Monday, February 28, 2011

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? #27

Share what you (are, have been, are about to, hope to be) reading or reviewing this week. Sign Mr Linky at Book Journey and visit other Monday reading roundups.

Finally. For the first time this year I can report having finished a book. And not just one but two!

This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley

It's only just over 100 pages but those pages are packed with sage advice from an experienced novelist

City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell

I started this the first time just before Thanksgiving, shortly after receiving my review copy, and had to restart it twice--once just before Christmas and again just after New Years. As I've said before, it is not the story's fault.

Holiday doings can explain December but why it took me nearly two months to read one novel under 300 pages once the Holiday hullabaloo was past and after I'd established a moratorium on starting another novel before I finished this one has been a puzzle to me though I tried to blame it on the work on the baby afghan, on the flu, and on my eyes.

Sure, every one of those issues played a role but even all of them put together couldn't really explain it to my satisfaction. Then today as I read the last thirty pages with tears streaming into my collar, I realized that the heart of the problem had been my heart.

The subject of the story is the nearly 30 year missionary work in China of one Mennonite couple. It is a love story. But the love between the two young adults at the beginning of their mission--how they met, fell in love and married--is just a tiny sidebar to the deeper love stories of that love each had for their God and the love they had for the Chinese people they served for three decades germinated in that love their God held them in and blooming in their service to the people they loved--at first abstractly but eventually as heart-deep as arterial blood.

My resistance to this story stemmed from scar tissue on my own broken heart. Broken and grown bitter and cynical after the church family I was raised in shattered by doctrinal dueling, scandal and gossip and social clique power plays.

This is the kind of story I would have ate up 40, 30 even 20 years ago. It is the story I would have wanted to live 40 years ago. And now this story has gone a long way toward softening my heart toward the very concept of 'church family' again. Because the lives of these missionaries--modeled on the author's own grandparents--have demonstrated the gospel of love sans political, social or doctrinal agendas.

The key is a heart of service. And you don't have to go to China to find or offer that.

I hope I can get a review up soon that does the novel justice and without further resistance now that I understand it.

Take One Candle Light a Room by Susan Straight is the next novel I'm picking up as it is coming due on the 15th and is out of renewals. This is what I had to say about it on a recent Library Loot post:

This is a new author for me. It was also one of those surprise finds while browsing the shelves. I don't get to go to the library as regularly as I used to so most of my library loot of late are items I've ordered via their online catalog and are then picked up by my husband.

I was drawn to this by the cover art but the clincher was the author's way with words. As in this early paragraph on the first page:

Their faces are stark and somber, varying shades of amber and gray in the cold winter light. Claudine, with hooded eyes, a plumpness around her jaw from the baby, her arms crossed over breasts swollen like bags of rice under her shirt. Felonise, hair in a pompadour over her thin face, her coat collar too big around her flowerstem neck. Mary, black eyes fierce and slanted, the dark scar still visible on her face where his ring gouged out a kernel of skin on her left cheekbone. Zizi, whose light gray eyes are clear as water, her thick black braid askew on her head. And my mother, Marie-Claire, her face pale and round as a tortilla, her dark brows like tadpoles swimming toward each other, the only one who tried to smile for the camera.
The narrator/protagonist is describing five sixteen year old girls in a decades old faded photo. With language wielded like that I could even forgive a weak story but the evidence that the story will be anything but weak is in this paragraph as well. For we learn that one of these young women has just given birth, another has been assaulted by a man and only one of the five even attempts a smile.

I was drawn in and read the whole first chapter in spite of having a novel going already and several commitments that prevented me from re-engaging in the story once I got it home. And in the following week I had a couple dozen library books and DVD coming due that took precedence. It's turn is coming soon I hope.


I am still plugging away at David Allen's Getting Things Done which is not just a read but a project.

And there are thirty some books currently checked out on my library card of which at least a dozen are NF which I'll probably browse among.

2 tell me a story:

Aleetha 2/28/2011 11:27 PM  

this is the first time I see all those books.
I hope you enjoy it.

It's All About Books

Sheila (Bookjourney) 3/05/2011 7:33 PM  

Oh now I want to read This Year You Write Your Novel! :)

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