Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Reading, Reading, Reading....

Can one do too much reading?

My baggy, tired eyes, stuffy head and low-energy would say yes.
I stayed up too late again last night, reading. Lately, it has become an obsession.

I have always loved to read. That said, I went through a period of years where I never read a novel, or at the most, maybe one a year.

I was reading, constantly, with multiple books in progress at the same time. My appetite was more satiated with spiritual-walk books, parenting books, adoption books, relationship books, self-help books.... I had the mindset with reading time being a precious commodity, I had to read something that was currently a clamoring need in my life, rather than the {trival} enjoyment of a novel.
Flipside, there are very few novels I've read that have NOT impacted me in some way; perhaps stirring a thought or providing an insight. A few have not, but most have.

I have set aside most of my "help" books, and have been on a novel binge. Fueled from many hours sitting at soccer practices (although knitting has now taken over that dominion), also by the desire and pursuit of writing. In reading about writing, I have become interested in how other's write: perspective, style, characters, plot. I quickly find myself lost in the story having forgotten my desire to analyze the structure and mechanics of the writing. The desire to be unplugged from television and computer pastimes (waste-times) has also moved me to the entertainment (escape?) of novels.

So what have I read lately? (Besides blogs).

{I plan to set up a little amazon partner bookstore on my site of books I have read and my thoughts....but here is a recent synopsis.}

Starting in Shanghai in the 1930s and extending to the US, Los Angeles and Chinatown through WW1 and beyond, this book follows the lives to two sisters and their families. I especially liked this book, since I have a daughter from China. I also love the era it was set in, 30's, 40's. This book left me with multiple points to contemplate:
Hardships: What someone can endure to live, to protect another. The tragedy of how inhumane mankind can be. How entitled we are and unappreciatiave of what we have.
Family: How the family can be (in my heart should be) a core we protect, connect to and support. That I want to live my life not as an isolated individual, but as a part of something. To belong.

Prejudice: How each person, each people group is unique and rich in history and traditions, and yet how easy we are to make our perspective or point of view appear better, higher, more right, than someone elses.
I felt the book ended weakly, which was dissappointing, after all that had happened, it just wrapped up too quickly and unbelievably. But it was still worth the read.

Set in the Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts, this is, as reviewers have stated, a "big-chill" type story of a reunion of high school friends some 27 years later at a wedding in a small inn. I found the book irritating in places (the Halifax story within a story) and was disappointed with the assumption of affairs and the sense that loyalty and faithfulness equated to a lesser life and boredom. So why did I keep reading?

I am not sure. I almost stopped in the middle, out of boredom and the sense that I could tell where the story was going....but yet, I finished it. I have loved other books by Anita Shreve, but this one was just too typical, characters too shallow and outcomes too predictable. What did I glean from the book? Hmmmmmm.....

That running of an inn is a full-time job, not as glamorous as one might think. That "love" without God at the center, is often selfish and transitory.
What did echo to me, in one character, is the love for a child, for your children. That love is strong and not "enjoyment driven" or self-serving. (I don't mean that I don't enjoy my children, because I do. What I mean is that my love motivation is not tied up in whether I am enjoying my relationship or not...it is deeper than that. ) Or at least it can be. It is for me. And I wonder, if we can love our children that way, why can we not love our spouse's that way? What is the difference? The expectation of what is in it for me? So sad.

How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor (Half way through, reading it to my kids) This is a great children's book (targeted at grades 3-7). I am reading it to my kids (grades kg to 6th) and my 6th grader is loving it the most. He will read one chapter, out loud to me, and then I will read the next chapter out loud to him.
It is about a little girl, her little brother and mom, who, due to sad circumstances, find themselves homeless, living in a car. The little girl, Georgina, continues with school and trying to pretend like life is normal, but living with the reality of homelessness. (No baths, dirty clothes, etc.) I don't want to spoil the story, and we are not quite done yet, but here is what we have gleaned from our readings so far.
I am seeing my son's realization of how life could be. He is developing a deeper sympathy toward those with less, as well as an appreciation of what he often takes for granted: home, food, toys, school, clean clothes. He has also,tuned-in to life from a mother's perspective as he sees how Georgina's mother is struggling to take care of her children.
I would recommend this book to all momma's with children in this age group. It is erasing the emotional line between the have's and the have nots, as my children see how easily one can move from the first group to the second.
As a single mom, there is another thread in there, which is interesting. In this story, the father is the bad guy, whose leaving puts this family in their homeless circumstances. The momma is faithful to the children, yet, often at the end of her rope. I feel some reluctance toward the painting of the daddy as the bad guy, even though that is the experience, to some degree, in our family, and I am sad to say, so many families I know. But I KNOW (believe, hope) there are some good daddy's out there. And in my little sons, this thread is showing them, once again, what a good daddy does not do. The hard part is that they spend time with their father, and do fun things with them and it is confusing. How can a dad who is good (does fun things with them) be a dad who is not good (leaving them and their mom)? I pray that this message helps them to grow up to be the daddy that stays, loves, grows in God.
I am reading several other books, or have just finished them. I will save them for another day. I am enjoying my novel binge. {except for the tired mornings} I hope to have my book list up soon.
What are you reading?

1 Things Others Said:

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Novels speak the truth non-fiction can't.