(Review) Lila (Gilead #3) by Marilynne Robinson

Lila
Publisher and Publication Date: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2014.
Genre: Fiction.
Pages: 261.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers who have loved the previous books written by Robinson-the Gilead books. Any reader who loves the beauty of a well told story.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon

The first two books in the Gilead series:
Gilead, published in 2004
Home, published in 2008

 

Lila won a National Book Critics Circle Award in 2015.

This is the first book I’ve read by Marilynne Robinson.

Summary:
The book has been explained as a love story between Lila and John Ames. When I think of a love story, (a fictionalized film or book) I think about a romantic and sensual story. Lila is not that kind of love story. It is the story of a young woman who has spent her life wandering. She’s not had a permanent home. The book reflects on her early childhood, when a woman named Doll found Lila and began to care for her. Doll and Lila didn’t really have a home. But, Doll did the best she could in raising Lila. So, what kind of love story is Lila? It is a story of the kind of love that’s covered with grace. It’s the kind of love that’s covered in sacrifice-a sacrificial type love. Instead of explaining what the words grace and sacrifice mean, Robinson shows it through the two people in Lila’s life who have deeply loved her.

My Thoughts:
Robinson tells the story. This gives a broad view of what is happening, but I also know what Lila is thinking. I’m privy to her ponderings and perspective.
Lila is hardworking. She is comfortable in cleaning, laundry, and gardening. She’s comfortable covered in sweat and dirt. She is not comfortable with a life she’s never known. A life with a home and husband. A life where the people who live in a town see her as a person equal to them and not their hired laborer.
John is proud of Lila. They walk together and he introduces her to the people as his wife. He is gentle, thoughtful, and loving. He does not rush Lila. He sees her differently than she sees herself. He doesn’t worry about her past. He settles on who she is today, his lovely wife.
John shows Lila grace. Grace that is poured out on Lila. He is extravagant in his love and grace to Lila. And all the people in town see this pouring out of love and grace.
There is no denying the fact that John is a much older man and Lila is a young woman.
John is the town preacher. He is a respectable man. Lila has not had the “kind” of life that’s expected of a pastor’s wife. John loves Lila anyway.
I recently read that one of the things that destroys a marriage is unrealistic expectations. While reading Lila I didn’t see that the couple had unrealistic expectations. There is a calm resolve from John. He doesn’t worry about Lila. He is patient and kind. He shows Lila the fullness of love.
I’ve given a little more information about the book in the “My Thoughts” section of this review, because there are some things I want to point out.
1. Lila is a story that shares things about people and society. The town of Gilead is small, but it is a picture of the world. People judge people; and they place them in places they want them to be. For example, that person goes in the “bad” place, because they’ve committed a worse sin that other sins. That person goes in another place because they are a different color that I am. That person has a handicap so they need to go in that other place. And, that person needs to be placed in another place because they have different political beliefs than I do. We gravitate towards people who look like us and think like us and believe as we do. Those are the people we consider to be on our team! Lila doesn’t fit with any of the other people in Gilead. Yet, she stays. And, John and Lila marry. Two people unalike in many ways but love each other.
2. There are different types of love. Inherently we know this, but it’s good to be reminded. Real love is not just the romantic gushing and sensual thrill. Real love is seeing the person you love just as they are and you love them anyway. You love them when they are dirty and sweaty. You love them when you disagree. You love them when they are fearful and misunderstand certain things. You love them even when the people on your “team” don’t understand.
3. Doll is the parent figure who began caring for Lila. Doll took a chance on taking care of Lila. Doll’s heart was moved by this rascally dirty little girl. Doll and John have loved Lila sacrificially. They did the unthinkable. They went out of their comfort zone. They have loved Lila with reckless abandon, not counting the cost.

Lila is a moving story. It’s a story that leaves an imprint on the mind and heart. It’s a story that made me question the kind of love I give.

