Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Reading with Your Kids?

Need a quick "pick-me-up" type of read? In the spirit of the holiday season? I just downloaded Barbara Robinson's The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Glad I did. Now it's my kids turn. They won't put up a fuss, since they heard plenty-o-giggles my way.

How often do we really seek out the face of God in others? No matter who they are or where they came from? (I can't take credit for this question. It was posed to our congregation in our priest's homily a few weeks ago.) It's certainly something I need to ask of myself more often. And this cleverly crafted story which recounts how the shunned clan known as the Herdmans manage to transform the annual Christmas Pageant from a rote ritual into what the Christmas story is meant to be. And while the pageant was a bit clumsy and unorthodox, it was perfectly heartfelt and undeniably real. I love a message when it's spun with humor. Speaking of...

On to Diary of a Wimpy Kid's Cabin Fever with my son. I sense a theme in my reading material these next few weeks. Oh–happy times! The most wonderful time of the year!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Three Weeks with My Brother by Nicholas Sparks

A few years ago (quite a few actually), having just finished vacationing with our best friends at the Great Wolf Lodge, we were getting ready to head home from Kansas City. While it had been a fun vacation, all of us were tired. And a bit cranky. The kids were on the verge of shattering our nerves and I was praying the four hour ride home would be...peaceful.

"Have you read The Notebook?" asked my dear friend Amy, handing over her copy as we parted ways.

I'm not sure if my husband has ever forgiven me for completely ignoring the crying kids in the backseat while his wife read, sniffled, and cried for the duration of our trip home. (I think it's why he gets annoyed every time I try to force the DVD on him as well.) Anyway the point to this verbose anecdote? It was my introduction to Nicholas Sparks. And my sensitive soul was hooked on his works.

I'm a fan of Mr. Sparks, but I have to pace myself when reading (or watching) his creations. Since I'm likely to cry over a well-crafted soap commercial, you can imagine how I'm affected by A Walk to Remember. Needless to say, I greatly respect this author. So, when my good friend Diane brought me Three Weeks with My Brother by Nicholas and his brother, Micah, I was excited to read a piece of his non-fiction! This certainly wouldn't be a tear-jerker.

Au contraire.

The book intertwines a three-week trip that Nick embarks upon with his brother and his own personal history, beginning with his childhood. And while I dived into the book thinking, "How lucky for this guy to become an overnight success," I certainly have different sentiments now. Mr. Sparks writes about the human heart so beautifully because he himself has been struck by tragedy himself. And not just once. I'm fairly certain Nicholas Sparks would trade his fortune for the family members he's lost.

But don't think this is a sad book. It's not! There's actually a fair bit of humor. And this author is so talented that you think you're reading a travel/memoir, then all of the sudden, wham! You just learned a lesson about life...

I myself have been working, working, working. Trying to finish this project. Trying to get to that project. But not really living. And that's what Mr. Sparks was forgetting to do. Live. Enjoy the gift of life. And I'm sure this is the message he wants to pass on to everyone who reads his books.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Cutting for Stone

My mother determines the greatness of a book if she's still thinking about it a few days after completion. Good litmus test. It's been a few weeks since I've finished Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. And yes, I'm still thinking about it. I'm not really sure I'm even qualified to write a review. The novel is just that massive.

For starters, we could talk about the metaphoric title at length. At book club, one of our members mentioned that her son (a pre-med student) was required to read this fictional account of an Indian nun who gives birth to twins at a missionary hospital in Ethiopia. (Cool prerequisite, huh?) The father, a surgeon, named Thomas Stone, flees upon the death of the nun and the twins are left to be raised by other doctors. Anyway, that's just the beginning. The story is at the heart of an Ethiopian revolution and much, much happens as the twins grow up and eventually become reunited with their father.

The book was long, yes. But compelling is an understatement. For example, the last time our Lunch and Library read a book over 600 pages, only three of us toiled through it. When I walked into our Cutting for Stone session, we had a full house. And we hardly had enough time to fit in all of  our discussion.

Voice–beautiful. And there was plenty of medical terminology tossed about. Now that's talent.
Themes–the unique bond between twins, a doctor's duty to care for patients, Africa's constant war with itself, unrequited love, requited love. Yes. He manages to weave all of these themes perfectly.

A five star book, through and through. I'm typically a fast reader...I whiz through them. But this is not a book to speed read. It's a book to savor. So, if you're reading it for book club, start early.