Sunday, February 13, 2011

Just Finished: 4 Brief Reviews

Sitting atop my outdated, veneer covered speakers are a collection of books I've finished over the past two months. Finally, the day has come to review them. I'll keep it short.

Secrets in the Dark by Frederick Buechner: This book is a series of sermons that Buechner has given over his long career as a preacher/writer. I have to say that I was a bit surprised by the collection. Buechner is fairly revered (at least it seems so from the number of endorsements on the book jacket) and has published several works of fiction that have received acclaim. I found that many of his sermons were very thoughtful and insightful but overall he seemed to shy away from making a concrete statement about anything. Perhaps I misread him, but in my view Buechner toed the gray line throughout many of his sermons and I don't think that's the point. I do think he was worth a read, especially to get a different perspective from a thoughtful man of the faith.

Howards End by E.M. Forster: A classic I never read about two very different families colliding and the changes of England at the turn of the century. The novel focuses on the Miss Schlegels, two sisters who are independent and forward thinking, especially about money and class matters but who become acquainted with the Wilcoxes, a family of very conservative ideas in which women have little say. As the back of the book says, Howards End is a novel about England's fate. I can't agree or disagree about that, but it was an interesting portrayal of how people's ideas and ideals get muddled in the carrying out of them. Overall the novel was fairly uneventful, more like character studies, until the end when there are a series of unexpected twists that test all the main characters and their tightly held views. Worth a read, especially if you have someone to discuss with.

About A Boy by Nick Hornby: I think Nick Hornby must be one of the funniest writers alive. I haven't read anything of his that didn't make me laugh out loud. You've probably all seen About a Boy avec Hugh Grant as main character Will. Even so, the book is worth a read. If not, this is a story about an extremely selfish and self-sufficient man who gets harangued into hanging out with a hopelessly uncool middle schooler who doesn't understand sarcasm named Marcus who lives with his single, somewhat depressed hippy mother. I loved this novel because it was funny, human, and honest. The characters are slightly over the top in a way that is fairly believable and the relationships are well crafted. I hate to say it, but it's got heart.

Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman with Ellen Vaughn: Mary Beth Chapman, wife of the famous Christian musical artist Stephen Curtis Chapman, writes this autobiography after the death of her adopted daughter Maria. In 2008, Maria was hit by her older brother Will in a tragic accident that shook the family. Choosing to See talks about the grief of the family in this horrific event as well as Chapman's story of growing up with the moniker "Chubby Chapman", getting married to a man very different from her self (she describes herself as Eeore and her husband as Tigger), dealing with depression, having a family, and deciding to adopt three little girls from China. Throughout the book, which is very conversational, Chapman is open about her struggles and how God met her and changed her through all the trials she has encountered. Chapman's voice rings true as a slightly zany mother of six and her experiences are really of faith in the face of difficult and horrible circumstances is something to admire and strive to follow after.

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