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(Review) Silence: A Social History of One of the Least Understood Elements of Our Lives by Jane Brox

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Publisher and Publication Date: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. January 15, 2019.
Genre: Nonfiction. Silence and solitude-understanding them.
Pages: 320.
Source: Library.
Audience: Readers who want to understand how silence has been used in society. For example, punishment through the prison system.
Rating: Good.

Amazon

Summary:
Silence
is a library book. While in the library I read the synopsis from the inside cover and was intrigued.
When I think about silence it reminds me of a state of solitude and stillness. This book is about a solitary form of silence or a disciplined silence like in a prison cell or monastery. Both places require silence, but are for different reasons. Both places of silence are doing so as a form of discipline. One form of discipline because the person has been punished. The other form of discipline as a way of spiritual discipline and practice.
In Silence, the first part of the book is a history of prisons in the western world. The history of Newgate (England), Eastern State Penitentiary, and Western State Penitentiary. The last two listed are located in Pennsylvania.
The later half of the book is silence as contemplative in a religious setting.

My Thoughts:
I’m an introvert and love quiet days at home. I love going the whole day without turning on the television or talking to anyone. I don’t want to do this everyday, but I enjoy those days when I can remain silent. I have friends and family who are uncomfortable and down right fearful of being in a quiet place. But what if I had to spend days, months, and years in this state?
When the book begins the life of Charles Williams is given. He was the first inmate at the Eastern State Penitentiary in 1829. He was an experiment in “silence” and solitary confinement for the penal system in America. Nothing is known about Williams after his release from prison. His two years of solitary confinement is used in the book as a strong illustration of what silence does for a prisoner.
Later in the book, women who were inmates in the Eastern State Penitentiary, punishment to women in the Colonial Era, and monastic women are examined.
Silence as contemplative is shown through the life of Thomas Merton. He was curious about the discipline of silence and drawn to becoming a Trappist monk at Our Lady of Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky.
What I did not like about this book is how it is organized. Part one is the history of the prison system as it pertains to forms of discipline and punishment, principally “silence” or solitary confinement. However, in the second half of the book it goes back to the prison system, even though I’d thought it was going to only be about contemplative orders of solitariness.
And a secondary reason is I feel there is confusion about the words silence and solitary. I looked them up in the dictionary and there is a difference.
From Webster’s New World College Dictionary:
“Silence- The state or fact of keeping silent; a refraining from speech or from making noise.”
“Solitary-Living or being alone, without others; single; characterized by loneliness or lack of companions.”
A prisoner is silent in solitary confinement and disciplined by being set apart for a lone existence. Not his or her choice, but as a form of discipline and punishment.
A person in a monastic life is silent because they choose to be silent. They live and move among other people but remain silent. It is a form of discipline and teaching on their life.
What I like about the book is reading about a subject not talked about much. The world is noisy. It is even noisy in preoccupation with techie gadgets. To be still and silent is eerily different. But I like it!
A second reason I like the book is it causes me to think about my speech, how I am silent and why, and the importance and timing of words.

(Review) The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen

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Publisher and Publication Date: Lake Union Publishing. February 12, 2019.
Genre: Historical Fiction.
Pages: 368.
Source: Library.
Audience: Readers of World War I, historical fiction and romance.
Review: Okay.

Amazon

Summary:
Emily Bryce is a young woman who is yearning to be involved in the war effort. Her best friend Clarissa shares about her role in caring for the wounded, and this makes Emily more determined to become involved on the home front.
Emily’s brother, Freddie, died in the Battle of Ypres. Her parents are determined to keep Emily safe. Emily’s mother is determined to show Emily off to society.
Emily volunteers as a Land Girl. It is hard work. Her parents are shocked and appalled that their darling girl is doing manual labor. While on this new adventure, Emily meets an Aussie pilot on medical leave. She also finds a journal about medicinal arts. This journal changes her life. It also keeps her busy during the hard days ahead.

