe figure out why Jo made the marriage decision she did.
So, as we approach the Dormition fast (when I like to pick up a classic) and being asked to choose the August book*, I thought I’d throw down the gauntlet and propose that anyone who wants to read Little Women with me and I’ll post some discussion questions along the way. I’ll start over the weekend, come join me in the March parlor. And, did you answer the question correctly?
*this will be crossposted.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
I just finished one of the most compelling books I've ever encountered.
It is Crazy For the Storm - A Memoir of Survival by Norman Ollestad.
In this book, Ollestad alternates chapters between the story of the plane crash that he was the lone survivor of at age 11 with stories of his growing up that prepared him for the grueling climb down that ice mountain, the experiences that helped him stay alive.
He describes his dad as a larger than life, highly charismatic figure who pushed him hard to excel at surfing, skiing, hockey - all sorts of physical stuff. Norm Ollestad Sr. pushed his son way further than I as a mother ever could have tolerated. But who is to say how much is too much?
With clear prose that never sugar coats a moment of any of the incidents he describes, "Little Norm" - as he was dubbed growing up, paints amazing word pictures of his early life on Topanga Beach, near Malibu CA in the 70's. He offers glimpses into the life of the surfer culture at a time in history before eminant domain and government regulations changed the California landscape.
Then, in February 1979, in a small Cessna his dad had chartered to take them to go to the awards ceremony for a Ski Race championship that little Norman had just won, they hit the side of a mountain. The pilot, and Normans father, were killed on impact. Little Norman and his dad's girlfriend were both injured, but alive. His depiction of getting down off that mountain is burned into my brain.
The story of the trip young Norman took with his dad to Mexico the previous summer is also told with such riveting images I almost feel as if I was right along with them, slogging through the mud when they got stuck, feeling the salt on my skin at the beach.
This is an amazing book.
It raised so many questions for me.
How far should a parent push a child to do things he or she does NOT want to do if the parent believes it will ultimately be good for the kid?
How far does one parent allow another parent to discipline if (as is often the case) the two have different views on parenting styles?
Why do women stay with men who hit them?
In what ways have things my parents done or not done shaped the way I chose to parent my own kids? How much of that would I change now if I could?
To what extent am I willing to endure physical pain or fear in order to experience bliss or accomplishment on the other side?
What things have I missed out on because I was NOT willing to endure pain or fear?
This is hands down one of the best books I've sampled for a long, long time.
Not only is it a riveting story - his skill with words is amazing. I am convinced that Norman Ollstad would be a good writer telling any tale. But unfolding THIS story, his story, was nothing short of amazing as far as I'm concerned.
I hope he keeps writing.
But whether he does or not, he's given me much to think about.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
What are you guys reading now?
Here is what I've picked up and what I am recommending for whenever my pick happens to be... The Gursney Literary and Potatoe Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I'm about half way through it right now and am finding it to be an absolutely delightful book.
It starts off giving the impression it would be a quick easy read, just a bit of whimsy between some of the more serious fare I had been slogging through. But as I read on I found there are moment of real substance and things that gave me pause to ponder along with plenty of chuckles and one or two outright belly laughs.
Have any of you read this one? I'd love to talk to you about this book!
Saturday, June 27, 2009
I just finished reading "My Sister's Keeper" by Jodi Picoult. I started it last night. I was so totally engrossed by this book I literally could not put it down.
I liked a lot about it. I liked the way her characters were not one dimensional. I liked that it made me think and made me FEEL, even if I didn't always like what I was thinking or what I was feeling. I found it to be a very powerful book.
For me, it was powerful for many reasons, but most of all because I've spent time in a hospital ICU with a dying child. I stood by while one sibling was asked to give a stem cell transplant to his sister. The donor child was Troy, Larry's son who is developmentally disabled. So, while he was technically an adult, due to his disability "informed consent" for the procedure was essentially meaningless. He did what his parents asked him to do. Considering his inability to understanad the implications, was it right to ask this of him? I honestly don't know. I wrestled with it then. I wrestle with it now. Would I feel differently had the procedure been successful? I'm honestly not sure. In the end, it was not the cancer that killed Stacy. It was the stem cell transplant. It was a very gruesome, gruelling, awful thing to go through with her. Watching what she went through broke all of our hearts. Still, it was our only hope. So...yeah, I have lots of murky feelings about this.
Fast forward a few years to when my grandson was having his THIRD open heart surgery when he was about 10. I paid close attention to how the whole family responded to that crisis...and we are not out of the woods with Austin yet. Doctors implanted a cow valve, since the two prior attempts to repair his own defective valve had not been successful. So far it seems to be working...but he will most definitely need another surgery as he gets older because his heart will grow, but the dead cow valve will not. So more hospitalizations are looming. This book reminds me all over again how very, very important it is to NOT lose sight of the OTHER kids needs when we huddle together when A. goes back under the knife.
