Summer Reading, Part 2
I’ve been enjoying several books over the last month, thanks to a little more reading time on vacation and in the evening, and thanks to my friend Elizabeth for loaning me several of her favorites. (Here is Summer Reading, Part 1 if you missed it.)
Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full by Gloria Furman
I would highly recommend this book. The author takes the Gospel—doctrines we know in our minds to be true, but what can sometimes seem so ethereal and out of reach—and connects it to the daily mess of life as a mom.
This is a book to read slowly. It’s not light or easy. A lot of the paragraphs are direct paraphrases of Paul’s epistles, applied to Mom life. Each chapter is packed with lots of Bible references. So though it could maybe be a criticism that it’s not easily accessible, I found that if I read about ten or fifteen minutes a day, slowly and thoughtfully, with pen in hand to underline, I got a lot out of it. It was like water to my thirsty soul.
Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
The feminist in me has never liked The Taming of the Shrew, but this retelling of the story I actually enjoyed. It is humorous, light reading, with a thoughtful undercurrent, exploring how “the shrew” got to be how she is, and how she changes through an improbable marriage.
Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner
I enjoyed Fall of Marigolds a few months ago, and once again, Susan Meissner does not disappoint. This is a WWII novel about two sisters separated during the London Blitz. I felt like a couple of the plot twists were a little unrealistic, but all in all, this is an engaging story. She has rich character development—you really feel like you get to know a nuanced cast of characters. And she draws you into the historical setting so that it seems real and current. I read this one over our camping trip and was so engrossed I couldn’t nap despite how tired I was!
The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera
G. K. Chesterton meets Jane Austen? Yes, please! This novel is both pleasant light reading and intensely thought-provoking. I’m wanting to re-read it and copy over my favorite quotations.
That said, it reminded me a little of Wendell Berry’s Hannah Coulter, a novel that I felt was heavier on the philosophy than it was on the story. This was definitely a story that was trying to make a point—and though I agreed with the point, I found myself a little skeptical of the storyline at times.
I also couldn’t quite get over a character named Prudencia Prim. Still, this is a book I would highly recommend.
Windfallen by JoJo Moyes
This is one of JoJo Moyes’s earlier novels, and not my favorite by her, but I still enjoyed it and was happily surprised by an ending that was more pro-marriage than I had anticipated. I think JoJo Moyes specializes in creating relatable, sympathetic characters and putting them in interesting predicaments.
I also always connect my memories of a book with my circumstances while reading it, and I can’t help but remember that I read this book mostly in the bathtub with Epsom salts and a calming essential blends, soaking the pain and the stress of the day away … so really, what’s not to love?
After You by JoJo Moyes
This is the sequel to Me Before You. I appreciated that novel and am cautiously looking forward to the movie, and hoping they don’t make it into a political statement that the book never was.
The sequel was okay. It showed the messy aftermath of Me Before You and the eventual character growth. I felt a little impatient with the protagonist and at times my sympathy for her was a bit stretched. But she goes through a dark cloud and comes out the other side, even though it takes her awhile getting there.
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
This is another richly detailed novel highlighting the plight of slaves in the antebellum South. What is unique about this book is that it also captures the story of an indentured Irish servant girl, who is equal to the slaves except for the distinction of her whiteness, which ultimately makes all the difference in her future. Her life story bridges the gap between the plantation owner’s family and the slaves who serve them.
This is the author’s first novel after a significant amount of research, and it seems just as authentic as if you are reading from a history book. I was struck by the amount of loss the female characters of both races endured, as the men who owned them made decisions with little thought to the personal consequences.
This book begins during George Washington’s Presidency, and it reminds me once again that the era of the Founding Fathers was not as beautiful as it sometimes appears through the rosy glasses of hindsight. I’d rather live in 2016 Virginia than in 1816 Virginia, despite how troubling our times are.
So that’s been my reading over the last several weeks—what about you? Any titles you would recommend?