"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
I read several good books this month, and seemed a bit more chatty about a few of them! What have you been reading? Anything good?
Too Close to Home
by Lynette Eason -- a mystery taking place in South Carolina; teen girls
disappearing and later being found dead; the story of a police force as
they track down this killer
Without You, There Is No Us
by Suki Kim -- a very interesting read about a South Korean-born
American journalist who goes to Pyongyang as a teacher at a school
founded by Christian missionaries. While I did not like certain things
about this book (more particularly, the author), for the most part I really enjoyed learning about her
interactions with her students and about her life those few months she
taught in North Korea. I looked up more information about the Pyongyang
University of Science and Technology (PUST), and found this video which was great for seeing things which the author had described in her book. Also here is a short NPR interview with the author.
A Solitary Blue
by Cynthia Voight -- I got this at a book exchange awhile back. A
young boy is abandoned by his mother, and raised by his father, the
Professor. Later his mother contacts him, and he spends a delightful
summer with her in Charleston, SC. But then he doesn't hear from her
again until the following summer, which is quite different. This book
was weird, simple in a way especially at first, but I ended up liking it
Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times
by Jennifer Worth -- my mom found this book at the library, and it was
different from others she's been passing along to me. It was a biography from a lady who had been
a young nurse serving in London's East End slums in the 1950s. Mama
warned me that it may take a few chapters to get into the book, and that
was true. It's not that it was uninteresting in the beginning, but it
started off with a tale of childbirth, and, quite frankly, that's not my
I figured the rest of the book might be the same, and it was in
a way since it's about a convent full of midwives (the nurses and nuns
did this service), but there was so much more! Like stories of people
who lived around the docks. Women with a dozen or more children living
in cramped spaces, many in filth. One lady we met in the book when she was
pregnant with her 24th child. Yes, that's 2 dozen children by her early
forties. I learned about workhouses and the lives of prostitutes as
told through Mary's tales and women having black babies and the
reactions of their husbands (kill the bastard v. a Holy Fool). Very
interesting tales! I cried off and on through this book. It wasn't all
sad. Some stories were quite funny especially when one nun visited the
eccentric lady who refused initially to have her pulse taken. I cried
partly because as I read this book, I learned of a girl who attended
church with me years ago who died on March 5 soon after giving birth to
her first child, a boy named Levi. Sherry was just 28. Plus, some of
these stories truly were heartbreaking!
Can we all just take a moment and thank God for inventions such as the Pill?
Pill was introduced in the early 1960s and modern woman was born.
Women were no longer going to be tied to the cycle of endless babies;
they were going to be themselves. With the Pill came what we now call
the sexual revolution. Women could, for the first time in history, be
like men, and enjoy sex for its own sake. In the late 1950s we had
eighty to a hundred deliveries a month on our books. In 1963 the number
had dropped to four or five a month. Now that is some social change!"
This was something I shared
with a private online group whom I've known for years. We met because of
our mutual love of discussing names.
Conchita Warren is an unusual name, I thought as I cycled towards
Limehouse. Most local women were Doris, Winnie, Ethel (pronounced Eff)
or Gertie. But Conchita! The name breathed 'a beaker full of the warm
South...with beaded bubbles winking at the brim.' What was a Conchita
doing in the grey streets of Limehouse, with its pall of grey smoke and
the grey sky beyond?" (pg. 127)
I really enjoyed how the author changed subtly throughout this book. In
the beginning, she was laughing at prayers, an "irreligious" sort who
just found the whole religion thing somewhat silly or superstitious. By
the time Jenny was on her way through the horrible London smog to
deliver a premature baby, she felt hope and peace when Sister Julienne
promised to pray for both mother and the unborn child (28 weeks).
This from the final chapter. I loved it.
had impelled Sister Monica Joan [the 90+ year old nun] to abandon a
privileged life for one of hardship working in the slums of London's
Docklands? "Was it love of people?" I asked her.
course not," she snapped sharply. "How can you love ignorant, brutish
people whom you don't even know? Can anyone love filth and squalor? Or
lice and rats? Who can love aching weariness, and carry on working, in
spite of it? One cannot love these things. One can only love God, and
through His grace come to love His people."' (pg. 318-9)
Also, from Sister Monica Joan:
questions - you wear me out with your questions, child. Find out for
yourself - we all have to in the end. No one can give you faith. It is a
gift from God alone. Seek and ye shall find. Read the Gospels. There
is no other way. Do not pester me with your everlasting questions. Go
with God, child; just go with God.'" (pg. 319)
Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse by
Jennifer Worth -- volume two from the author; this one dealt with fewer
stories, but in more depth. Very interesting although I know this must
be partially a novel because there is no way the author would be privy
to some of the conversations and actions quoted in this book.