My Thoughts:
I didn’t feel an attachment to any of the characters. The story has an interesting plot, but I didn’t feel emotion that I should have about the main character at least. Emily’s had sad events in life, but I was not effected.
The part of the story I found most interesting was the journal Emily found with information about medicinal arts. So, it is not a person that held my interest, but a journal about medicinal arts. It shouldn’t be that way.
This is a serious story. Life and death occur, but I didn’t become swept up in it or feel it mattered.
I finished the story but am disappointed. This book did not work for me.

(Review) Outlander, Book One by Diana Gabaldon

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Publisher and Publication Date: Delacorte/Random House. 1991.
Genre: Historical fiction. 1st in a series. Scotland.
Pages: 627.
Source: Library.
Rating: Okay.
Audience: Readers of Scotland’s 18th century history in fiction.

Amazon

I’ve tried to read this book before. I even have it on Audible. I’ve watched most of the first season on Starz. This time I borrowed the hardcover edition from the public library and persevered till the last page.

Outlander is the first book in a long series about Claire Randall and time travel, and two lives with two husbands. The story begins in late 1945. Claire and husband Frank are in the Highland’s of Scotland. They are on a second honeymoon after being apart during the war years. They are both English. Frank will soon start work as a professor of history at Oxford. Claire had been a combat nurse during the war. While in Scotland Frank is researching genealogy.  Frank and Claire are happy to be together and are deeply in love. Claire is transported back to 1743 Scotland after touching an ancient stone. This is the beginning of her adventure with a Scottish clan, and a new life with James Fraser. The nemesis is Black Jack Randall. He is a horrible, despicable, vile man. He is an officer in the English army, he abuses the Scottish people.

Until I had the book in my hand and looked at the date of publication, I had no idea the book was published in 1991. I’d heard about the story when it was picked up to be a series on Starz.

Spoilers in the review. Why? Because it’s the only way to express how I feel about the entirety of the book. This might be the first time I’ve written information about a book giving away spoilers!

What I like about Outlander:
•The setting is Scotland. I love Scotland. And, I enjoyed reading about the terrain and scenery of the land. This reason includes the history, culture, and language of the people during the 18th century.
•I love the time period of World War II and afterwards. The roles Claire and Frank had during the war was of interest to me.
•The relationship Frank and Claire have is a mature love. They’ve endured and stayed together. I love it that they are passionate for one another. They enjoy being together. They have a deep and mature love for one another.
•The story has strong and defined characters. There are good people and bad people, and I know who is which. There is no guessing with who fits in each spot.
•Claire’s nurse training is used in the book. I enjoyed reading about how she medically treated people during 1743 Scotland.
•It is a vivid and sweeping dramatic story.

What I did not like about Outlander:
•When the story begins Claire is a woman who is independent, knows her mind, has matured because of the experiences of war, educated, a world traveler, and is within a few years of approaching the age of 30. I consider her a renaissance woman. However, Claire’s character has a transformation after she is transported back in time to 1743 (especially after marrying James.) Some of the strong personality she held softens. I don’t see that her personality strengths changed in a good way. She’d been a person of principle, but settled for what was expected. I will expand on this later.
•I have heard authors elaborate on writing a story. They’ve said characters just emerge on their own and become what they will. I say pooh. An author writes a story. An author has control over their characters and storyline. What am I getting at? I’m a victim of sexual abuse. I was a kid. The people in Outlander are adults. There is a difference between making love and sexual abuse. When people have sex and there are cuts, scratches, bumps, bruises, and people have an inability to walk afterwards it is abuse. Claire is 27. She is not a young girl or innocent/naïve to sex. At the end of the book, Claire uses an, I’m looking for the right word, exercise or “cure” for James following his abuse. What the heck?
•I love a sensual element in a story. I don’t need all the steps in lovemaking. It’s just not necessary. I have a mind and imagination. Outlander is an ultra descriptive story, this includes sex scenes. When so many steps are included in sex scenes “it can” become like a car manual. Component one goes into component two, etc.
Outlander is a masculine-physical-aggressive story. Whether it is a combat scene, or abuse in prison, or abuse by the local Scottish people, or language, or sex. The people are not timid, shy, or contemplative. In a story it helps to have resting places, it is hard to find these in Outlander. And, the aggression made for a one-sided type story, with the exception of Frank, but he’s only seen in the first part of the book. It’s possible Gabaldon wanted to show how the people were during this period-their culture.
•Claire’s experiences in war most likely gave her PTSD. The experiences in 1743 Scotland also would have given her PTSD. She too, was abused by those who hated her and the one who supposedly loves her. I did not see PTSD symptoms in her character. I guess it’s possible the breakdown or diminishing of her personality is a symptom. That gritty side of her became passive.
•Claire as the sex partner who has knowledge and experience, and also at her age, has the opportunity to teach her partner what she likes and doesn’t like. She failed at this. Further, as older women, we have learned what we like and don’t like and are able to communicate this.
•Can one woman love two men? Sure. But the person loves them differently. The relationship she has with James is physical, virile, exciting. He is younger. The relationship she has with Frank is physical, but they have a deep bond of intimacy. They have a love that has grown and stood the test of time with maturity. I have empathy for Frank. I want their relationship to work. I like James, but I’m team Frank.

