Friday, February 27, 2015

books i read in february

the sea of tranquility by katja millay - 

i loved this book so much! while the prose wasn't as amazing as astonish me (my fave book in january), the plot was. 

the opening paragragh: "i hate my left hand. i hate to look at it. i hate it when it stutters and trembles and reminds me that my identity is gone. but i look at it anyway, because it also reminds me that i'm going to find the boy who took everything from me. i'm going to kill the boy who killed me, and when i kill him, i'm going to do it with my left hand."

this is the story of a young girl who suffered terrible tragedy and is desperately struggling to recover from it. she meets a young boy who, for much different reasons, is also lost and alone. they are drawn to each other and become the best of friends, offering each other solace and security. as their relationship grows their individual stories are revealed, hers more slowly than his, and they must deal with the circumstances of those discoveries. 

one thing i find frustrating, not just with this book but with many novels about teenage love - the characters are just 17 years old yet they live the lifestyle of an adult and have aged wisdom about it all. i'll concede that in real life young people who endure calamity or loss could surely grow up more quickly or act more mature than their peers but i find fictional stories to take this concept a bit too far. with this particular book, even though i sometimes found myself thinking these are supposed to be teenagers?, ultimately i just didn't care. i fell in love with the characters and became completely invested in their story. 

and, heck, mature teenage love stories have been around since romeo and i guess i should just get over myself. 

pastrix: the cranky beautiful faith of a sinner and saint by nadia bolz-weber - 

this memoir by female pastor and founder of the house for all sinners and saints, a lutheran church in downtown denver had me hooked. pastor nadia, a former comedian, addict and christianity cynic felt a calling to lead "her people", those who don't fit into the typical starched and pressed mold of suburban mega-churches. this book is nadia's personal story of faith - how she came to it, how she stumbled into church leadership and how she constantly finds jesus in the people and places from which christians often turn away. 

nadia recounts the moment she knew she was supposed to be a pastor. as the most religious among her friends she was asked to lead a funeral service for a comedian who took his own life. she stood on stage at comedy works in denver and looked out at those gathered in mourning. she wrote, "in that underground room filled with the smell of stale beer and bad jokes, i looked around and saw more pain and questions and loss than anyone, including myself, knew what to do with. and i saw god" (page 9).

i dog-earred so many pages; marking specific passages that touched my heart. here are a few:

from page 198, "the greatest spiritual practice isn't yoga or praying the hours or living in intentional poverty, although these are beautiful in their own way. the greatest spiritual practice is just showing up. showing up, to me, means being present to what is real, what is actually happening."

from page 172, this made me laugh out loud because this is so exactly me, "pretending to feel a way other than how i actually feel is not a gift god gave me. i can pull it off for short periods of time when needed, but the effort is exhausting." 

from page 135, talking about the grace of god, "god's ability to love us is always greater than our ability to make ourselves worthy of [love]."

from page 86, "god is not distant at the cross and god is not distant in the grief of the newly motherless at the hospital; but instead, god is there in the messy mascara-streaked middle of it, feeling as shitty as the rest of us. there simply in no knowable answer to the question of why there is suffering. but there is meaning. and for me that meaning ended up being related to jesus - emmanuel - which means "god with us". we want to go to god for answers but sometimes what we get is god's presence."

i was inspired by this book. like, the kind of inspired that made me want to buy hundreds of copies and gift it to everyone i know. while some of my friends and family might be offended by nadia's writing (she is as far from conservative christianity as one can get), i honestly believe if all christians believed the way nadia believes, this world would be a better place. basically, her belief is that we can come to god just as we are. no need to wear a mask at church or change our personality in order to fit in. god loves us all. each and every one. and we can all love god. the end.

the paying guests by sarah waters

a story set in 1920's london. a tale of a once precocious daughter who was left to care for her mother and their large house after losing her two brothers in the first world war and her father not long after. accustomed to middle class luxuries, after his death it was revealed her father had made poor financial choices, placing miss frances wray and her mother in rather dreary circumstances. they had to let go of their household servants, learn how to do (and keep up with) the daily chores themselves, and take in tenants in order to make ends meet. mr. and mrs. barber, the young couple who move in upstairs, are lively and mysterious. frances is both drawn to them and wary.

the inside book flap calls the paying guests "a love story, a tension-filled crime story, and a beautifully atmospheric portrait of a fascinating time and place".

i agree. 

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