Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

Do LDS people love any other non-LDS writer as much as they love C.S. Lewis? Probably not. Like so many readers out there I have always enjoyed C.S. Lewis's books--especially the Chronicles of Narnia. As a teenager I would read those books at least once a year (along with Charlie). That's probably why I was so excited to discover a new, and I believe lesser known, novel by Lewis.

Till We Have Faces is a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth, from the view point of Psyche's unattractive sister, Orual. Orual is a homely but smart girl who is dumbfounded by her younger sister's beauty and would give anything in the world to see her succeed. However, when Psyche's beauty turns her into a pagan sacrifice Orual tries to save her--only to discover that Psyche was not the one who needed saving.

This book is not only a fantastic story with interesting characters and suprising plot twists, but it also, like so many Lewis books, serves as a metaphor for the ultimate sacrifice that is the center of all Christianity and how we relate to it. If anything, I love this book for what the process of reading it teaches me about myself.

Note: I read this in a book club awhile ago and a couple of the not-so-bookish women thought this was a little difficult to read. So, since reading is often more about expectations than what is actually in the book, be prepared for a book that will make you think :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

When Congregationalist minister John Ames loses his first wife and child he never expects to find love again. So it is with great surprise that he meets the woman of his dreams decades later. Even though she is young enough to be his child, they get married and have a son. It is then that John Ames discovers he has a terminal heart condition and will probably die before his son is seven years old. Ames decides to write a letter to his son--so that his son will have a chance to know him--and this writing, along with the homecoming of his prodigal namesake (his best friend's son), reveals more to him about the importance of family, the nature of God, love, repentance, and forgiveness than all his years of preaching ever did.

Gilead, a national bestseller and Pulitzer prize winner, is a meditative read. As one reviewer from the New York Times said, "Gradually, Robinson's novel teaches us how to read it, suggests how we might slow down to walk at its own processional pace." It is a beautiful book that makes you savor its language and its hope. Reading this book is like finding a bit of the balm of Gilead in your own hands.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

Although Wildwood Dancing, by Juliet Marillier, is mainly for young adult readers, it is by far one of the most captivating stories I've read in a long time.

Taking place in a remote part of Romania, the tale weaves between full moon escapades that cross the Bright Between from daily life to the Dancing Glade in the Other Kingdom, and back to bleak living conditions at Piscul Dracului, where the wicked Cezar tries to rule.

"Five adventurous sisters, four dark creatures, three magical gifts, two forbidden lovers, and one enchanted frog, cross the threshold into the Wildwood, and enter a land of magic, daring, betrayal . . . and true love."

Jenica, the second oldest sister, is narrator, and I felt immediate empathy for her traumatic situation through skillful writing that drew me in both visually and emotionally. Jenica (sometimes called Jena) has an intelligent and curious frog, Gogu, for best friend, and he communicates with her by speaking to her mind.

The sisters' father is dying and sent away to recuperate, leaving the way open for cousin Cezar to begin taking over the ancient castle for his own. His brother, Costi, was drowned in the eerie Deadwash as a child, and Cezar never got over the shock. Neither did he recover from something else infinitely more sinister.

Juliet Marillier was born in New Zealand, and now lives in Australia. She has won awards for fantasy novels for both adult and young adult readers. I highly recommend her Wildwood Dancing as a book young readers will not want to close.

It is a delight to find something so beautifully described as the Other Kingdom. A clean and tender read for all.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

The Hiding Place, written by Corrie ten Boom, is a true story about the author's experiences during the holocaust. Corrie ten Boom was a leader in the Underground. With the help of her family, she kept many Jews safe from the Nazis. However, she was eventually caught, and along with her family, thrown into prison and a concentration camp.

This inspirational story is about how Corrie found faith and held onto it for dear life. She witnessed many miracles, but the greatest miracle to me, is that Corrie and her sister, Betsie, were able to maintain such a positive outlook because of their unwavering faith in God.

Here is a brief excerpt:

"Corrie Ten Boom stood naked with her older sister Betsie, watching a concentration camp matron beating a prisoner. "Oh, the poor woman," Corrie cried. "Yes. May God forgive her," Betsie replied. And, once again, Corrie realized that it was for the souls of the brutal Nazi guards that her sister prayed."

The Hiding Place is a life-changing classic. It is a quick read. Although it is about the holocaust, it is not deeply depressing but enlightening and uplifting. I hope you enjoy it! It is one of the best books I have ever read.