Good Book Club Reads

These are books that made me think or are books that lend themselves to interesting discussions.

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Really liked this book – especially the whole treatment of miracles and faith.  The relationship of the father to his children is beautifully written.

Dwelling Places by Vinita Hampton Wright

The emotion in this book was so real that I found myself tearing up in empathy with the characters, even though the story itself wasn’t designed to make a person cry. I really enjoyed this book. Interesting telling of the “loss of the family farm” story, and all that goes along with that.

The Widow’s War by Sally Gunning

Wow – what a thought-provoking book. My favorite part was one of the last confrontations between Eban Freeman and Widow Berry (but not their last encounters). Just when he thinks he finally has her figured out, she surprises him yet again. Other favorites – the moment when Widow Berry understands her relationship with her daughter. And the tender memories she has for her husband and their life together. In an era when men and women had such defined roles and expectations of each other, a woman spun out into an exploration of herself by grief is a surprise not only to herself but to those who would love her or help her or shut her into a convenient new role of widow. It was a beautiful, wrenching, and ultimately thought-provoking read.

A Certain Slant of Light by Cynthia Thayer

I liked the different levels in this book. There’s the weather imagery – the book starts the morning after an ice storm, and as the end of winter gives way to spring, there is an echoing of this “melting” in the life of the main character. He too, is thawing, breaking free of his frozen routine that keeps him from the pain of his loss. There’s also the child bearing imagery reinforcing this awakening. Just as the baby grows and then is born, the main character is growing and preparing for a new stage in his life. He begins the novel thinking of death and how he hopes it will come soon, and ends the novel looking forward to life. Really great book especially if you enjoy this layering of meaning and suggestion.

The Rest of Her Life by Laura Moriarty

I really liked this book. The most interesting thing to me was the relationships of the different women who were also mothers and daughters. Although each mother was lacking – they each were better than the generation before – wanted more and tried harder. And Ms. Moriarty dealt with the pain of losing a child and the pain of a child being the cause of that death in such a satisfying way. When the unthinkable happens, how do we cope and move forward? And I really liked the character of Leigh. Her personal growth in this novel was so rewarding. There was a feeling that she was taking a deep breath and moving outside her fear and longing to really become more authentically herself. Thumbs up to this book.

Gap Creek by Robert Morgan

There is something powerful and compelling about the simple and straightforward prose of Julie’s narration. Death is a too-common part of her life (and indeed probably most lives at the turn of the century) but Julie mingles grief with a love of life in a way that is enviable in an age where we fight death tooth and nail and are sometimes paralyzed with grief. There were scenes that I found particularly moving. When Julie describes the experience of giving birth and recognizing it as work and moving through the experience with confidence that she can do the work. When Julie joins the fellowship of the Gap Creek church, she describes her experience with the Spirit in such clear and ringing and peaceful terms. In addition, for Julie’s youth, she is wise – learning the character of her husband and almost instinctively giving him what he needs to become someone better than he began. A very moving tale of a first year of marriage. Beautiful!

Clay’s Quilt by Silas House

Although the characters are hard – drinking, drugs, poverty – they are also strangely appealing. And the tone of the novel is hopeful and almost joyful in its celebration of life. I liked Mr. House’s exploration of how one comes to reconcile the tragedies and joys of life and how it is possible to go forward and not get stuck in pain. Also, I loved the writing in this novel – beautiful!

Five Skies by Ron Carlson

One of the things I liked best was the characters – the masculine voice was written. I also loved watching the two older men, both suffering under great sorrow, reach out to Ronnie and “father” him so successfully. Even the tragedy at the end seems redeemed somehow by what it does for Darwin & Art. Great book.

The Leisure Seekers by Michael Zadoorian

I loved the voice of Ella in this book – matter-of-fact, content with herself, in charge. I loved the glimpses of the life Ella and John have made with each other – the moments when John remembers, when they are themselves together again. This is an unconventional road trip story, and I was torn between fear for the couple and sorrow for the difficulties that old age and sickness bring. Despite that, there are moments of real humor in the book, and I admired Ella so much for her strength.


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