Also it raises another aspect of medical ethics. How do I feel about Xeno-transplants, putting animal tissues or organs into people? As grateful as I am to have my grandson mostly well, I do wonder. Is it any different to put a piece of cow in my grandson's heart than it is to eat a burger? Those of us who eat meat sustain our lives at the expense of animals every day. Still...it feels different. Would I feel any different if it were a different kind of animal that we do not typically eat? I think of the little girl who got a baboon heart. Would I sign off on that?? If it were MY kid who was critically ill, where would I draw the line at what I would or would not do in order to save my child?
I think the author did a good job of raising issues about medical ethics without getting too heavy handed with answers. I also think she did a good job of portraying the complexities of what it can be like for a family wrestling with the serious illness of one child and losing sight of the needs of the others.
As for the ending - I really did not see it coming. I had heard it had a "terrible ending", but that was a twist I did not expect. I've heard the movie has a completely different ending. I'm glad to hear that, although in truth I can accept the book's version of ending as another reminder that life is complicated, brutal, beautiful and seldom turns out how you thought it would.
All in all I found it a very engrossing book. I plan to read more from this author.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Let's start with "The Middle Place". I watch the video that Amber sent and I was very excited to read this book. What I got from the video and what the book was actually about were a bit different than I expected. I thought that this book was going to be about a group of friends and their friendships over time (that's not what it was about).
As I began the book and read the part about how The Middle Place is "that sliver of time when parenthood and childhood overlap" I could identify. Although my "Middle Place" feels like a boulder of time when adulthood and childhood overlap. Continually seeking the approval of parents yet still trying to figure out how to live my life regardless of what my parents think (for the record they would always love me even if I was a street rat).
I thought this book would make me cry, it didn't. I thought this book would touch my soul given that one of my dearest friends has breast cancer, it didn't. I thought I would have some kind of emotional connection, but I didn't. Well, that is not entirely true, I did love her dad.
I enjoyed reading the book and I would call it a quick good read. Unfortunately, I expected it to be about one thing and it was about another. Another one of those 'don't set your expectations to high and you won't be disappointed' type thing.
ONWARD . . .
"My Sister's Keeper" was a good read that I thought would make me cry, it didn't. I am very much looking forward to watching the movie to see how the screen writers adapted it for the movies.
Usually, I don't like books that are written by multiple characters perspective because the story generally becomes repetitious. However, the Author did a WONDERFUL job. When one character's perspective ended the next character seamlessly continued the story.
The ending was HORRIBLE. I felt like the Author didn't know how to end it so she took the easy way out. After dragging (not sure if that is the right word because I really liked the book and the word "dragging" implies that I didn't like it) the book out it ended too quickly.
. . . .and that is how I am ending this blog.
FYI don't forget to vote for June's book!
Thursday, May 28, 2009
1. The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield (I started reading this one first because it has the earliest due-back date. I'm on page 13 right now, and so far so good.)
2. The Memory Keeper's Daughter - Kim Edwards
3. These Is My Words - Nancy E. Turner
If anyone has a better idea let me know - I'm no good at this sort of thing.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
One of the most important works of twentieth-century American Literature, Nora Neal Hurston's beloved 1937 classic, Their Eyes Were Watch God, is an enduring Southern love story sparkling with wit, beauty and heartfelt wisdom. Told in the captivating voice of a woman who refuses to live in sorrow, bitterness, fear, or foolish romantic dreams, it is the story of a fair skinned, fiercely independent Janie Crawford, and her evolving selfhood through three marriages and a life marked by poverty, trials, and purpose. A true literary wonder, Hurston's masterwork remains as relevant and affecting today as when it was first published--perhaps the most widely read and highly regarded novel in the entire canon of African American literature.
About the author: Zora Neal Hurston (1891-1960) was a novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist whose fictional and factual accounts of black heritage remain unparalleled. Her many books include Dust Tracks on a Road; Jonah's Gourd Vine; Mules and Men; Seraph on the Suwanee; Moses, Man of the Mountain; and Every Tongue Got to Confess.
I'm just getting started with the book, but so far I'm enjoying it. It took me a little while to adjust to the phonetic spellings of the southern dialect. For example, when the main character is telling her friend about the day she ran away from slavery she describes it like this:
"She flounced on off and let her wintertime wid me. Ah knowed mah body wasn't healed, but Ah couldn't consider dat. In de black dark Ah wrapped mah baby de best Ah knowed how and made it to de swamp by de river. Ah knowed de place was full uh moccasins and other bitin'snakes, but Ah was more skeered uh whut was behind me. Ah hide in dere day and night and suckled de baby every time she start to cry, for fear somebody might hear her and Ah'd git found. Ah ain't sayin' uh friend or two didn't feel mah care. And den de Good Lawd seen to it dat Ah wasn't taken..."
I'm enjoying getting caught up in the world of these charaters, this time period.
I just wish I had more time to just get lost in my reading instead of having to scramble for stolen pockets of time between so many other things...
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
In Feb. 2003 a plane crashed in the Colombian Jungle filled three civilian contractors from America. The minute they landed they were taken captive by the FARC (columbian terrorist organization). They remained in captivity for five years.
I first heard of their story in 2008 when they were all over the news after being rescued. However, their story was overshadowed by the news story of Ingrid Betancourt, a French-Colombian politician, who was also held prisoner and rescued in the same rescue mission. Needless to say when I saw that the three men had written a book I eagerly purchased and dove into the story.
