Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The three latest books I've completed

The Bravehearted Gospel, Eric Ludy
What it's about: What do I believe, and where did it come from? Is it all a bunch of misty, unsubstantiated ideas, or as real and tangible as the ground I walk on? I'm more accustomed to reading Eric Ludy's take on relationships than on faith, so this book surprised me a little, but only in a good way.
The bottom line: If there's a feminine side to everything and everyone, as contemporary culture tells us, it follows that there's also a masculine side. Unfortunately, in our eagerness to be PC and inclusive, we've neglected the masculine side of who we are, collectively and as individuals. Ludy asks some sharp questions, and explores the answers, about how we can regain that balance without becoming mustachioed guerilla women and sissyfied metrosexual men.
Read it if: You're sick and tired of hearing the label "Christian" without seeing the Christ behind the label. He lived and died, and lives again, for a gristly as well as a glorious cause. This book reminds us to hang on to both sides of that coin.

Tender Grace, Jackina Stark
What it's about: A widow reclaims her life after spending two years buried in grief. I am a fan of good road-trip stories, and this is a great road-trip story. What's not to love? It's written as a journal, and I love journals; it isn't afraid to face the uglier, no-make-up side of faith, and I'm not afraid to face the uglier, no-make-up side of faith; it's often funny and sad in the same sentence, and I often feel funny and... you see where I'm going here.
The bottom line: Audrey hits the road in search of something that will make life worth living again. She isn't disappointed. Neither am I, each time I take the journey with her.
Read it if: You need a feel-good read, tearful catharsis, or brief descriptions of scattered tourist destinations in the American Southwest. Actually, no, if you read it for that last reason alone you'll feel let down. But don't read it for that last reason alone; trust me, just read it.

A Wedding in December, Anita Shreve
What it's about: A pair of high school sweethearts weds, a considerably long time after high school. Their old gang gathers for the wedding, except for one: he drowned back in those high school days. The book explores life, death and everything that happens in between -- love, guilt, betrayal, hope, forgiveness, fear, illness, fidelity, infidelity and more.
The bottom line: I'm not sure if there is one. The book doesn't conclude with happily ever afters for everyone involved. You get the feeling that loose ends have not been tied up and the story goes on after these pages. That's quite a refreshing difference from novels whose author believes everything must be resolved before your right index finger hits the back cover. However, I find it very hard to feel comfortable in the characters' world where marital infidelity is the norm. Sure, they struggle with it and ask profound questions about whether it's right or wrong, but go on frolicking in it without ever answering those questions. Call me prudish if you want, but it's my blog and I'll state my values if I want to.
Read it if: I don't know how to complete this. I tend to find Shreve's writing dry and in need of tightening. The plot has potential but is largely forgettable. And yet it was engaging enough to finish, so... what shall I say? Read it if you have the time and, like me, you won't have to pay too much for it. (My copy? Only a dollar at the bookshop that gave my mobile phone to a thief. Now there's a story worth telling.)

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