Wednesday, August 23, 2017

August Book Club

The Kitchen House: A Novel by Kathleen Grissom
Kathleen Grissom, New York Times bestselling author of the highly anticipated Glory Over Everything, established herself as a remarkable new talent with The Kitchen House, now a contemporary classic. In this gripping novel, a dark secret threatens to expose the best and worst in everyone tied to the estate at a thriving plantation in Virginia in the decades before the Civil War.

Orphaned during her passage from Ireland, young, white Lavinia arrives on the steps of the kitchen house and is placed, as an indentured servant, under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate slave daughter. Lavinia learns to cook, clean, and serve food, while guided by the quiet strength and love of her new family.

In time, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, caring for the master’s opium-addicted wife and befriending his dangerous yet protective son. She attempts to straddle the worlds of the kitchen and big house, but her skin color will forever set her apart from Belle and the other slaves.

Through the unique eyes of Lavinia and Belle, Grissom’s debut novel unfolds in a heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful story of class, race, dignity, deep-buried secrets, and familial bonds.

Can a book be both beautiful and terrible at the same time?

I think this one comes close.

I was so swept up in the story that I couldn't keep myself from turning the pages.  I think that the alternating points of view between Lavinia and Belle gives such a rich and honest look into life at Tall Oaks.  You see Lavinia's childlike understanding of the world around her and you get to see how she matures into womanhood.  Yet, with Belle's viewpoint, we get to see the real dangers that lurk around every corner and to feel the hopelessness that comes from being caught in the middle of secrets a child cannot understand.

While I honestly was swept away in the story, it was nonetheless difficult to read in more than one place.  The brutality of humans toward one another is hard to digest.  At least for me.  I couldn't stop...but at the same time, I didn't want to read of any more heartbreak or cruelty. 


After writing this brief synopsis of my thoughts and before our book club meeting on Monday, I listened to a podcast where the author was the guest.  She shared a quote that so beautifully sums up this book and my thoughts on it.

"Man's inhumanity towards man."  And I might add, towards women.

To this point our book club has limited ourselves to titles of Christian Fiction.  I was a bit worried how our ladies might respond to this story; which while disturbing, is not graphic.  I think it walked that thin line very well as everyone loved this story so much that they voted to read the sequel, Glory Over Everything, for our next meeting.  They just couldn't leave this story behind yet.

There was only one real complaint against the seemingly one dimensional, cookie cutter portrayals of slaves...but as I've thought that through a bit more, we get a one dimensional view of most everyone except the two narrators. 

The story begins with a heart-thumping run through the woods that ends at a tall oak tree with a body hanging from it...and it never really lets up from there.  It is the story of secrets that tear at the fabric of a family, some natural born and some chosen...and how words unspoken can create just as much havoc as those spoken in haste or anger.  You will cheer the characters on...and you will want to smack them upside the head.  Sometimes both while reading the same paragraph.  At one point I even thought about throwing my book across the room, but I didn't want to have to walk over to pick it up and find my page again. 

We enjoyed a wonderful Southern potluck dinner of roasted pork, turnip greens, beans, cornbread and peach cobbler with Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream.  It was all so delicious that I can hardly wait until next month's meeting.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

July Book Club

A Lineage of Grace: Five Stories of Unlikely Women Who Changed Eternity
by Francine Rivers

In this compilation of the five books in the best-selling Lineage of Grace series by Francine Rivers, we meet the five women whom God chose—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. Each was faced with extraordinary—even scandalous—challenges. Each took great personal risk to fulfill her calling. Each was destined to play a key role in the lineage of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World.

Wow, this book was a doozy!  At 560 pages this one took AWHILE to read.  In all honesty, I wasn't able to post just after book club because I hadn't finished.  I was down to the last third of Bathsheba's story and still needed to read Mary's.

This book is a compilation of novellas originally published as Unveiled (Tamar), Unashamed (Rahab), Unshaken (Ruth), Unspoken (Bathsheba) and Unafraid (Mary).  I wish I had started this earlier and taken the time to go through each of the Bible studies at the end of each story.  I have mixed feelings about these types of stories because you have to be very careful in the future not to take the speculation of the author that fills in the lines of these women's lives and mistake it for the Scriptural account.  Yet on the other hand, to see their stories in the context of their time and surroundings does make them less one dimensional and you begin to see how you relate to their story. 

My favorite was the story of Tamar.  I had never considered how Judah's part in Joseph's being sold into slavery might affect how he would react and relate to his family. 

The parts of this that did not ring true for me:
  • the supposition that each of these characters were already seeking God before their lives came into the Scriptural account.  I could see it for Mary, but not so much for Tamar or Rahab.
  • Bathsheba's unquenchable love for David from childhood was a bit too romantic for my taste.  It seemed to give her an excuse for her part in the adultery.  But the trouble it caused here in the palace after becoming his wife almost made up for it. 
We had a pretty lively discussion and I was in the minority for my lack of passion about it.  We found ourselves often asking, 'was that true or part of the story?' a lot. 

This one didn't have much food to keep our dinner in theme...but we enjoyed more bread and wine!

I think the other ladies would give this one a 4 1/2 or 5 stars.  But mine would have to be a ★★☆ tops. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

What I Read in July

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

There are secrets you share, and secrets you hide….