Even though I essentially knew the story, this book was another good read that I highly recommend.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Hopefully I'll get back in sync with the group before long. But for now I'm off on my own tangent. Thought I'd let you know what I've picked up to read lately and see if anyone else might want to come along for the ride.
I'm reading The Great Influenza by John Barry. I'm just getting started, but so far it has been a facinating read. Meticulously researched without too much technical jargon, this book gives the history of how medicine evolved as a science and describes the social, political, and biologial confluence of events that came together in the terrible flu epidemic of 1918 that killed more people than World War I and more than we have lost to AIDS. In just one city (Philadelphia - the hardest hit) in Philadelphia, 4,597 people died in one week alone and bodies piled up on the streets to be carted off to mass graves.
Barry describes the panic and despair of the people, the driven determination of the doctors trying to find a cause and a cure, and the misguided governmental policies and priorities that exacerbated the disaster.
I've had this book sitting on my shelf for a long time...picked it up with a stack of others at a library book sale in Sequim a few years ago but for one reason or another just never got around to reading it. Finally I made time to pick it up.
It has been absolutely riveting.
Now I am mindful of a phrase I found years ago when I was doing the lit review for my masters thesis. Some Harvard doctor in the 1800's was explaining why education was unwise for females...after a long description on the size of women's brains as compared to mens and cautions about how over education could create complications in childbearing (I'm not making this up!) he further went on to warn that if women were given the same educational opportunities as men they would neglect their household duties...
Well, on THAT note the guy was right. I have absolutely no interest in doing the laundry, in dusting or scrubbing the sink. All I want to do right now is curl up with a good book.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
I too hate violence. I would much prefer a diplomatic approach to any sort of conflict. But that is not reality. My perspective is a bit different because my husband is a police officer. They too are trained in violence. But, I am very grateful they are. We live in a violent world, and the stories I hear often rock me to the core. Although I believe the world is full of goodness and amazing people, there is much evil. Horrible people walk the streets daily; our soldiers/military personnel/officers exist because of that.
My husband is trained to kill. And I am glad. It helps me sleep at night knowing that there is one more competent "good guy" on the street to help balance things out. He comes home bloody and bruised after combat training. I hate seeing him that way, but I am humbled. He is willing to risk his life to ensure we remain safe. He is willing to give up a 9-5 desk job with a hefty salary, kiss his family goodnight and head out to keep our community safe from harm. Each night he risks his safety without the cover of some magic hero cape; he has no super powers. He must rely on his training. He must rely on that grueling, innocence breaking training.
It isn't pretty. It isn't pleasant. It certainly isn't enjoyable to read about. But it is necessary. My husband is a good cop. He is thorough. He is hard working. He is honest. He does everything in his power to avoid violence. He does not want to pull his weapon. He does not want to be a killing machine. But our world does not allow for anything different. Sadly, there is no Utopia. And just as I must watch him drive into the darkness each night, many fathers, mothers, wives, must send their sons and husbands off to fight a war we would rather not be fighting.
I understand this book was a hard read. I get that. I also respect the decision to put it down. But please know that there is much more than arrogance and testosterone behind the uniform. There is beauty in bravery. There is beauty in courage. And there is beauty in understanding.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
The weekend of my 40th birthday my husband and I hiked the trail to Wallace Falls, near Gold Bar, WA. The first hour or so was absolutely gorgeous and wonderful. The trail danced in and out of sunlight and shade, taking us through deep forest that felt like a fairytale, showing amazing vistas of moss and ferns and flowers and so much green. But then we hit the steep parts of the trail and I realized I was woefully unprepared for the climb.
I tried to pace myself. But my muscles were screaming. I gritted my teeth and kept going, but was not having much fun. I scrambled my way over rocks and pulled myself up by branches as the trail went up and up and up. Finally, winded and aching, I sat down and quit. I said I'd seen plenty of waterfalls in my time and it just wasn't worth it to go through that much pain to see one more. I was done in. I sent my husband on ahead to finish the climb without me, telling him he could tell me all about it on his way back down. I was not about to go another step.
About that time some hikers coming back down from the falls came along and said to me "Oh no, you CAN'T quit here - you are almost there! Come on, it really is worth it! You will be so sorry if you let yourself miss out this close. You can make it!"
So, a bit rested and encouraged by these enthusiastic hikers, I got back up and finished the climb. They were right. It was worth it. It was a breathtaking view.
Ever since that day I've given quite a lot of thought to when, why and under what circumstances I am willing to endure pain/difficulty/struggle to achieve a goal and when, why and under what circumstances I am more likely to quit.
I believe some pain is there to make us stronger, and enduring that pain is ultimately for our own good. There are other kinds of pain that are there as a message to change course quick for our safety and best interest, screaming out "hey, dummy, take your hand off that hot stove!"
The trick is in sorting out which is which.
As I was reading Lone Survivor, I disliked most of it. But I was determined to hang in there and keep going. It would get better, I kept telling myself. It would be worth it in the end. Right from the start I didn't like it. Four or five times I put the book down for a few days. But each time I would pick it back up and try again. I was trying to endure this book about endurance. But finally, I decided to throw in the towel. Having made it only to page 107, I'm ready to bail out of this book. I quit.
