It always sounds cliche, but I simply cannot fathom how we are almost to May. One-third of this year has slid out from under my feet. The good news: summer is coming up fast, with slower days and more time for reading. Not that I’m wishing the days away, hardly, just wishing for more leisure time to read! (Note: I did not intentionally choose to read back-to-back two books with PB&J cover art. That’s just the comedy my life dishes up!)
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.” (227)
Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine. At least she thinks she is. Until she realizes she is not, not at all. And then she is.
Through all of it, Eleanor is a complete character (in every sense of the word). She is unlike anyone you’ve ever met. She talks (mostly to herself) so much like a cantankerous old woman that you have to remind yourself that she is just thirty. She is one thousand percent practical. She has no social skills whatsoever. She is searingly honest to the point of being rude, though she has no idea. Which makes her endearingly funny to boot.
Above all, Eleanor is a survivor and a testament to the human drive to survive.
“These days, loneliness is the new cancer–a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way. A fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it; other people don’t want to hear the word spoken aloud for fear that they might too be afflicted, or that it might tempt fate into visiting a similar horror upon them.” (227)
“I suppose one of the reasons we’re all able to continue to exist for our allotted span in this green and blue vale of tears is that there is always, however remote it might seem, the possibility of change.” (182)
Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth by Frank Cottrell Boyce
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“Home isn’t a building. People leave buildings. Buildings fall down….Home isn’t a place on a map. Home isn’t the place you come from. It’s the place you’re heading to. All the times you’ve ever felt at home–they’re just marks on the map, helping you to find your way there.” (308)
What an original book! I actually don’t want to say too much, because it should be read and enjoyed for all its originality, humor, and poignancy. Prez and Sputnik–and the Blythes, especially Jessie–plus Granddad have an adventure that doesn’t lead them home so much as to a new understanding of it.
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Gutted! It’s been a long time since I have openly sobbed while reading a book and not just at its conclusion. To be honest, a few chapters in I wanted to hate this book–I hate when people use God or the Bible or faith to hurt others, especially kids. But, too bad, I already liked the kids (almost like they needed me to stick it out for their sake, to be there to stick up for them). Zentner handled sensitive matters gently. He calls this book, his first novel, a love letter to young people who struggle, and the reader feels his love for the young people he portrays.
“…if you’re going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things” (327).
Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion by Sara Miles
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I read this book based on a recommendation by another author I respect. I started, and stopped, and started again several times before committing to read it all the way through. Sara and I aren’t on the same theological page, and yet (or because of that) I learned so much from her. Her memoir challenged my faith and strengthened my determination to listen to people with whom I may not agree, or with whom I would anticipate more disagreement.
And, at my core, it caused me to remember: God can use any and all things to bring people to Himself.
A few quotes:
“Christianity wasn’t an argument I could win, or even resolve. It wasn’t a thesis. It was a mystery that I was finally willing to swallow.” (274)
“To say that communion means we are ‘eating Jesus’ reminds me of how risky—and how thoroughly physical—the encounter with God is.” (287)
“First, do something. Feed, heal, help. Don’t just argue about ideology. Second, pray for your enemies. Don’t pray that they become different, or start doing what you want them to do. Just pray for them.
“You don’t get to practice Christianity by hanging out with people who are like you and believe what you believe. You have to rub up against strangers and people who frighten you and people you think are misguided, dangerous, or just plain wrong.” (289)
Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Warren takes the ordinary–waking up in the morning, brushing teeth, searching for lost keys, fighting with my spouse–and reminds us of how very sacred those ordinary events truly are. Now, when I wake up in the morning, sometimes I remember that God looks at me as lovingly as I looked at my tousle-haired, warm-sleep-smelling babies. Now, as I make my bed, I remember that God cares about the small, simple moments of each day. Overall, I appreciated the simple and profound nature of this book and anticipate returning to it time and again.
Everything is Perfect When You’re a Liar by Kelly Oxford
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
I cannot remember where I heard about this book. It’s rare for me to get halfway through before ditching a book. I kept trying to give her one more chapter, one more chance. But I just can’t!
The intro is poorly written, but includes cute kid-quotes from her own babies who don’t want to be in the book. So I kinda thought it would be a fluffy/snarky mommy book.
Halfway through and she’s only seventeen years old. And she’s not nice. Adventurous? Yes. Crazy? Probably. Funny? Well, she tries…
She’s also mean–obviously smart, and she can (at least mostly) write–and I just don’t like her. At All. And I like most people.
Maybe I just don’t get her sense of humor. But God bless her kiddos having to grow up with this sense of snark!