A Follow Up on the Time Traveler’s Wife (and a Book Suggestion for Those More Emotionally Mature Than Me… Which Is, Like, All Y’all)

Oct 29 2016

OK. We’ve made an important decision about The Time Traveler’s Wife which is that I am not emotionally mature enough to read it. It’s like spending days and days in art museums or limiting screen time for my children; I wish I was that kind of person, but I’m not.

I probably should have also told you that I have a Long History with tragic, triumphant stories, and it’s not pretty. I read The Chamber by John Grisham, for example, in 1995 a few months after Greg and I got married. Sitting with me on our horribly uncomfortable but very practical and strangely durable navy couch the day I finished, Greg learned the hard truth that his new wife hurls tragic books across the room and into the fireplace after holding them above her head, brandishing them like a Scottish broadsword wielded by William Wallace on his way to battle the British, and shrieking unintelligible war cries with tears tracking down her face. For a man who was raised by calm parents, it was something of a shock, and I’m not sure he ever quite recovered. On the bright side, though, Greg’s wife is adorable, guys. And none of this comes even close to the phone calls I had to make to my friend, Melissa, the times I decided to watch Legends of the Fall and The Notebook while home alone. I don’t remember all the details, but I do know the situation involved sobbing, a fetal position, and Melissa hollering through the phone, “TURN IT OFF, BETH; it does NOT get better. STOP RIGHT NOW!”

So, you know. Not gonna finish The Time Traveler’s Wife or ever find out how it ends, even though that’s what a reasonable person would do. This way, I can leave Henry and Claire blissfully suspended in their 20’s, desperately in love, happy, and having lots of sex. I expect a thank you note from them any day now.

Unfortunately, my friend Heidi is now concerned she has broken me and that I’ll never be friends with her again. To set the record straight, a) I was broken WAY before the Time Traveler’s Wife, b) I am reading extremely smutty vampire books to make up for the terror and angst TTW has caused so will be fully recovered shortly, and c) I never give this kind of crap to people unless I adore them. Crap-giving and laying blame are my love languages. And also cheese. And fresh salsa with paper thin corn chips. So we’re good, Heidi, et al. Swearsies.

With love,

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P.S. For those of you who are fans of tragedy and triumph, however, I do have an actual REAL suggestion, which is The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. I read The Sparrow before I discovered I’m not emotionally mature enough to read tragedy and triumph. Kind of like how Dumbo flew before he discovered the feather wasn’t actually magic. It’s not an exaggeration to say that The Sparrow is the book, next to the Bible, that has had the most spiritual impact on me in that it gave me words and images to express disenchantment and disillusionment with theology and the church — and a way to restructure my thinking about both — at a time when that was critical to my faith journey. The Sparrow is fictional. It’s sci fi (but only ostensibly). And it’s deep and complex and enthralling and magical and terrible and true. I commend Father Emilio Sandoz to your care should you choose to bring him to life by reading this book; be gentle with him, and kind. He’s my friend, and he deserves our great compassion when we bear witness to his story.

“A visionary work that combines speculative fiction with deep philosophical inquiry, The Sparrow tells the story of a charismatic Jesuit priest and linguist, Emilio Sandoz, who leads a scientific mission entrusted with a profound task: to make first contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life. The mission begins in faith, hope, and beauty, but a series of small misunderstandings brings it to a catastrophic end.” <– Sounds fun, right??

P.P.S. Thanks for letting me fly my broken, weirdo flag in front of you all… aka, my “I’m Made out of Human” flag. You’re the greatest.

 

Have you read The Time Traveler’s Wife? If yes, HELP.

Oct 28 2016

I keep waiting to write you until I have time to write something helpful or important or, at the very least, thoughtful, but that’s not happening this week, so I’m going to write to you to be needy. That’s what I seem to have right now. They always say, “Write what you know.” Well, being needy, friends; that’s what I know, so here we go.

I’m having a minor crisis at the moment, and it’s your fault. Not that I’m all about placing blame, but, seriously, you’re going to have to take responsibility for this one. ALSO, while my personal crisis may be minor, you’ve created a major crisis for someone else, and I thought you should know. Two someone elses, actually, and since it’s not OK to let major crises fester when you have the power to alleviate the harm you’ve (albeit unintentionally) caused, I say you get right on this situation. STAT.

Yes?

Yes. I’m glad we agree.

Here’s the situation:

You told me to read the Time Traveler’s Wife.