As the author goes about describing his Navy Seal training, it has been all about enduring extremely grueling tests one after the other without one bit of encouragement and withstanding levels of pain that to me would be spirit breaking.
It seems like he wants the reader to be impressed by how tough he was. Frankly, I wasn't all that impressed. All I can say is, testosterone is a scary thing.
I get it that our military has a need for turning men into killing machines that will follow orders no matter what. I get it that I am personally safer in the world because there are people like the Navy Seals who are willing to become warriors, disciplining their bodies and minds to endure excruciating pain and lay their lives on the line. I get it that based on the need for that our military justifies this sort of treatment of soldiers and sailors. But I HATE it. I hate everything about it.
I don't really think being able to withstand torture makes someone better or stronger. Yes, it makes them better prepared for horrible, ugly battles. And we live in a world where those battles are fought far more often than I want to know. But I'd rather read about someone who used diplomacy to resolve conflict than how they trained men to blow people away.
It is a hard reality of this world that we need to train some of our sweet young sons into hardened soldiers. But I am not happy about that and I will not read any more of this book. I do not see the merit of enduring this book. I see no beauty waiting for me at the end.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
In all honesty I wasn't a fan of how the book was written however, that does not effect the emotions that I was thrown into as I read. I seethed with rage, my heart pounded with fear, my toes curled with the intensity of the story, my eyes teared with sadness, and I had tears of joy.
Most of my seething had to do with the media and how Marcus' reinforced what I already knew. It made me want to write letters in complete anger telling the media how little respect I have for their "non-biased" reporting.
The media made an impact on the four Navy SEALs decision making process that was so pivotal it could have saved ALL of their lives. The four SEALs ran into three goat headers in the mountains who insisted that they were not Taliban.
"The military decision was clear: these guys could not leave there alive".
If the goat herders were released they could compromise their mission if they talked. After the SEALs debated and voted. They decided that they would let the goat herders go which was "military suicide". The reason? Because of the American media.
"When they find the bodies, the Taliban leaders will sing to the Afghan media. The Media in the U.S.A. will latch on to it and write stuff about the brutish U.S. Armed Forces. Very shortly after that, we'll (the SEALs) be charged with murder. The murder of innocent unarmed Afghan farmers."
The SEALs released the goat herders who ran straight for the hills. Thus begins the Taliban hunt for the four Navy SEALs.
". . .if the liberal media and political community cannot accept that sometimes the wrong people get killed in war, then I can only suggest they first grow up and then serve a short stint up in the Hindu Kush. They probably would not survive."
Overall I thought this book was a good and at times intense read. I have come away with an even greater appreciation for our military and an even greater love for our country.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
I actually read Sarah in January, because I read it in 24 hours or less. That's how I am sometimes. I do things obsessively. Then I moved on to the second book in the series. I have not read the third book, because my little library doesn't have it. Anyway, that is neither here nor there. What I am trying to say is that I don't really remember much about Sarah. I liked the book. I remember that much, but beyond that it gets a little fuzzy.
I was left with an overall opinion of, and frustration with that era (which was already well-established after reading The Red Tent last summer), which is this: wasn't anyone, man or woman (but especially woman), ever allowed to just say what they thought? The way women had to tiptoe around their peers, their servants, and even their husbands (aren't spouses supposed to be the ONE person with whom we share EVERYthing?) made me want to scream! Is that really how life was back then? For some reason it makes me sad to think that it was. Maybe it's my inner hopeless romantic talking, but it doesn't seem like any woman was cherished and loved quite the way they should have been, if they ever had an iota of fear over being cast out because of something they said. Does that make sense? I am having a hard time putting my thoughts into words with this. I realize that it was a different culture in a different time, but to me love is love. Did love and devotion mean something less back then? I understand that a certain order had to be maintained, but what about in the privacy of the tent? Could husband and wife never speak honestly to one another without fear? Will I ever start a new paragraph, or will this one just go on and on into oblivion?
Does anyone else know what I'm trying to say, cause obviously I don't. I just find that when I read books that take place in "Bible" times, and become immersed in a female character (which I am bound to do - it's kind of scary, actually), I inevitably feel like I am suffocating. Am I the only one? Anyone?
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
So far we've had postings about our Feb book, "Sarah" by Mimi, Pat and myself. Still waiting to hear from Amber, Andrea and Rozel about their views. Where are you guys? This isn't a nag - if for some reason you have not finished it yet (or even if you never started) there is no bat to beat you up! This is not school homework. We agreed from the start this would be a guilt free reading group. Still, we also said we would encourage each other to contribute. So, if you have read the book, or are somewhere along the way, I am genuinely curious what your reactions have been and hope you'll each be posting some thoughts soon.
Meanwhile we should all be locating a copy of our next book for March. We'll be reading Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10
This is what it is about: "Four US Navy SEALS departed one clear night in early July 2005 for the mountainous Afghanistan-Pakistan border for a reconnaissance mission. Their task was to document the activity of an al Qaeda leader rumored to be very close to Bin Laden with a small army in a Taliban stronghold. Five days later, only one of those Navy SEALS made it out alive.
