The Lifegiving Home is a practical and inspiring collection, arranged month-by-month, of ideas which will help you to “creat[e] a place of belonging and becoming” for yourself, your family, your friends, and others with whom you share your home.
Sally Clarkson is so amazing in this book, and her other books, about helping women solidify their ideals and work toward establishing an atmosphere of safety and love where people can learn, grow, create, and build strong relationships. I am always encouraged after reading or listening to Sally (check out her “At Home With Sally” podcast; it’s great, too!).
In Fit to Burst: Abundance, Mayhem, and the Joys of Motherhood, Rachel Jankovic has some good, wise things to say, and it’s nice to read a book by a young mom, who is, right now, in the thick of caring for multiple little people. This tiny book has eighteen chapters, which means that each chapter is only a few pages long. The chapters are self-contained, which is helpful, I guess, if you only have time to read one, but the book is not particularly organized or unified, other than centering around the theme of “motherhood.” Maybe I would have appreciated the book more in small doses, but I had to rush through it because I borrowed it through interlibrary loan and don’t want to be hit with a steep late fee.
Jankovic’s tone bugs me a bit. Her writing is concise, blunt, and sometimes leaning toward strict or harsh. I’m suppose I’m comparing it to another “mothering” book I am currently reading, Sally Clarkson’s The Lifegiving Home, and Clarkson’s style is so much gentler and more gracious, which I find more encouraging.
Outliers is informative and engaging. I genuinely enjoyed reading the profiles of various successful people and the analysis of how and why they were able to rise to the top of their professions or otherwise excel in life. The book can essentially be summed up with this statement from its next-to-last chapter: “Outliers are those who have been given opportunities–and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.”
So, to be blunt, this book is valuable and interesting in an abstract way, but if you are reading it for practical advice on how YOU can be successful, then you will be disappointed and possibly annoyed that you never experienced any of the “lucky breaks” that most of the individuals in this book were afforded.
This is not a book for everyone. However, if you love reading birth stories, have a large family or are curious about large families and their beliefs and practices, or are an “older” (mid-thirties and up) woman who is interested in having (or continuing to have) babies, then you will probably enjoy this book. The book is written from a religious standpoint, as is obvious from the subtitle: “Ten Ordinary Women Surrender to the Creator and Embrace Life.”
Each chapter in this book is written by a different woman who holds the conviction that God is sovereign over family size. For the most part, the women eschew all forms of birth control and have large families. Each woman shares about her family, including her and her husband’s reasons for allowing God to plan their family size, birth stories, and challenges and blessings that have come their way. Then, at the end of each chapter, each woman gives her answers for the same set of survey questions that was given to all of the book’s contributors.
I appreciate that the survey questions do not shy away from hard ethical issues, such as the increased risk of miscarriage and birth defects that older mothers face. I was encouraged by the strong faith and wisdom of each of the women in this book. The tone of the book is not preachy or prescriptive; it’s more “this is why we do what we do and how it has worked out for us.”
The last two chapters of the book are full of practical advice about optimal nutrition for fertility and help for preventing and correcting physical challenges that some women experience during and after pregnancy.
I love Marilynne Robinson and count her among my favorite authors, but this book did not do much for me. I feel like I would probably get more out of it if I were to read it a second time, now that I understand where Robinson was going over the course of 300+ meandering, metaphorical pages, but to be honest, I’m not in a hurry to re-read Housekeeping. It didn’t hold my interest, and in fact, because I kept putting it down out of boredom, it took me over seven months to finish (hence, for the #VTReadingChallenge, I am using it for “A book you have started but never finished.”)
Housekeeping is beautifully descriptive, but it would be more palatable if it had more dialogue, more plot, and more interesting characters. I never really got into it; I never identified strongly with any of the characters.
If you are already a Marilynne Robinson fan, you might enjoy reading this book, originally published in 1980, to see how she has developed as an author. But be prepared to be a bit disappointed.
The Edge of Sadness is the most stunningly well-written book I have read in a long time. I needed to read “a novel that won the Pulitzer prize” for the #VTReadingChallenge, and the title of this one intrigued me. I briefly glanced at a synopsis and discovered that The Edge of Sadness is about an alcoholic priest. I was a little concerned that the book might be too depressing or creepy (for what it’s worth, it is not), but I decided to give it a try anyway, and I’m glad I did.
It is easy to see why The Edge of Sadness received a Pulitzer. It has much to say about the human condition: the search for purpose, the yearning to be known, the constant temptation to retreat into one’s self and become isolated….
(Those ellipsis points are a jesting tribute to Edwin O’Connor’s annoyingly excessive use of ellipses throughout this book. Sometimes I just wanted him to finish a thought, darn it, instead of trailing off. But that’s a minor gripe about an otherwise fantastic book).
I probably would never have picked up this novel of my own volition, but it was a selection for a book club I am in. Normally I steer clear of fantasy or anything supernatural; they’re just not my style. But although The Historian explores the idea of Dracula still living (that is, being “undead”) in the modern age, it contains enough realism and history that it didn’t pull me too far out of my comfort zone.
Writing The Historian must have been a massive undertaking, requiring tons of research, for Elizabeth Kostova (I read in an interview that she worked on it for ten years!). The book’s characters travel all over Europe to various libraries and monasteries, trying to uncover the truth about the historical Dracula (a.k.a., Vlad Țepeș, a.k.a., Vlad the Impaler) and why he seems to be affecting certain people in the present.
Because the book constantly transitions between narrators with very few introducing phrases, it can be challenging to keep track of who is speaking. This is not a casual read. I had to give it focused attention and only read it after my kids went to bed, as it doesn’t lend itself to interruptions.
Overall, I think The Historian is exciting and well-written, but I did feel like it got bogged down in details after the halfway point. The action does, however, pick up again about 75-100 pages from the end.
I am marking this book off as “A novel longer than 400 pages” for the #VTReadingChallenge.