I believe that love, real love not lust or infatuation, grows over a period of time. It deepens and the bond of intimacy grows.

I wonder, if I’d read this book back in 1991 or 1992 would I feel differently? Possibly. When reading a story, especially one like Outlander, I bring my feelings, life experiences, and the perspective/maturity of age. So at age 55, I feel differently than at age 25 or 26.

Will I read further books in this series? Maybe, but it would be in order to answer a curiosity about the progression or transformation of the characters and writing style.

(Review) Boundaries For Your Soul: How to Turn Your Overwhelming Thoughts and Feelings into Your Greatest Allies by Alison Cook, PhD, and Kimberly Miller, MTh, LMFT

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Publisher and Publication Date: Thomas Nelson. June 26, 2018.
Genre: Christian nonfiction. Psychology. Boundaries. Emotions.
Pages: 256.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: Very Good.
Audience: Readers needing help with boundaries surrounding emotions.

Amazon

Boundaries For Your Soul has been written to help people have boundaries for their emotions and thinking. This speaks to the inner part or heart of a person. The thoughts running through the mind is often negative, and this book helps us to face those negative thoughts and have the Spirit of God work in them.

The book is divided into three parts holding 14 chapters:
Part One: Reimagining Your Soul
Part Two: The Five Steps of Taking a You-Turn
Part Three: Working With Challenging Emotions 

The later part of the book holds further helps:
Map of the Soul
Exercises: The Five Steps 
Glossary

I’ve read the book Boundaries by Henry Cloud twice.  Boundaries For Your Soul refers to the book by Cloud in their introduction. The authors of Boundaries For Your Soul wanted to write a book with the focus on inner thought boundaries. And, they refer to the Scripture Paul wrote in Romans 7:15, “For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.” NASB. All humans wrestle with inner thoughts, but how do we win the war within? Cook and Miller in Boundaries For Your Soul teach that we must have God’s Spirit rebuild the inner place in our hearts that need help.

What I liked about the book:
•I’m encouraged to “embrace” the part of me that needs help. This does not mean to “embrace” a sin. We are to “turn towards” that area that needs help without criticism and rejection.
•Helpful and practical advice. For example: “The Five Steps of a U-Turn.” Page 42.
•Burdens. The negative thoughts that probably began as a child that have become apart of our thoughts patterns. For example: “I have to be responsible for everyone around me.” Page 96. This is a great chapter, because it helps with ways to combat those thoughts that have been with us since childhood.
•The anger problem. “Anger feels empowering in the moment but leads to feelings of guilt.” To befriend anger means we set a boundary around it and express it in a healthy way. Anger can be displayed without hurting someone.
•Practical ways to place boundaries around shame and guilt.
•Illustrations of people are given that address certain boundary issues like shame, anxiety, or sadness.