For our discussion this month, everyone selected a book that had religiously-based attitudes, values or actions at it’s core. People found a diverse selection of books to share with the group -and with you! Why not take a moment to read what everyone had to say about their title:
Beth: In Lori Copeland’s Child of Grace, Eva Jean, E.J., returns to her hometown of Cullen’s Corner unannounced and without explanation after 18 years. After enduring a traumatic experience, she’s looking for some escape and answers to her life. Upon returning home she finds a restored faith in god and community and finds a way to navigate the path she is on. I found the story to be unrealistic and forced. There was a heavy pro-life theme that bordered on insulting to the option of adoption, especially considering the circumstances.
Chris: God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life’s Little Detours by Regina Brett is filled with life-affirming essays and stories. Each is just a few pages long, so I found myself picking it up often for a quick inspirational message to carry with me throughout the day. A nice, comforting read.
Carol: The Book of Strange New Things is a 2014 genre-bending novel by Michel Faber. In the 21st-century, mankind has set about colonizing its first extraterrestrial planet, calling it Oasis. Peter Leigh is a former addict-turned pastor who is selected by a shadowy organization to travel into deep outer space in order to teach Christianity to the planet’s reclusive native inhabitants. Peter, who has left his wife behind on Earth, sets out to teach about God using his knowledge of the Bible to the Oasans. Peter realizes things are off–colonists have disappeared, most of the humans on the planet act strangely, and the organization is censoring communications from Earth. Through a delayed email system, Peter learns from his wife about major catastrophes that have befallen the Earth in his time away and Peter’s once-strong faith becomes shaken. Ultimately, this is a slow-building suspenseful and thoughtful read you’ll want to savor.
Dori: In Roland Merullo’s Dinner with Buddha, book editor Otto Ringling visits his sister and her husband, Mongolian Monk Volya Rinpoche, at their meditation center in North Dakota. There, he’s urged by his sister to go on a road trip with her husband because her 8-year-old daughter, Shelsa, has had a vision of the journey. Otto, who’s recently lost his wife to illness and his children to adulthood, is ready to spend some time with the beatific monk, so readily agrees. Their quiet, reflective journey changes as they make their way through the Midwest and witness the lives of many Native Americans, and as the meditation center is menaced by men who would like to deny the spiritual potential of little Shelsa.
Emma: In Anna’s Crossing by Suzanne Woods Fisher, it’s 1737 and 19-year-old Anna Konig joins the first wave of Amish to America. Anna can speak English so she translates for the group. Conditions on the “Charming Nancy” are deplorable for the immigrants who are forced to live below the deck. Anna’s charge, young Felix, is not content to stay below deck and explores the entire ship getting into mischief but eventually befriending the ship’s carpenter, Bairn. Bairn and Anna soon develop feelings for each other. Based on actual events, the first entry in the Amish Beginnings series is an interesting tale with lots of period detail.
Steve: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, is a novel written in letters, between the elder demon Screwtape and his nephew Wormwood, detailing the finer points in tempting a man, the “Patient,” and derailing his conversion to Christianity. This is a clever read, and although short in length, just 149 pages, it will leave you pondering what it is to be a Christian and the role of the devil.
Megan: Coming of Age at the End of Days by Alice LaPlante is a dark and quirky exploration of a teen’s search for meaning and a purpose in life. Sixteen-year old Anna has never fit in and her depression has isolated her even further. Her life changes when she meets Lars Goldschmidt, the son of the new neighbors. The Goldschmidts are devout members of a religious cult and Lars invites Anna to join them as they prepare for the violent Tribulations at the End of Days. As she immerses herself in this world of violent prophecies and doomsday preparations she is forced to reexamine her relationship with her liberal, atheist parents. This is an unusual book, offering a fascinating look into the world of fanatic religious cults.
Lauren: Tidewater Inn by Colleen Coble introduces us to Libby Holladay, an architectural historian who has traveled to idyllic Hope Beach on the Outer Banks. Libby is there to investigate the disappearance of her best friend, Nicole, and claim an inheritance from her father who she believed had died when she was just a girl. Libby’s inheritance is an old inn, eyed by both her half-siblings and real estate developers looking to cash in on the prized beach property. The news that Tidewater Inn has been left to Libby has made a number of people very angry and put Nicole, and potentially Libby too, in grave danger. She turns to her newly rekindled faith to save her friend, find love, and rediscover her past.
Ann: In The Invisible City by Julia Dahl, Rebekah Roberts, a stringer for a New York City newspaper is assigned to cover the story of a murdered Hasidic woman. Ferreting out information about the story becomes difficult due the close-knit, closed-mouthed society of the Hasidic community. What makes this novel so fascinating is not only the mystery and the murder but the details about the Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn and the fact that Rebekah’s mother was once a part of that community. A debut novel that was a finalist for the Edgar and Mary Higgins Clark Awards.
Stacey: In The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard readers will meet Aron, young Jewish boy trapped in a Polish ghetto at the start of World War II. As his family, and the world, crumble apart before his eyes, Aron is trying hard to survive. This is one of those books that was a little more uncomfortable to read but has really stayed with me in such a powerful way, I encourage you to give it a try!
Next time we’ll be getting ready for the spookiest month of all -October of course!- by reading Horror fiction to share with all of you! If you’d like to join us in with an unnerving book of your own, you’ll want to find a story that has been written to frighten the reader. Supernatural or occult elements distinguish horror and showcase the power of the natural world gone awry. Get ready to leave the lights on!