I’ve always enjoyed historical fiction. I’m fascinated by the ability of authors to take sparse and little-known facts about obscure people who lived decades, centuries or millennia ago, and weave wonderful, compelling stories around those tidbits of truth. Kate Pullinger has done just that, in her award-winning book, The Mistress of Nothing. It’s the story of a maid and her mistress who, for the sake of the health of the mistress, travel to and take up residence in Luxor, Egypt. The reader gets a rather tantalizing glimpse of Egypt in the late 1800s, but the story really is an inward look, a social comment on the times. Despite the sadness of the story, the end comes with a hopeful note, and the reader is left to imagine a brighter tomorrow.
This book is what I would call “classic Max”. He takes a serious subject, adds his own brand of humor, some poignant anecdotes, some Scripture and voila! another eminently readable “how-to” for Christians. As the title suggests, Lucado aims to address the issue of fear, and more importantly, how to subdue and live free from fear. In the introductory chapter, he says, “Fear may fill our world, but it doesn’t have to fill our hearts”. He suggests that Christians shouldn’t be operating in fear, but in faith. Yes, he says, there’s lots to be afraid of in our world, but he issues a call to live beyond fear, moving into a place of faith, and thus of peace and rest. In subsequent chapters, Max addresses some of the universal fears of the world (e.g. lack, violence, death) and offers hope that we can be free from the insidious inroads that fear makes in our lives. If you are already a Max Lucado fan, I’m sure you will enjoy this new book, too. If you’re not familiar with Max, but looking for something inspiring to read, this might just do the trick! A warning, however: just because the book is easy to read and enjoy, doesn’t lessen the seriousness of the subject. The mistake can be made that once you’ve read the book, you have a handle on the subject matter, but I would suggest using the book as a springboard for deeper and further study and contemplation. There’s a discussion guide at the back of the book that would be great to use in a small group setting or even just to work through by yourself.
If you are a fan of author P.D. James you know, of course, who Adam Dalgliesh is. If you don’t know, he is the sublime creation of the author — poet and crime solver extraordinaire. I’ve just finished reading The Private Patient and am pleased to report that this book is quintessential James. I was quite disappointed in her last Dalgleish mystery, The Lighthouse, so it was a pleasure indeed to find the author back on track! By the way, Baroness James will be 89 this year. I think a novel in the works must be a great reason to get up every morning!
Today is Good Friday, a day of commemoration and meditation for Christian believers all over the world. A few years ago, author Tony Campolo wrote a book titled It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Comin’. In it, he tells about a sermon he heard:
It’s Friday, but Sunday’s a comin’. It was Friday, and my Jesus is dead on a tree. But that’s Friday, and Sunday’s a comin’. Friday, Mary’s crying her eyes out, the disciples are running in every direction like sheep without a shepherd. But that’s Friday, and Sunday’s a comin’. Friday, some are looking at the world and saying, “As things have been, so they shall be. You can’t change nothing in this world! You can’t change nothing in this world!” But they didn’t know that it was only Friday, and Sunday’s a comin’. Friday, them forces that oppress the poor and keep people down, them forces that destroy people, the forces in control now, them forces that are gonna rule, they don’t know it’s only Friday, but Sunday’s a comin’. Friday, people are saying, “Darkness is gonna rule the world, sadness is gonna be everywhere,” but they don’t know it’s only Friday, but Sunday’s a comin’. Even though this world is rotten, as it is right now, we know it’s only Friday. But Sunday’s a comin’.
So, yes, today is a sober day when we think about the physical, mental and spiritual anguish that Jesus suffered when he offered the supreme sacrifice for us. But, in the back of my mind, even as I think on these things, there’s relief and joy bubbling, because Friday is not the end! Sunday is coming and with Sunday comes resurrection! The Spirit of God raised up Jesus from the grave and, hallelujah, he’s alive forevermore!
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen
Galatians 1:3-5 (ESV 2001 Crossway Bibles)
What better way to celebrate my birthday than with a good long browse in an antiquarian bookstore! The Edmonton Bookstore is a fabulous place filled with thousands upon thousands of all sorts of books. My sister and my mom joined me; first we had coffee at Transcend (which was delightful and delicious), then we hit the bookstore. It was a bit overwhelming to decide what titles I really wanted, but narrowed my choice to these: The World is a Wedding by A.M. Allchin and a lovely little copy of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
Here’s a book that I recommend, if you haven’t already discovered it. The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway, a fellow Canadian. It’s a treat to read something so well-written and evocative. It’s not a happy story, but rather a reminder of the brutalities of war, and in the midst of that, the triumph of the human spirit. Two outstanding things about the writing: the three-time repetition of a certain sentence (I won’t tell you what it is, don’t want to spoil it) and the matter-of-fact writing. It wasn’t until after I finished reading that I felt the impact of the story. If you’ve read this book, I’d be very interested to hear your reactions; it would be great if you’d leave me a comment.
This book, Always and Forever by Cathy Kelly, reminded me of the writings of Maeve Binchy. I enjoyed it. It’s the first one I’ve read by Kelly, and I see she is quite prolific and I will look for more titles.
An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor also reminded me of another author I like, James Herriot, he of veterinarian fame, except Taylor’s portrayal is of human doctors! I had some laugh-out-loud moments, and wished the ending would not have come so soon.
I’m sorry to say, I quit half way through this book, A Midwife’s Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. It really was interesting, but I wasn’t prepared to invest more time in the second half. I think readers with a more sociologic mindset than mine would probably enjoy the whole thing!
Several years ago, PBS aired the video version of this book by Bruce Feiler. It’s a remarkable telling of one man’s journey of discovery about the lands of the Bible and the personal impact of the journey. To my delight, I found a copy in my Christmas stocking. I’ve been slowly working my way through the book and savoring the journey to places I’ve never been and am unlikely in the near future to get to. One of the things that impressed me was that so many of the people in the Middle East seem to be so aware of their history, and so closely connected to it. Canada is such a newish country, and many of us and our parents are from “somewhere else”. But even more than the physical connection, the people of the Middle East seem to also have a spiritual connection to the land, which Feiler did a great job of portraying. You can read an excerpt from the book or hear an audio excerpt at www.brucefeiler.com.
In honor of Valentine’s, Love in the Present Tense by Morrie and Arleah Shechtman. I should have had some romantic story to tell you about, but this practical book may have a more lasting impact. The subtitle of the book is how to have a high intimacy, low maintenance marriage. The authors are both psychotherapists, not marriage counsellors as such, but the unhappiness of an individual generally spills over into the marriage and that is what they work to address first. Here’s a quote from the back cover, “though this book will almost certainly shatter some of your preconceived notions, it has at its heart a deeply inspiring message: when you and your partner commmit to healing old wounds and strive for personal growth, you will greatly expand your capacity for intimacy. And that’s the key to unlocking the joy of love in the present tense. ” So here’s to many more happy Valentine Days, for newlyweds, golden anniversary celebrators, and everyone inbetween!