How's this for an accent? A business man in London testifying in the trial of Sister Monica Joan.
sells ladies fings, and vis nun, she comes up to me stall an' afore you
can blink an eye, she picks up a couple of bread an' cheeses, tucks 'em
in 'er petticoats, an' is off round the Jack Horner, dahn ve frog an'
toad ... I couldn't Adam an' Eve it, bu' vats wot she done. When I tell
me carvin' knife wot I seen, she calls me an 'oly friar, an' says she'll
land me one on me north and south if I calls Sister Monica Joan a
tealeaf. Very fond of Sister, she is. So I never says nuffink to no
one, like.'" (pg. 187)
The judge: "'I think I am going to need an interpreter.''
the usher spoke up. "'I think I can help you, My Lord. My mother was a
cockney and I was brought up with rhyming slang. Mr Crumb has
testified that he saw Sister Monica Joan take a couple of handkerchiefs -
bread and cheese is the usual expression for handkerchiefs - off his
sparrow, or barrow, and set off round the Jack Horner - corner, My Lord -
down the frog and toad - meaning road - as quick as - I need not go on
"'To Adam and Eve it' is a very common expression, my
Lord. It means 'to believe it,' or the negative. Mr Crumb could not
Adam and Eve the evidence of his own eyes.'" ...
said that he told his wife what had happened. There are several
expressions for wife - carving knife, trouble and strife, Duchess of
Fife spring readily to mind - and she would call him a liar - holy
friar, My Lord, and said she would hit him in the north and south -
mouth - if he called Sister Monica Joan a thief - tea-leaf was the
rhyming slang used by Mr Crumb." (pg. 187)
Did you get all that?
Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End
by Jennifer Worth - the last book in this series; more interesting
stories - some quite funny, some absolutely gross (to me anyway). I
liked that the author ended the book with a short update on most of main
characters that I was able to know through this trilogy.
couple of chapters on abortions and the woman who wanted an abortion
because she already had too many children were interesting (though this
part made me a bit queasy). I thought this paragraph interesting:
Criminal Abortion Act 1803 was repealed in 1967. Knowing that I had
been a midwife I was sometimes asked if I approved of it or not. My
reply was that I did not regard it as a moral issue, but as a medical
one. A minority of women will always want an abortion. Therefore it must
be done properly." (pg. 224)
After reading this book, I better understood this! Ah, queasiness.
Once in a Blue Moon
by Leanna Ellis - one of those easy-reads from the library; a reporter
travels to Texas to find out information about her mother's past; not
super-interesting, but OK
The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn't Say about Human Origins by Peter Enns - This book dealt with stuff like the following:
theology of Genesis 1 becomes clearer when we read it in its ancient
literary-religious context. For those who wish to see support in
Genesis for modern science, it may seem a bit of a letdown that God is
'only' said to have tamed a preexisting chaos, for example. After all,
if he were truly almighty, would he not create out of nothing? But in
the ancient world of the Israelites, this was not an active question. In
that world, the theology of a chaos-tamer working solo, commanding the
elements to line up, was counterintuitive and set Israel apart
theologically. Genesis 1 is not in any way a modern scientific
statement, but an ancient religious one. It drew on the thought
categories available at the time to create a powerful statement within
its own context for the uniqueness of Israel's God and his worthiness to
be worshiped." (pg. 45)
Midnight in Siberia by David Greene -- this is "a train journey into the heart of Russia" by one of the NPR Morning Edition
hosts. After living in Russia for three years on assignment, the
author returns for this train journey where he visits cities and
villages along the way, and talks with ordinary Russians. Apparently
Moscow isn't necessarily representative of the rest of Russia. What a
surprise. I was struck with how Russians tend to want a strong leader.
While many people interviewed weren't necessarily Putin fans, their
mindset was such that the government should provide stability -
something missing when Russia flirted with democracy, something they
long for. It reminded me of a book I read a few years ago about East
Germans after the Berlin wall fell. Some of them wanted the safety,
security, and stability of a socialist country, where the government might send you
some ugly, not-very-comfortable shoes, but, by golly, at least you had shoes! One
lady in here even wanted the Stalin days back - minus the cruelties.
Russian Tattoo by Elena Gorokhova -- Imagine meeting an American taking a
class in a Russian university and later agreeing to his suggestion of
marrying him so you can escape your homeland (and your overbearing
mother). This is what she does, and, boy, is it interesting as she
encounters life in the United States: things like eating raw
mushrooms, this big thing called a 'hamburger,' cereal that sounds like
nails falling into a bowl, iced tea, and lots and lots of shoe choices
in the department store! The book is more than that, of course. It's a memoir, and a pretty good one.
Every Secret Thing
by Ann Tatlock -- This book didn't start out the most exciting or funny
for a fiction book, but I came to appreciate it quite well throughout. I
think it had a good overall message about "moments of being," and I
enjoyed several of the characters (teacher Beth, her former English
teacher, Mr. Theodore Dutton, and Beth's student Satchel Queen) and how