That’s the whole situation.

Let’s recap:

I TOLD you I can’t read things that are dark, tragic, sad, thoughtful or, God forbid, triumphant, and then you told me to read the Time Traveler’s Wife ANYWAY.

Trust us, you said.

You’ll be glad, you said.

I would not say it’s triumphant, Katie said.

You can do it; you are a Brave Girl, said Heidi.

But I am pretty sure I can NOT do it, and I am NOT a Brave Girl.

I’m pretty sure because I’ve sort of tried.

I bought the book, and then I read half of it. A WHOLE HALF of the Time Traveler’s Wife, and I’m starting to suspect it’s tragic and triumphant. There’s an orchard and a father and brother with guns, and a Henry who tells young Claire not to worry, and a later SIGNIFICANT LOOK between the men around the dinner table. GAH! It’s like a glowing neon sign at the 50% mark, flashing DANGER! DANGER! GO BACK!

I wrote to Katie and Heidi, and also Sarah who agreed with them, and I said, “The Time Traveler’s Wife was totally engaging. And then I quit halfway through, overcome with dread at the foreshadowing of Something Terrible to Come. You guys. Seriously. I AM BROKEN. Complete anxiety. I love the characters so I’ve left them suspended half way through the book LEST SOMETHING HORRIBLE OVERTAKE THEM. I wish I could just read the end of a book when I become fearful, but then, of course, the Awful Thing Still Befalls Them, and I can’t take that risk. Have you ever read the Sesame Street book The Monster at the End of the Book where Grover selflessly does everything in his power to prevent the end of the book from coming? I AM GROVER. I am tying and gluing and locking ALL THE PAGES together. And sticking my fingers in my ears singing LALALA. I just thought you should know…”

So here we are, in the middle of my minor crisis and Henry and Claire’s VERY MAJOR crisis; we are, all three, STUCK in the middle of this book, and there are people who might DIE. I can’t, you guys. And please do not try to tell me that Henry and Claire’s crisis doesn’t count simply because they’re fictional. Characters are only fictional until they become real. Anyone who’s read The Velveteen Rabbit knows that’s so. And Henry and Claire became real when you forcibly held me down, propped my eyes open with toothpicks, and compelled me to begin reading, thus caring about what happens to them.

Frankly, you were not all that helpful in your responses.

“My unsolicited advice is to leave it groverized until you are in need of a good, fugly cry. I could barely read the words through the tears and snooger bubbles. AND THEN it had the nerve to follow me around for a week-long emotional hangover. (But, really, it’s great),” wrote Jaime. <– NO. No. THESE THINGS DO NOT MATCH, JAIME. It’s like you think I’m a NORMAL HUMAN who feels feelings and doesn’t try to alternately shove them deep, deep down inside where they will rot and eventually explode or eat enormous amounts of sugar and salt to numb myself. Are you even American, Jaime? I suspect not.

And Sarah wrote, “YOU HAVE TO FINISH!! It is beautifully tragic and hopeful all at the same time! It’s seriously not all terrible.” I’m sorry, but WHAT? WHAT, Sarah? Beautifully tragic and hopeful is ALL OF LIFE. It is not, however, reading we do for FUN. No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

So I’m throwing this out there to ALL of you who’ve read The Time Traveler’s Wife with this one question:

Should I keep reading The Time Traveler’s Wife??

‘Cause I’m willing to allow for the teeny, tiny, remote possibility that you’re right and I’m wrong and that I might also be a freaking freaker who should calm the hell down and finish the damn book already. It’s just… I’m scared.

Leave me your recommendation — to read or not to read — in the comments, but no spoilers please, in case I do summon heretofore unknown reserves of reading courage.

Yours truly (and anxiously),

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P.S. I sort of misled you with my opening paragraph. I do, actually, have time to write one thing that may be helpful. My bathroom, as you may know, smells like boy humans use it. This week, I tried to mask the smell with a mulberry candle, and it worked, folks. It WORKED. Now instead of my bathroom smelling like pee, it smells like mulberry candle and pee, proving once again that we do not live a life of Either/Or, friends, but of Both/And. Both mulberry candle AND pee. #SmellsLikeLife #ForTheWin

P.P.S. I just realized the cover of the Time Traveler’s Wife says, “A soaring celebration of the victory of love over time.” OH MY WORD, you guys. That’s, like, textbook triumphant.