This is the story of the only survivor of Operation Redwing, SEAL fire team leader Marcus Luttrell, and the extraordinary firefight that led to the largest loss of life in American Navy SEAL history. His squadmates fought valiantly beside him until he was the only one left alive, blasted by an RPG into a place where his pursuers could not find him. Over the next four days, terribly injured and presumed dead, Luttrell crawled for miles through the mountains and was taken in by sympathetic villagers who risked their lives to keep him safe from surrounding Taliban warriors.
A born and raised Texan, Marcus Luttrell takes us from the rigors of SEAL training, where he and his fellow SEALs discovered what it took to join the most elite of the American special forces, to a fight in the desolate hills of Afghanistan for which they never could have been prepared. His account of his squadmates' heroism and mutual support renders an experience that is both heartrending and life-affirming. In this rich chronicle of courage and sacrifice, honor and patriotism, Marcus Luttrell delivers a powerful narrative of modern war. " (from Amazon.com product description.)
I've got my copy ordered at my local library ...they say it is due March 9 so I should get to start it pretty soon. (HOPEFULLY the current reader won't be late!)
As you are reading if you come up with thoughts for books for the next six months, feel free to throw the ideas out here. I often go to used book sales and it would be nice to have a list of titles to be on the lookout for.
Happy reading ladies!
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
But all of that went tumbling away from my mind when I got to Cards afterword section where he introduces the notion of "Pious Lies", claiming that Abraham was completely justified in lying about Sarah being his sister rather than his wife when in the court of Pharaoh. (Interesting that Card made it Pharaoh who they were dealing with.)
Anyway I have been thinking A LOT about that, and struggling with the whole notion.
On the one hand I DO believe that the Lord can and does give specific instruction to specific individuals that require them to violate a basic commandment.
For example, in the Book of Mormon we have the story of how Nephi is commanded to slay Laban so that Nephi can get the Brass Plates and preserve his own life. He is told that it is better for one man to perish than a whole nation struggle in ignorance and unbelief which is what will happen if they don't have the critical records to teach their people from. I can accept that.
So if Abram/Abraham was given specific revelation from God to say Sariah/Sarah was his sister, based on my faith in revelation and that Abram/Abraham was indeed a true prophet, I could accept that.
What I do NOT accept is that any time an individual thinks their life is in danger they are totally justified to say or do anything they think they may need to in order to preserve their own safety. I think in some extreme cases it might be understandable and excusable to lie my way out of danger, but I think Card was just a bit too flippant about how he addressed this issue.
Honesty and integrity are precious commodities that seem to be little valued in our modern society. In far too many situations people fall back on thinking the ends justifies the means. So I am wondering - in what cases do I think it would be justified to lie to save my life? In what cases would I not?
Would I deny my testimony of Jesus Christ if I was told I would be killed unless I refuted that belief? I hope not.
Would I lie to a burglar who held a gun at my head if I knew a way to convince him/her that I was more valuable alive than dead? Probably.
I've been thinking about the "social lies" that are often told in order to spare some one's feelings. I'm thinking about all the many ways that I measure my own integrity and whether there are areas where I could specifically do a better job at honoring the truth.
Sarah was an ok book. I strongly preferred the other novel about her life by Marek Halter. Card's version didn't seem to stay true to the cultural / historical context how Patriarchy would have played out and his two primary women characters were way too one sided.
His writing in this book was not powerful for me, as it was in the novel Pastwatch which takes a very interesting twist on the Christopher Columbus story, or Stone Tables that gives us a view into the life of Moses and his family. I'm still a fan of several of his works. This one, for me, falls short.
Friday, February 20, 2009
One thing I loved was the the author's description of Sarah's aches and pains carrying a baby and giving birth as an OLD woman! (Just reading the account in Genesis doesn't make you stop and think how hard that must have been for her in her advanced age.)
I'm much younger than Sarah was at the time Isaac was born, but can empathize in that the ol' body and joints just aren't what they used to be.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
I am planning to finish up SARAH soon and will be posting my impressions of that book.
But here's a thought. I'm sure all of us, avid readers that we are, may read OTHER books that we won't be discussing as a group. Any time you come to a quote or an idea in whatever you are reading, how about post it here?
For instance, I just started listening to the book "Finding Noel" by Richard Paul Evans on my commute back and forth to work. I had to giggle at this line:
"Chocolate is God's apology for broccoli."
Hey, I LIKE broccoli. But it amused me just the same.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
This is TOO GOOD to be missed. It takes about 15 minutes to watch (I think, didn't really time it.) But it has some POWERFUL ideas. When you get a chance, take a look and let me know your thoughts, ok?
Here is the link to Gilbert's speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86x-u-tz0MA
Beyond really appreciating THIS talk, it turned me on to a whole new resource I was unfamiliar with - Ted.com Do you guys know about this? There's some GREAT stuff here! How am I supposed to go ahead and get ready for my day now when I just want to soak this up???
