Saturday, December 31, 2016

What I Read In November & December

 Denmark is officially the happiest nation on Earth. When Helen Russell is forced to move to rural Jutland, can she discover the secrets of their happiness? Or will the long, dark winters and pickled herring take their toll?

 A Year of Living Danishly looks at where the Danes get it right, where they get it wrong, and how we might just benefit from living a little more Danishly ourselves.

Helen Russell works as a Scandinavia correspondent for the Guardian and the Independent, as well as writing a column on Denmark for the Telegraph.

I first heard about this book on a podcast for a small independent bookstore in Thomasville, GA (From the Front Porch).  I was intrigued...and it was recommended by Shauna Niequist via Instagram, so how could I resist. 

It is interesting to me how we in America are held up next to these Scandinavian countries and shown lacking in areas like vacation time or family leave...but as I read this book I knew that there is no way in Hades that American's would agree to live under all of those rules. Nor would we agree to that level of taxation. Which made me wonder why those things are never mentioned in the global conversation.  It appears that by limiting your choices you can be happier and healthier.  (Seriously, it would be against the law for me to fly any other flag including my Razorback flag in Denmark...and bicycle lights have to flash exactly 'X' amount of time per minute or they are illegal.)  But are we ready for the loss of choice and the homogenization of our culture to get the things we see in them that we think we want? 

I was just reminded again that everything, even good things, come at a cost.

Only God knew why Jillian Slater agreed to return to New Orleans on the news that her father had finally drunk himself to death. It’s not like they were close. She hadn’t seen him―or her grandmother, the ice queen―in almost 20 years. But when Adella Atwater, the manager of her grandmother’s apartment house, called and said Jillian’s expenses would be paid if she’d fly in for the burial, a free trip to New Orleans was too intriguing to resist.

What Adella didn’t tell her was that the apartment house wasn’t a house at all and, whatever it was, bore the dead weight of a long and painful history. As soon as Jillian meets the odd assortment of renters and realizes that her grandmother had no idea she was coming, she hatches a plan to escape. But the investigation into her father’s death quickly unfolds and Jillian is drawn into the lives of the colorful collection of saints and sinners who pass through Saint Silvanus. She soon discovers there is more at stake than she ever imagined. Who is behind the baffling messages and the strange relics left on the steps? Is it possible that her family is actually cursed? Or is it just this crazy old house that holds them all under its spell?

Jillian walks into a web of spiritual and personal danger borne out of her family’s broken history, and despite Adella’s wiliest efforts, only God himself can orchestrate the undoing of all that is going on at Saint Silvanus.

I have been waiting for this one to come out.  Beth Moore's first novel!  What else to do but call all of my reading friends and invite them to Book Club.

The story is good.  The characters are rich.  I only wanted to shake Jillian about a hundred times, but I could see why she would respond the way she did.  The location of Saint Silvanus itself became a character in our minds and we spent a lot of time discussing it.  One word of warning...this book is LONG!  We barely finished it before the meeting...but, oh, did we have some great discussions.  It was the perfect novel for my very first Book Club.  Set the table with hurricane lanterns, throw in some seafood gumbo, red beans and rice and a rich bread pudding -- and you've got yourself a nice evening with friends.

It was so much fun we decided to do it again in January!

In October 1843, Charles Dickens ― heavily in debt and obligated to his publisher ― began work on a book to help supplement his family's meager income. That volume, A Christmas Carol, has long since become one of the most beloved stories in the English language. As much a part of the holiday season as holly, mistletoe, and evergreen wreaths, this perennial favorite continues to delight new readers and rekindle thoughts of charity and goodwill.

With its characters exhibiting many qualities ― as well as failures ― often ascribed to Dickens himself, the imaginative and entertaining tale relates Ebenezer Scrooge's eerie encounters with a series of spectral visitors. Journeying with them through Christmases past, present, and future, he is ultimately transformed from an arrogant, obstinate, and insensitive miser to a generous, warmhearted, and caring human being. Written by one of England's greatest and most popular novelists, A Christmas Carol has come to epitomize the true meaning of Christmas.

I read A Christmas Carol for the very first time!  It is absolutely lovely! 

I happened to be in Barnes and Noble picking up a gift when I saw a beautiful gift book covered in red satin and I just could not pass it up.  I didn't get to finish it until Christmas Day.  It was very moving and a great reminder of where our hearts and attentions should be during this time of the year.  I had recorded a movie with George C. Scott from 1984 which Jim and I watched that evening. (I honestly don't think I had ever even seen a movie adaptation all the way through!) It was a wonderful way to process this year's Christmas season.  It really should be on my reading list every December.