Repeat After Me… We Don’t Suck

Oct 19 2016

My neighbor stopped me in the driveway a couple weeks ago to ask how life was going.

Socially speaking, I should’ve said, “Fine!” or “Great!” followed by asking her how she was. After all, based on the Perpetual Weights and Measurements Scale of Whose Life Is Harder, she wins. Her dad died last year. She took over her mother’s finances, in desperate need of an overhaul, handled the snarling creditors, sold the mama’s house, and moved her mom closer. She’s a wife. She’s a mom to a precocious, leadershippy girl-child under 10. And, just for giggles, she topped it all off by having a heart attack a few months ago. When THAT friend asks you how things are going, you don’t dwell on your own tiny problems or burden your friend with them. That’s not How Things Are Done.

Unfortunately for her, she’s been one of my besties for more than twenty years, and also she’s one of those foolish people who ask how people are and expects a real answer. Add to that the fact that I’m horrible at social niceties, and I told the truth. Even though I was already late for work (again), I told her the truth.

“Oh my word!” I said. “OH MY WORD. I suck at all the things right now. I SUCK. At ALL the things. I was supposed to finish the book proposal 6 months ago. SIX MONTHS AGO, which would make sense if I needed, you know, six months to work on it, but I only need 2 hours. TWO OF THEM. Like, 120 minutes, and I would be done with it. Also, I have no idea what my kids are doing at school because I’ve read zero of their backpack materials. Also-also, I’m trying to transition well out of my job where “transition well” means “let people down because I don’t have enough hours to spend there.” Also-also-also, we have exactly one vegetable in our house; it’s a moldy green pepper, and I can’t throw it away because then I will have to admit we have zero vegetables in our house, and, even though that’s totally normal, I can’t bring myself to admit that level of nutritional failure out loud. AND I haven’t said hello to my husband for four days, and “hello” is no euphemism; I literally haven’t said words to my husband because we are ships passing in the night. Every minute of every day is full of activity. EVERY MINUTE I am doing something, and I am still not keeping up. You know what productive people do? I DON’T KNOW EITHER, BECAUSE I AM NOT ONE OF THEM. GAAAaaaahhhhhHHHH. I suck. I suckity suck suck suck.”

She slapped me and yelled, “SNAP OUT OF IT, BETH.”

Except she didn’t slap me.

That would be mean.

But she did tell me to snap out of it.

“You know what?” she said. “Words matter, and you have to stop telling yourself you suck now.”

I know. It’s hard for me to like her, too. People are most annoying when they’re right.

It’s just that I’m still working out how to be a good friend to myself, and I have a lot left to learn.

Quakers have a practice when they worship together. They sit in the silence and wait and listen for God, whom I call Love which is God’s other name, to speak to them. It sounds all woo-woo and crazytown, and it’s beautiful and messy like magic and Love usually are. The Quakers practice this kind of corporate meditation and learn to discern what is Love and what isn’t, and which messages are for the individual and which messages must be shared with the rest of the gathered group, which is, after all, the whole point of sitting in the grace and grime together. Listening for Love and whispering Love’s words to each other over and over and over and over.

I’m a terrible Quaker.

My mind is loud.

I fidget when I sit in silence.

My pants are suddenly too tight, and I remember every single thing I need to buy at the grocery store.

I pick at my nails.

I wonder if I’m doing it all wrong, and then I stop wondering because I’m certain I’m doing it all wrong.

But every once in a while, Quaker practice catches up with me despite myself, and I realize I have a message that must be shared.

Such was a message I received today from Paul, one of my pastors.

I wrote him yesterday, past the deadline to register my family for our church retreat, and said, “Sorry we suck and didn’t do it earlier. :/ We’re so far behind in everything. Grarg. Thanks for your grace.”

Paul wrote back.

Except, as soon as I read it, I knew it wasn’t just a message for me. This is a message for all of us.

Here it is:

Grace abounds.  Glad you’ll be joining us.

Oh…and you don’t suck.

Please repeat.  We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. 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Okay…now do you suck?  I don’t think so.

PJB

In conclusion, take heart, friends. Be confident and courageous. Grace abounds. And also, we don’t suck.

With love,

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P.S. There’s still room at the early November Grace and Grime Spiritual Formation Retreat. Open to ALL types of people from ALL the faith/nonfaith backgrounds; even people who mistakenly think they suck. 🙂 Click here for more information… although the rooming list isn’t actually up to date because DID I MENTION I’M BEHIND ON ALL THE THINGS?? I sure would love to hang out with you, though. Come play with me. And sit in the grace and the grime.

