Quote of the Week

“I remember, I remember
The house where I was born,
The little window where the sun
Came peeping in at morn;
He never came a wink too soon
Nor brought too long a day.”
“I Remember, I Remember.” Stanza 1. [1827]
Thomas Hood [1798-1845]
Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations by John Bartlett. Little, Brown and Company 1955. Page 487.
Photo by Unsplash.

[Review] Revelations by Mary Sharratt

Publisher and Publication Date: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. April 27, 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction. Women and literature. Medieval history. Travel.
Pages: 320.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction.
Rating: Excellent.

Mary Sharratt’s website/ Facebook/ Twitter/ Goodreads author page

For more information about the book visit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. This link provides an excerpt at the bottom of the page.

To read more information about Margery Kempe:
Medieval Studies Research Blog on Margery Kempe
Historic-UK
British Library– This link shows illustrations of her autobiography.

Summary:

Margery Kempe was born about 1373 and died after 1438 or 1440. We do not know precise dates of her birth and death. She was born and lived in Bishop’s Lynn, Norfolk, England. She married John Kempe. They had 14 children. She began having visions after the birth of her first child. She was about 20. She continued to have visions. Some visions were of Jesus Christ sitting next to her. Some of the visions were frightening creatures. She is considered a mystic. She is not a Catholic saint, but she is remembered in the Anglican Communion. Her autobiography is the first in the English language.

After the birth of her 14th child, she told her husband they should not be sexually intimate anymore. She had a difficult labor with the 14th child. She did not want to risk her life with another pregnancy and labor. To cut herself off from her husband was shocking, unheard of during this era; and it marked her as an uncommon and disobedient wife. She began preaching to women, she traveled extensively without her family; and she visited Julian of Norwich, another female mystic, to seek support and guidance. She was arrested several times. She was tortured. She was considered a heretic. Her autobiography is written with transparency about her life. It is an unusual story for its time. It is a story about a woman living during the middle ages who endured many of the same things other women endured, except Kempe’s visions and pilgrimages set her apart.

My Thoughts:

Revelations is a remarkable story. It is a story that causes me to pause and reflect on what it must have been like to be a woman who didn’t have a choice to say no. No was a forbidden word for females. Females were to be compliant and obedient. If they were not, they were viewed with suspicion.

Several reasons led me to give an excellent rating to Revelations.
1. I love the characterization of Margery Kempe. She is a woman ahead of her times. She loves her children but felt drawn to something more. She illustrates what grief does to people. She has a strong personality but is stifled by culture. Her character develops in her maturity. Through her story, I understand maternal and child health during this era.
2. I have not read another story about Margery Kempe.
3. Descriptive setting of her travel mode, scenery, people, and the places or cities she saw.
4. Other female characters in the story gave different perspectives on women’s lives of this era and how they felt about Margery.
5. The story is chronological or linear. I am so glad to read a story that is not multiple time periods going back and forth.
6. The story shows male and female relationships, especially marriage. I am more sad than angry at the dominance of males over females. Sad for the females of course.
7. The story shows the different roles or responses from her children. People are people and their perspective and behavior is varied, but I saw her children showing different responses to her life.
8. Inner and outward conflicts.
9. Revelations is one of my favorite types of historical fiction: women in history.
10. There is a building of sensory, imagination, fear, anxiety, and tension.

Themes in Revelations: death and dying, bravery, courage, kindness, innocence, shame, suffering, judgement, injustice, conformity, charity, and hope.

[Review] The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Publisher and Publication Date: Viking. September 29, 2020.
Genre: Fiction.
Pages: 288.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers who like time-travel and second chance stories.
Rating: Good.

Amazon link

Barnes and Noble link

Summary:

Nora Seed is 35. She is unmarried. She does not have children. Her parents are both dead. She is estranged from her only sibling. Her cat died. She does not have close friends. Her job is not rewarding or satisfying.
Nora feels the heavy burden of regret. She is depressed and withdrawn. She isolates herself in a mindset of “if only.” She makes the decision to end things. It is at that moment she is reacquainted with an old friend from her childhood. This person is the librarian at the Midnight Library. The Midnight Library is a place housing books that hold choices about other types of lives Nora can choose from.

My Thoughts:

I’ve heard “regret is a slippery slope.”
I’ve heard celebrities who state, “they don’t regret anything they’ve done.”
I feel the reality is somewhere in the middle. If we live long enough, and we are humble, we are going to have regrets. The real question is what do we do with regrets?
The Midnight Library eventually delves into trying to answer that question. The answer gets a little techy or philosophic, but stays away from an answer a Christian would give to the question: What do I do about regret? I will give you my answer at the end of this review.

I have mixed feelings about this book.
I will start with what I like about The Midnight Library.
1. I like the unique storyline.
2. I like Nora Seed. I have great empathy and compassion for her character. I wish that I could give her a big hug.
3. I like the librarian. She is a person from Nora’s past who is a good memory. This person is several things all rolled up into one person: counselor, confidante, friend, comforter, encourager, nurturer, and a wise teacher. I like it that the librarian doesn’t tell Nora what to do, but she allows Nora to choose.
4. I like the slow revealing of what Nora learns about her choices.
5. I enjoyed reading about some of the stories, and the people she meets or becomes reacquainted with.
6. I like the short cast of characters. The story is easy to keep up with.
7. Nora’s last name is Seed. Most of the library books are green. One of them is gray. I see a garden of sorts. A garden of Nora’s life that she can grow anew.

What didn’t work for me:
1. This is a story that tries to answer some of the deepest and hardest questions in life. It shows one character’s fictional story which is not reflective of everyone or of the reality of real people. What I mean is this is such a deep plot and story over-all that it can not be considered “the answer.” Remember it is fiction. Do not confuse the book with real life.

Final Thoughts:

Every human who has ever lived is imperfect. This means we make choices or other people make choices that turn out to be wrong. Nonsensical. Regretful. People are imperfect. Relationships are imperfect. Life is filled with happy times and sad times. It is filled with questions that will not have answers. It is filled with people who will never get us or like us.
In my own life it has been necessary to at least spend some time thinking about regrets. Serious regrets. For example, hurting the feelings of a friend or family member. Sometimes hard things need to be said, but I am referring to words that should not have been said. I want to examine what I said and don’t say it again. I want to ask for forgiveness of that person that I offended.
In looking back to my past, there are times that at first I considered a choice to be a regret, but later realized it turned out to be a good thing. There are things, important things, that I learned along the way after that choice. These things have shaped the person I am today. These things, and their experiences, humbled me, brought wisdom, and matured me in ways that I might not be if I had made that other choice. And, I have found out that if I’d made that choice, I still would be an imperfect person living in an imperfect world which means that choice would still not bring perfection. And, lastly, I believe God does not waste anything. Those choices I made in the past He did not waste in forming the person that I am today. He did not waste those hard experiences, and often painful experiences, after those choices.

My mother and daddy both were married and had children. They were in mid-life and enjoying their families. Both their spouses died tragic and painful deaths. My mom and dad met and married, and, even though they were older, they were able to conceive me. From a young age mother told me I was her “joy.” That’s a wonderful thing to be told. Their pain and loss led to a new life for my parents and siblings. It was imperfect. But love was there.

The Midnight Library deals with suicide. It is important that if a person is thinking about ending their life they do not read this book but contact Suicide Prevention Hotline. 1-800-273-8255.
Please reach out to someone. Do not remain in the mindset you are in. People care. I care.