Friday, February 13, 2009
My first blush thought on this book was that I was left feeling like the first half was incredibly detailed and the second half was rushed. In fact, this morning I re-read Genesis to discover if Sarah died (spoiler alert) before Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac due to the fact that the book didn't address it at all other than to hint at it.
I also was curious, after reading Card's afterward, about the additional information about Abraham that is in the Pearl of Great Price, and I look forward to the LDS ladies in this discussion to expand on this topic, if you'd like.
What did you think about Card's decision to make Qira and Sarai sisters, and to make Qira Lot's wife? What did you think about his treatment of the destruction of Sodom?
All in all, what did you think about the book?
I look foward to hearing your thoughts, and to discussing it further.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
I loved this book and I despised this book. I find myself hesitant to recommend it, yet eager to get others input. I felt, as I dove in both times, that I had been taken on a roller coaster ride. One page had me on a highlighting frenzy, in an effort to remember some of the most masterfully crafted quotes, while the next had me shaking my fist at her narcissistic ways.
If we take it from the top, we find her crumbled in a heap on her bathroom floor, reeling from the realization that, because of her hesitation to take the next "logical" step in a marriage, hers was over. Perhaps it was her reluctance to divulge details of her failing marriage, but I felt very little pity for her. I know the entire basis for the book hinges on her unhappiness with her current All-American life. But knowing how blessed she was in so many aspects of her life leads me to question why I should feel sorry for her plight when there are millions struggling through much more drastic circumstances. I am quite aware that makes me heartless, but I had trouble buying into the whole whoa is me scenario. And yet, she has the ability to write in such a manner that almost forces you to keep reading, joining her on a journey you may not even support.
The journey itself often felt contrived. Knowing that each step had been paid for with an advance, banking on the lessons learned from her travels, I often struggled with whether or not her experiences were authentic. Don't get me wrong, I do not question that she was unhappy and therefore took this journey to find herself. I just wonder if she would have arrived at the same destination spiritually, physically and mentally if she was forced to navigate through her hardships like the Average Joe, and not with the security of a book advance paving the way.
Now onto Italy, my favorite section by far. There is something to be said about indulging, and as she literally ate her way through the country, I was not only intrigued but also envious. She lived without the fear of consequence (not even the 23 pounds gained made her pause), and the pleasure achieved because of it is something to be sought after.
In marked contrast, India was by far my least favorite section. Not only did I find the writing itself lacking her usual page turner style, but her experiences troubled me. I am open to all religious views. I may have my own, but I am always curious and eager to learn and explore other religions. So it was not the focus on Eastern religions that gave me pause, but rather her insistence on forcing the experience on herself, regardless of the price. This was a section that I felt was less of a personal struggle and more of an experience to have that would eventually find its way to her pages.
Although it differs from mine, I had no problem with her definition of God or even her desire to find her spirituality. And I do not think that being religious is always easy or effortless, but I do not feel it should be a struggle of that magnitude. It seemed almost counterproductive to me and I had to set the book down for a few days to get through it.
And I guess, in the same way Gilbert was attempting to strike a balance between the "Eat" and the "Pray" discovered in the first 2 sections, I felt equal part love and equal part hate for the last section. I loved her character descriptions and the relationships built in Bali, but I felt the relationship with Felipe went against all she had been preaching throughout the book. And to know she went on to marry him further cemented that hypocrisy.
With that said, I feel Gilbert is a gifted story teller. She weaves her encounters into the book in such a way that I felt connected to the people she met and befriended, and wanted to know what became of them. And overall, I felt it was more her obviously brilliant writing ability and less her self-discovery and insight, that led me to enjoy this book. But it is probably not a book I will read again, because I do not believe it will uphold the 3rd-times-a-charm theory.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
This is what I found about it so far:
"Sarai was a child of ten years, wise for her age but not yet a woman, when she first met Abram. He appeared before her in her father's house, filthy from the desert, tired and thirsty. But as the dirt of travel was washed from his body, the sight of him filled her heart. And when Abram promises Sarai to return in ten years to take her for his wife, her fate was sealed.
Abram kept his promise, and Sarai kept hers. They were wed, and so joined the royal house of Ur with the high priesthood of the Hebrews. So began a lifetime of great joy together, and greater peril; and with the blessing of their God, a great nation would be built around the core of their love.
Bestselling author Orson Scott Card uses his fertile imagination, and uncanny insight into human nature, to tell the story of a unique woman -- one who is beautiful, tough, smart, and resourceful in an era when women had little power, and are scarce in the historical record. Sarah, child of the desert, wife of Abraham, takes on vivid reality as a woman desirable to kings, a devoted wife, and a faithful follower of the God of Abraham, chosen to experience an incomparable miracle."
And then this piece from Post-Gazette.com
"As Card tells it, Sarai (as she is called until God changes her name late in life) first meets Abram (later Abraham) when she’s 10. He has come to pay the bride price for his nephew Lot to marry Qira, Sarai’s sister. Abram tells Sarai he’ll be back to marry her in 10 more years.
Problem is, she’s been promised to the goddess Asherah as a temple worshiper for life.
