Monday, October 13, 2014

Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good by Jan Karon

This is a continuation of Karon's much beloved Mitford series. You don't need to have read the series (though I highly recommend it) because the past history is neatly summarized. All the beloved characters return, and Karon's ability to shine a light on the struggles that creep into everyday lives is intact.

Father Tim and his wife, Cynthia, return home after a trip to Ireland. Father Tim has turned into a bit of a curmudgeon who hasn't completely accepted retirement. But soon, he finds himself enmeshed in large and small crises, and this is where Karon's writing really shines. Sadness, joy, hope, and love are part of everyone's life, and she has a lovely way of navigating these waters with her heartrending prose.  Liberally sprinkled with wonderful quotes and prayers.  These are just a couple that I noted:  "Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light." (Theodore Roethke) & "All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art." (J. L. Borges) 

This is a book not to miss.

The Poet of Tolstoy Park by Sonny Brewer

This older book is probably an overlooked treasure for many. Poetic and philosophic, it contains much wisdom in its perfectly drawn words, and the quiet power of its simple descriptions will resonate with you long after you have turned the last page.

It's based on the true story of a man, Henry Stuart, who's told he probably has less than a year to live  (because of non-contagious tuberculosis) and uproots himself and moves away from his two sons and best friend to Fairhope, Alabama. When he gets there, he sets about building a hut to live in. He wants to live and work alone, as he must ultimately die alone.

He actually winds up living inside this hut for another 18 years.  The author, Sonny Brewer, became enamored of this man's tale and lived in the hut while writing this book.  The hut was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. 

This is a book of ideas. Peaceful, smart, and wise.  I wrote down many quotes in my quote journal-- like this one:  "Thoreau said that to walk outside and gaze at the full moon is nothing," said Henry, "compared to walking along a path alight with the full moon's glow.  The one is a taste, the other a feast."  And here's another passage that I noted:  "Henry believed that people's minds speak with many voices, and among them are voices that cannot be trusted.  A wise man develops a steward who keeps mental order and bids some voices keep quiet."  Very thought provoking book.

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