I can’t remember the last time a book hijacked my day. Middle school, maybe? That was quite some time ago. Once, shortly after we were married, my husband came home from work and we started reading The Last Battle together aloud. We didn’t stop until we’d finished it. But that was only one evening.
Nayeri’s memoir exerted its magnetism on me through multiple channels–my personal interest in Nayeri’s home country of Iran; the myths and legends he seeds throughout the narrative; and the meandering nature of the storytelling, enticing the reader on, if for no other reason than to find out, “Where is he going with this?”
I was sorry to hear that L’Engle passed away on September 8. I would have liked to meet her, slim though the chance might have been. L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time was one of the first books I bought with my own money. My fourth-grade teacher had read it to the class, and I liked it so much I wanted my own copy. However, my big purchase precipitated buyer’s remorse, so I sold it to a classmate and returned to the bookstore for the title I had not yet read, A Wind in the Door. These two and their sequel, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, remained among my favorites throughout childhood and are still high on my list.
Barbara Kingsolver ranks high on my list of authors with whom I would love to have a lengthy chat (along with Diana Abu Jaber and Khaled Hosseini). Besides the fact that I admire her literary artistry, I am intrigued by Kingsolver’s spiritual and religious views. I tend, for example, to think Nathan Price in The Poisonwood Bible so deranged that Kingsolver could not have intended anyone to take him seriously as representative of evangelical missionaries. … But does this character suggest Kingsolver perceives missionaries or evangelicals generally in a negative light?
In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle Kingsolver frequently references her rural childhood and observes that many of the small farmers she writes about are probably church-goers (though she mentions appreciatively that they keep their religion to themselves) (204-05). I assume Kingsolver, having grown up in such an environment herself, had a fair amount of exposure to Christian spirituality, if not from her family, at least from her neighbors. Regardless, she is now an evangelist for evolution, with a graduate degree in evolutionary biology. Continue reading
I must have bought this book for my sister sometime in the late ’80s, but the fact had been wiped from my memory until recently, when I ran across it in my parents’ home while looking for something to read to my daughter at bedtime. I find it remarkable that these whimsical poems reminiscent of Shel Silverstein could come from the author of such venerable and contemplative works as two series of poetic allegories (The Singer Trilogy and The Divine Symphony–which I have read) and The Table of Inwardness and Into the Depths of God (which I have not). Continue reading
In the absence of an established career (“freelance writer” doesn’t count–even if I could consider myself established), I have experienced some difficulty explaining my identity for much of my adult life. But this has recently been resolved. I now have a Master’s of Arts in Comparative Literature (don’t ask me what kind of prestigious profession comes with it), and, more significantly, I am a Mother (a recognized role, even if not a highly esteemed calling in certain circles).
But one of the points that impressed me during our most recent reading of Matthew is the difference between what God looks for in people and what I often look for. God is not interested in, for example, an advanced degree, my profession, how eloquently or wittily I express myself, how I look, how clean my house is, how many “constructive” tasks I have completed today, or how highly my peers regard me. Rather, God is more concerned with how I regard other people, whether I am willing to part with my money and possessions to meet a need, how ready I am to go out of my way for another, whether I am quick to forget an offense or whether I dwell on it for days. Continue reading
The long waiting list for Mountains Beyond Mountains required us to wait some time before it became available at the library. But through the first few chapters, we were hard-pressed to identify the reason for the popularity of this biographical account of doctor Paul Farmer (b. 1959). Farmer struck us as arrogant and narcissistic, and we found the voice of Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Kidder flat and journalistic. Continue reading
We read A Thousand Splendid Suns in two days while on a mini vacation. We had anticipated a grim story, and our expectations were fulfilled. But we stayed glued to the book, in part because of Hosseini’s gripping story telling and in part because, judging from the conclusion of The Kite Runner, we anticipated a glimmer of light at some point. It finally dawned, but it was a long time coming.
Due to the length of our review, we thought it best to avoid overtaxing our readers and discuss Hosseini’s latest release in two separate posts. This post is concerned primarily with the content and story of A Thousand Splendid Suns, while the next one will address stylistic matters. (Warning: plot revelations ahead.) Continue reading
My husband and I just finished reading the letter to the Christians in Rome written by the apostle Paul somewhere around the middle of the first century AD. It was approximately my umpteenth reading, so I didn’t receive any staggering new insights, but a few things did catch my attention. Continue reading
This novel by Khaled Hosseini is among my all-time favorites, for its engaging story line, heroic characters, failure and redemption, suspense, drama … Beyond that, my experience in the Persian-speaking world (I spent two years teaching English to Afghans in Pakistan in the mid-’90s, and the two of us spent two years in the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan in the early ’00s) made this book a given on our reading list.
Much has been said elsewhere about the themes of redemption and race/Afghan culture that appear in Hosseini’s novel, so I won’t dwell on those here. This post is limited to a summary of my research findings on aspects of Persian folklore in The Kite Runner, described in “Heroism and Tale-Telling in The Kite Runner.” Those interested in the in-depth discussion can read the full paper here: Heroism and Tale-Telling in The Kite Runner Continue reading