Growing up on her family’s Sonoma vineyard, Georgia Ford learned some important secrets. The secret number of grapes it takes to make a bottle of wine: eight hundred. The secret ingredient in her mother’s lasagna: chocolate. The secret behind ending a fight: hold hands.

But just a week before her wedding, thirty-year-old Georgia discovers her beloved fiancé has been keeping a secret so explosive, it will change their lives forever.

Georgia does what she’s always done: she returns to the family vineyard, expecting the comfort of her long-married parents, and her brothers, and everything familiar. But it turns out her fiancĂ© is not the only one who’s been keeping secrets….

This was my cruise read...and it was perfectly delicious.

Fun.  Short.  Interesting. 

Of course you have to expect those things when the book opens with a girl on a long road trip to her hometown her wedding dress...covered with junk food stains. 

I am looking forward to reading Laura's new book Hello Sunshine.

Rating: ★★★★

Simply Tuesday: Small Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World by Emily P. Freeman
(Non-Fiction/Christian Living)
Our obsession with bigger and faster is spinning us out of control. We move through the week breathless and bustling, just trying to keep up while longing to slow down. 

But real life happens in the small moments, the kind we find on Tuesday, the most ordinary day of the week. Tuesday carries moments we want to hold onto--as well as ones we'd rather leave behind. It holds secrets we can't see in a hurry--secrets not just for our schedules but for our souls. It offers us a simple bench on which to sit, observe, and share our stories.

For those being pulled under by the strong current of expectation, comparison, and hurry, relief is found more in our small moments than in our fast movements. In Simply Tuesday, Emily P. Freeman helps readers

· stop dreading small beginnings and embrace today's work
· find contentment in the now--even when the now is frustrating or discouraging
· replace competition with compassion
· learn to breathe in a breathless world

Jesus lived small moments well, slow moments fully, and all moments free. He lives with us still, on all our ordinary days, creating and redeeming the world both in us and through us, one small moment at a time. It's time to take back Tuesday, to release our obsession with building a life, and believe in the life Christ is building in us--every day.

I finally finished this one!

I love reading Emily's blogposts at Chatting at the Sky.  Her voice is one of rest and quiet and deep places that make me think.

Though I started this book last October and loved it, I was also teaching a Bible study and never finished the last third of the book.  As it turns out, I needed the last two sections of the book now, not last October.  Jim and I have been trying to slow down.  And though our schedule was unbelievably busy this spring/early summer due to various functions that we attended, we purposefully tried to keep some weekends empty and to spend more time doing the things that actually refresh us during the week. 

After I finished Marie Goff's book last month, I was tempted to move on to another Christian Living title waiting on my bookshelf.  I am so glad that I chose to finish reading this one first.  Part 4 was especially soothing to my busy soul.  The chapter on "Prayer & Questions: Making Friends with the Fog" -- hit the bull's-eye for where my heart has felt caught lately.  "Desire & Disappointment: Why Clarity is Overrated" hit the nail on the head that I was not looking for clarity in order to know where the Lord wanted to move me next but because I wanted to feel IN CONTROL of where we are going.  "Endings & Beginnings: Casting a Hopeful Vision for the Future" reminded me that the end can be as beautiful as the beginning.

Rating: ★★★
(It may have been a 4 star if I hadn't waited so long before I finished it.)

Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together by Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth
(Non-Fiction/Christian Living)

Woman to woman. Older to younger. Day to day. Life to life. This is God’s beautiful plan.

The Titus 2 model of older women living out the gospel alongside younger women is vital for us all to thrive. It is mutually strengthening, glorifies God, and makes His truth believable to our world.

Imagine older women investing themselves in the lives of younger women, blessing whole families and churches. Imagine young wives, moms, and singles gaining wisdom and encouragement from women who’ve been there and have found God’s ways to be true and good. Imagine all women—from older women to young girls—living out His transforming gospel together, growing the entire body of Christ to be more beautiful.

This is Christian community as God designed it. Read this book and take your relationships to new depths, that your life might find its fullest meaning as you adorn the gospel of Christ.

Since I was on a roll with finishing up Simply Tuesday, I refused to start a new book until I finished this one too.  I had read/listened to this all the way to Part 4...and somehow let the ending slip away.

This book is speaking as a sacred echo into my life right now.  The Lord has placed the many facets of discipleship and mentoring on my heart through various books and life circumstances since the middle of last year when I read both Audacious and Giddy Up, Eunice about Women's ministry and our relationships with the various women in our lives.

I'm praying through what this will look like in my life in the future.  I've taught Bible studies (off and on) for nearly two decades...but in the past year those dynamics have been changing to more of a small group prototype, and I have been loving it. 

If the Lord should bring me to mind, please pray that I would hear His voice and respond in immediate obedience.  I so want to be a faithful daughter, sister and my flesh and blood family and to my spiritual family.

(FYI: It's a little tough to get through the doctrine in the first part of this book, BUT it is essential to understanding the later parts that are both hands on and highly controversial in the world we live in.  This title will remain in my library for refreshers.)

Rating: ★★★★★

I also read a book for Book Club at the Barn this past month...but I have a separate post coming for that one.

Hope you have enjoyed some good books this summer...and maybe even finished up some that have been calling your name from that 'unfinished' shelf.