When Abram does return, Sarai breaks the vow her father made to Asherah, marries Abram and goes off to lead the nomadic life. A supremely honorable woman, she wins the love of every servant in the camp -- unlike Qira, who grumbles that the upright Lot does nothing to befriend the dirty men of Sodom and increase their social standing. When Lot leaves Sodom to join Abram in the desert, Qira has no choice but to go along. She offends everyone in the camp, while the love shown to Sarai only grows.
And that’s the problem. Card makes his two major female characters too one-sided. Sarai calls to mind the tragic hero of ancient drama -- perfection on legs if it weren’t for one fatal flaw, and one flaw only. Sarai’s flaw is her nagging concern that Asherah really does exist, and the goddess is inflicting barrenness on Sarai because of the broken vow.
In all else, Sarai is perfect. She selflessly offers her handmaid, Hagar, as a gift to Abram in order for Abram to have a child by her. After Hagar’s son Ishmael is born, Sarai displays not the slightest hint of cattiness toward Hagar. Even in disagreements with Abram, Sarai is always right, and Abram has to go seek the Lord to come to the conclusions that his wife has already suggested.
Qira, on the other hand, has not one redeeming quality. She ridicules everyone and even considers her own daughters an annoyance. She’s too easy to hate.
Despite these drawbacks, the story is well-told. Abram is more multifaceted. So is Hagar, who seems at times to be Sarai’s best friend and at other times her fiercest competitor. A servant since girlhood, Hagar wants to love and be loved but is hampered by her impulse to steal every advantage.
The story moves swiftly, climaxing at several points, such as Abram and Sarai’s stay in Egypt when the pharaoh wants to take Sarai as his wife. It is a quick and interesting read.
The biggest problem I foresee for this book is winning an audience. The natural audience -- Christian and Jewish people who know and love the story of Abraham and Sarah -- may well be offended by the liberties Card takes.
Some can be excused as poetic license or convenience -- for instance, making Sarai and Qira sisters adds a heightened level of interest.
But other changes will be more offensive to people who cherish the biblical story. For instance, Card dismisses the miracle of Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt. In an afterword, Card, a Mormon, explains that choice and others, probably meaning to mollify traditionalists but perhaps making the situation worse than if he had simply left his choices a mystery.
So if many Christian and Jewish readers are put off by this book, who’s left to read it? Historical fiction fans? Not necessarily. Most responsible historical fiction embeds a made-up story within a such a factual setting as a documented Civil War battle. But Card readily admits he’s not doing that here; he doesn’t have enough historical facts to work from because the story is so ancient.
And that’s the real crux of the matter. A warning for those who might hope to find in this book a responsible theological discussion, a historical record or a devotional: “Sarah” is based on the barest of facts, and her character is largely a creation of Card’s own imagination. This is an intriguing story -- with the emphasis on the word story."
So as I begin this book I am curious, eager, and cautious. I am reminded that this IS a work of FICTION, based on what we know from the bible.
I just finished reading the book about Sarah in the Canaan Trilogy by Merek Halter It will be interesting to see how Orson Scott Card's interpretation of the same character will compare.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
There are three books to choose from:
Rachel and Leah
I have not yet decided which one I will be reading...I'll probably make a trip to the library and see what I can get there before I buy one.
But while I am sorting that out, I thought I'd share a little background about the author.
Born in Richland, Washington in 1951, Orson Scott Card grew up in California, Arizona, and Utah. He lived in Brazil for two years as an unpaid missionary for the Mormon Church and received degrees from Brigham Young University (1975) and the University of Utah (1981). The author of numerous books, Card was the first writer to receive both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novel two years in a row, first for Ender's Game and then for the sequel Speaker for the Dead. He lives with his wife and children in North Carolina.
While he is best known for his science fiction novels Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow, Orson Scott Card has written in many other forms and genres. Beginning with dozens of plays and musical comedies produced in the 1960s and 70s, Card's first published fiction appeared in 1977 -- the short story "Gert Fram" in the July issue of The Ensign, and the novelet version of "Ender's Game" in the August issue of Analog.
While Card's early science fiction stories and novels were earning attention (Card won the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer from the World Science Fiction Convention in 1978), he supported his family primarily by writing scripts for audiotapes produced by Living Scriptures of Ogden, Utah.
(Info taken from Card's website, Hatrack.com)
I LOVED the book Pastwatch. I was enchanted by Stone Tables. Folks on the Fringe stuck with me long after I put it down. I've long enjoyed work by OSC. But it has been a while since I've sampled his work. I'm excited to get back to his stuff, and to get a new view of some powerful women from the Bible. I look forward to hearing what my fellow Page Nibblers have to say about their readings...no matter what they choose.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
EPL prompted me to ask myself, "What three things do I want most in life?" "What would you enjoy doing today?"
It gave me many thoughts to ponder. Here are a few:
1. p. 61 Americans don't know sheer pleasure - the beauty of doing nothing.
2. p. 178 Master your thinking.
3. pgs 196, 197, 198, 199, Being in the turiya state.
4. p. 231 Smile! Even smile in your liver.
And, the big one that I've been thinking most about:
Meditation is the act of listening to God ....
