Book Report: March Round-Up

This was a 12 book month–maybe because March was more like a lion than a lamb. Reading was definitely the cozy thing to do on snowy and cold days.

Fiction: Seven Books

  • My favorite this month was A Town Called Solace (2021) by Mary Lawson. One of my favorite books of 2021 was her first book Crow Lake, and this month I have already read another in her backlist. In my book journal notes I wrote, “If I wrote fiction, I would like to write a book like this.” The characters in her books, which are set in northern Canada, are real, flawed, vulnerable, and likable, sometimes lovable. Clara is eight years old and worried about her older sister who has run away. She is also worried about her neighbor Mrs Orchard who is in the hospital. At least that is what she is told. Clara takes care of Moses, her neighbor’s cat, but how to do that when she realizes someone else is living in the house?
  • I also loved The Floor of the Sky (2006) by Pamela Carter Joern. Lila, age 16, is pregnant and comes to live on her grandmother Toby’s ranch in the Sandhills of Nebraska. Toby is in danger of losing the ranch to back taxes –her backstory is revealed slowly, gently, and lovingly. Like the characters in the Lawson book, these characters entered my heart.
  • Another one of my favorite books in 2021 was This Is Happiness by Niall Williams, and now I am exploring his backlist. This past month I read Four Letters of Love (1997). Also set in Ireland, this is a story of two families. The father in one wants to devote his life to painting and the father in the other writes poetry and as a prize in a writing contest is given a painting by the other man. This is the story, as many novels are, of love and loss and discernment, but also miracles. Here is an example of one beautifully written passage (p.209):

The priest shushed them, and waved them hopelessly back towards the gate. He was a quiet man who sought quietness, and was suddenly alarmed at what landed in his parish. Panic prickled in his lower stomach like a bag of needles. It was the kind of thing you wished on your worst enemy this: miracles. Let the bishop have them, give them to Galway, but not here. Why were they always happening in out-of-the-way rural places? God! His shaven jaw stung in the salt wind and he rued the new blades he had bought at O’Gormans.

  • Jacqueline Winspear’s newest in her Maisie Dobbs series was published in March, and I didn’t hesitate to get my copy of A Sunlit Weapon. Maisie Dobbs is a psychologist and private investigator in post WWI London. This latest book is set during WWII and we get fuller views of Maisie with her American husband and their adopted daughter. While I don’t anticipate re-reading these books as I have done with the Louise Penney books, each one is a good read. I recommend reading them in order. The first book in the series is Maisie Dobbs (2003).
  • I enjoyed both Marjorie Morningstar (1955) by Herman Wouk, which I found in a Little Free Library, and The Bastard of Istanbul (2007) by Elif Shafak. (I will probably read Shafak’s The Forty Rules of Love at some point.) I did not particularly enjoy The Camomile Lawn (1984) by Mary Wesley and am not sure why I didn’t set it aside without finishing. It is set in the early years of WWII in England and focuses on a decadent and sometimes abusive family. Some nice writing, but I won’t be reading more by this author.

Nonfiction: Five Books

  • I have already written a review of Spirit Car, Journey to a Dakota Past (2006) by Diane Wilson and highly recommend it.
  • If you are in a discernment process of any kind, I also highly recommend Decision Making and Spiritual Discernment, The Sacred Art of Finding Your Way (2010) by Nancy Bieber. I have used this book more than once and am so glad it is still on my shelf and once again, it was just the help I needed.
  • The Making of an Old Soul, Aging as the Fulfillment of Life’s Promise (2021) by Carol Orsborn is a slim book, but packed with wisdom. She maintains the “purpose of life may be to clarify our essence,” and the book illuminates how awakening to that essence is possible to our final page. Previously, I appreciated a book she co-authored with Robert L. Weber, The Spirituality of Age, A Seeker’s Guide to Growing Older (2015).
  • Not as high on my recommended list are two other books read in March. The Salt Path (2018) by Raynor Winn and Soul Therapy, The Art and Craft of Caring Conversation (2021) by Thomas Moore. The Salt Path is the true story of Winn and her husband Moth who undertake a 630 mile walk in the UK. They are homeless and broke, and this is a brave, but not always wise decision, especially since husband Moth has serious health issues. The story is important, but the writing was not always strong. I have loved earlier books by Moore, including The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life and Care of the Soul, but this most recent book is not his strongest. I like the notion, however, that therapy is really care of the soul, and I like this quote:

…you are the servant and secretary, not the one who heals and saves. You are the priest and minister, but not the cause of success. Your job is to assist at the healing but not do the work first hand. Sometimes I think of my job as that of sacristan. I keep the temple clean and well-supplied.

An Invitation:

What did you read in March and what do you recommend? I would love to know.

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