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Sunday, August 11, 2013

What I read on my summer vacation

A novel of the plague, based on the true story of an English village in 1666.  Brooks writes in what comes to my ear as an authentic middle-ages voice (until the end, when the plot turn was in my opinion too 21rst century), poetic and compelling.  This is one of my favorite genres because the issues of disease and survival, and the outlook of a spiritual universe, are so close to Africa today.  The voice of the rector is for the most part one of grace in the midst of loss.  Good character and plot development, an overall great read.

A surprisingly good read--illusion and magic, a plot that jumps through time, beautiful writing, and mystery.  Like the above, I was not fully fond of the ending.  However I think it is an interesting parable of good and evil and the way they perhaps play out in the real universe.  Interesting time setting of the late 19th century too.  Definitely a good read.

This one was a gift from a fellow book-loving friend.  I believe it is a "young adult" genre, but I like reading that too.  The two main characters are teens with cancer, who struggle through support groups and the longing for love and friendship and the impending possibility of death.  Which is pretty much what all our lives are about.  I think the characters are the best part of this novel, really unique personalities that are wonderfully developed. Poignant and hopeful without being sappy.  Liked it a lot.

This book was a pleasant surprise.  Though I suspect it is of the genre that gets chosen for Oprah book clubs or something (not usually my favorite), it has a quirky sweet quality and an underlying seriousness that makes it worth reading.  A middle-aged man gets a letter from a former colleague who is dying, and sets out to mail a reply, only as he walks away from his own unhappy home he keeps going on the eponymous unlikely pilgrimage.  Which is more than a physical walk, as he confronts himself and his past.  My favorite part was the sense that every plain person one meets has an interesting story beneath the facade.  And the touch of redemption.  Good read.

This was my one serious book, which I had started prior to vacation but savored during the week.  Dawn writes poetically with an academic soundness, and shares enough of her life to make her conclusions compelling.  She is grounded in historical Christianity but willing to live it in a counter-cultural way.  I need her sabbath perspective.  Worth reading, and will do so more than once.

Mixed feelings about this one.  A real page-turner tale of a wife gone missing and a husband accused, with decent writing and major plot twists.  Works as a cautionary tale of mental illness and infidelity.  But a bit trashy.  And not terribly satisfying.

The best for last.  This book is just as beautiful and tragic as one would expect from Hosseini.  In the opening chapter, a father tells a tale to his children that frames the whole story as one of sacrificial parental love.  Hosseini is a real artist, and the style of this book is amazing.  Each chapter is a different part of a connected story told from a different character's point of view.  He is able to write believably in many different voices.  As with his other novels, this one gives a glimpse into a country (Afghanistan) we would otherwise be hard pressed to know much about on this side of the world.

One week, seven books.  Several of those books were recommended by my newest book-loving friend, Ann M.  One was a gift from Bethany F.  I was able to borrow several electronically from my old library in Virginia, which is a great way for missionaries to read current literature.  I bought the first and the last and am glad I did, they are worth it.  A book a day at the beach is pretty much my definition of a great rest.

Previously this summer I read two books which were both written by different missionary colleagues here at Kijabe (both left in July for good, after longish terms of service).  I'll mention those two here as well, since I rarely review books on the blog.

Harry Kraus is a surgeon from Virginia who spent the last several years working at Kijabe.  He has written a slew of books in a genre I have heard described as "medical realism meets Christian romance."  They feature doctors, with page-turning fast-moving plots, mysteries that turn on a medical detail, and characters that struggle with spiritual dilemmas.  This one though is unique, because it is actually SET IN KIJABE.  Some of the details are recognizable lore from this place, but he weaves a fascinating plot involving witchcraft and politics and corruption.  Fun read for those of us who live here, and worth reading for others.

Steve and Nancy Peifer moved to Kenya more than a decade ago, intending a year filling in as dorm parents to provide space for healing from the loss of a baby with Trisomy 18.  Instead they stayed on and on, taught French and Driver's Ed and did College guidance counseling, adopted orphaned Kenyan twins, and eventually started a program to provide needy Kenyan schools with food for kids' lunches and solar-powered computer centers that have touched the lives of thousands and thousands of kids.  What makes this book a treat is that Steve writes with Dave Barry-like humor and self-deprecating honesty, always giving credit to God and to others.  This is a book about GRACE in the life of an ordinary family who did something extraordinary in God's hands.  A definite must-read.

If those aren't enough, I bought for my kids Orson Scott Card's Gate Thief/Mither Mages series (only 2 so far, very good, but more of mid-late teen to adult level), Andrew Peterson's Wingfeather Sagas (haven't read but Julia devoured them), and Josh Trott's Illumen's children (fantasy with a Christian allegorical bent, excellent).  And for Scott, A Rumor of War, which I haven't read yet.  So the total book consumption at the beach was considerable.

Happy reading.


Heidi said...

wuh hoo! just this last weekend, found out about Khaled Hosseini's newest book and failed to find it at my library and was wondering if I should buy it or not...thanks for the vote of confidence :) The description I read on Amazon sounded pretty intriguing, now with your vote, I'm sold :) Vacation here I come! (almost :)

lisa said...

Your list of good reads sounds like a lovely way to pass the days here at Chingwede. We are enjoying our final full day of restful laziness :)

I haven't read The Fault in Our Stars but the character Hazel is based on my young friend, Esther. Esther passed away three years ago this month. I wrote about her here:


lauradodson said...

ONE WEEK! Wow. You read fast!
Will be making a note of these titles. Thx.

Suzanne said...

Perfect timing! Can't wait to get started on these.