As Christians we ( I ) pray to God and am always wanting to draw closer to Him and know His will for me. I always do a lot of "talking to God" but usually don't take much time "trying to listen to Him". So I've been pondering this question: If the Indian people can meditate for hours on end, can't I, as a Christian, ponder and listen (meditate) for more than just a few minutes in my day???!
Good book. Lots of food for thought.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
I can't believe how much I am enjoying this book! I just finished the Italy section, and am a few pages into India. While there were several things that stood out to me, the whole "pleasure is a lost art to Americans" thing stuck with me, and I have been thinking about it a lot. I have been on a quest, of sorts, this year to get to know myself, and to become more content, so maybe that's why I felt especially taken with this idea. It got me wondering what I like. What gives me pleasure? What brings me joy? And how can I derive happiness from the things I am already doing? Most days I think I just fulfill my responsibilities with a sense of duty and don't allow time to enjoy anything. I am so wrapped-up in the accomplishing of tasks, that (it pains me to admit) I go mindlessly about my day (Rozel, your comments on this subject put my thoughts into words perfectly). I am usually cross with my children, and for no specific reason. I am getting on my nerves. I am ready for a change. But how? I announced to my husband that I will be taking at least a month off to travel to Italy. That is the only solution I can think of.
Okay, and this is just a little random piece of personal info: I have also been pondering the author's declaration that having a child because you are afraid of future regret is NOT a good reason to have a child. I know I probably shouldn't base my life on something Elizabeth Gilbert wrote, but for Heaven's sake, it is like she knew exactly what I was thinking. So does that make it an answer to MY prayers? It sure would be helpful if it were. Mysterious ways and all that...?
Saturday, January 10, 2009
I particularly related to the section on page 23 where the author says:
"For years, I'd wished I could speak Italian--a language I find more beautiful than roses-- but I could never make the practical justification for studying it. Why not just bone up on the French of Russian I'd already studied years ago? Or learn to speak Spanish, the better to help me communicate with millions of my fellow Americans? What was I going to do with Italian? It's not like I was going to move there. It would be more practical to learn how to play the accordion.
But why must everything always have a practical application? I'd been such a diligent soldier for years--working, producing, never missing a deadline, taking care of my loved ones, my gums and my credit record, voting, etc. Is this lifetime supposed to be only about duty? In this dark period of loss, did I need any justification for learning Italian other than that it was the only thing I could imagine bringing me me any pleasure right now? ..."
Yeah, I could relate.
For many years I've piled load upon load of responsibilities on my own plate, scrambling from one "should do" or "ought to do" to another, too often confusing RELAXING with sloth, an unpardonable crime.
My focus all too often has been more on accomplishing, achieving and acquiring than it has been about savoring, relishing, appreciating.
I'm working at shifting the balance of that in my world.
Another part that really hit me was over on page 42-43 where she talks about beginning formal language classes in Italy. She has to take an entrance test that will determine which level she will be place in, Level One is the most basic, for brand new beginners. It becomes VERY important to her to prove she can make it to at least Level Two. The scorn she feels for Level One is absolute. After all, she had begun learning the language while she was still back in New York. She has practiced. She has studied. She is ready to shine. So she pushes out her very best effort and does indeed make it to Level Two.
However, she flounders there, feeling out of her depth, way beyond the right fit. She writes:
"Classes begin in the afternoon. So I go eat lunch (roasted endive) then saunter back to the school and smugly walk past all those Level One students (who must be molot stupido, really) and enter my first class.. With my peers. Except that it becomes swiftly evident that these re not my peers and that I have no business being here because Level Two is really impossibly hard.
I feel like I'm swimming, but barely. Like I'm taking in water with every breath. The teacher, a skinny guy (why are the teachers so skinny here? I don't trust skinny Italians),is going way too fast, skipping over whole chapters of the textbook saying, "You already know this, you already know that..." and keeping up a rapid-fire conversation with my apparently fluent classmates. My stomach is gripped in horror and I'm gasping for air and praying he won't call on me.
Just as soon as the break comes, I run out of that classroom on wobbling legs and I scurry all the way over to the administrative office almost in tears, where I beg in very clear English if they could please move me down to a Level One class. And so they do. And now I am here. This teacher is plump and speaks slowly. This is much better."
OH how I recognize in myself the driven need to prove my advanced proficiency at ever so many things...even when it meant putting myself into circumstances that were way beyond me. Unfortunately, unlike the author, I have not often had the courage to recognize it and fall back, take things at a more appropriate pace. Instead, I've just pushed and pushed and pushed to keep up, making myself nutty in the process.
Maybe there is a lesson there for me... maybe I CAN set my sights "lower" and find the right fit in things I take on. Hell, I have nothing to prove to anyone else. It's high time I quit scrambling to prove whatever it is I'm trying to prove to myself.
Yeah, I really like this book - even the parts that make me a little uncomfortable. Maybe ESPECIALLY the parts that make me uncomfortable. It makes me think, to ponder, to recognize. I'm enjoying it way more than I thought that I would.
I just finished the section on Italy. Now I'm off to India where she will be exploring Spirituality. I can't wait!