Disney Like a Hurricane

Oct 7 2016

Greg answered the pounding on our door in the middle of the night wearing only his boxers. This struck me as a little unusual, since, unlike his wife, Greg is a paragon of modesty. Greg is, after all, the man who refused to pee on his four-year-old daughter when she was stung by a jellyfish because, “Dropping my pants in front of a small child, whipping out my penis, and then urinating on her is worse than the pain of a jellyfish sting.” Me: “IF YOU LOVED HER YOU WOULD PEE ON HER, GREG.” But no; no, he didn’t love her that much, and now we know.

So you see why I was so surprised Greg leaped out of bed in only his boy panties to answer the door of our hotel room in Central Florida in the middle of Hurricane Matthew last night while we were under government curfew, told to keep doors, windows and curtains covered. I mean, if his daughter’s cries of pain weren’t enough to push this man to immodesty, I failed to see how some strange woman pounding on the door merited a special show and tell with the boxers.

It turns out the pounding wasn’t anyone at the door, though. I figured that out after I realized Greg was sound asleep next to me and I’d been asleep for a while, too. The pounding was a branch on the window or wind in the gutters, and I’d dreamed the whole thing, which of course didn’t keep me from telling Greg in the morning how sad it is that he’ll welcome strange women in his undies on a dark and stormy night but not share his urine with his suffering child. This isn’t the first time Greg has had to pay for his actions in my dreams, but that’s OK because actions matter, Greg, and it’s important to learn that.

In other news, Greg rolls his eyes a lot, and we can pray him.

We didn’t really expect to be in Florida for Hurricane Matthew, yet here we are. We’d planned this trip for months and months for our youngest two boys with their cousin who’s also nine, and when the storm warnings came before we left Oregon we assumed the storm would veer away. Statistically, we’d be correct, we reasoned. Decades of history told us that was the most likely scenario. We didn’t want to be alarmists and cancel everything. In retrospect, we might have used the “better safe than sorry” method of decision making, but, as my dad says, he raised adventurers not geniuses.

img_1652“It’s an adventure!” we told ourselves, and took off for the south.

By the time we reached Houston, projections had the storm landing in Florida a Category 4 and the news reported grocery store shelves were empty of water already. My friend Mindy hightailed it to the grocery store but was only able to grab 1 gallon of water for 8 of us, so I used our 20 minute layover to buy 18 bottles of water and shove them in my carry-on. I am the DAUGHTER OF A MARINE, and I went to Girl Scout meetings for, like, 4 months when I was 10, so I know how to be prepared. My bag was heavy, but WATER, right?

img_1713We landed safely in Orlando, and the airport closed 20 hours later.

Space Mountain from the rainy monorail window as Hurricane Matthew approached

Space Mountain from the rainy monorail window as Hurricane Matthew approached

We headed to the Magic Kingdom by day and then to our hotel for the night where we filled the bathtubs, closed our curtains, made hot food and saved the canned goods in case the electricity went out, charged our phones, and tried to sneak news reports where our 9 year olds wouldn’t see them and become alarmed. And then we went to bed, serenaded all night long with pounding, howling rain and wind and the occasional car alarm as harmony.

In the end, it was a nonevent for Orlando.

Nothing more than very blustery weather.

No power outages or broken windows or people injured reported to date.

Which is, of course, not at all how it is for other counties or other countries.

The property damage toll is already high further east on the Florida coast which makes me feel helpless and sad.

But it’s the death toll and the beginning of another major humanitarian crisis in Haiti that utterly breaks my heart. Especially since we know the U.S. news will shift its focus inward now and our Haitian neighbors will be left to largely fend for themselves without the infrastructure and emergency services we can count on here in the U.S.

News cycles drive donations, and the news cycle for Haiti is nearly over. It’s a secondary crisis that adds to the first.

It’s only been 6 years since the earthquake that devastated Haiti, and the rebuilding was far from complete. Now its people face food insecurity from ruined crops, homelessness, and are at risk of serious diseases like cholera and more. All this to face after mamas just like me tucked their babies into bed one night in the middle of a storm, but, not like me at all, had to witness their children’s fear and feel their own as their roofs blew off and rivers of muddy water ran through their streets and their homes.

Tonight, I’m sitting on the porch in my hotel, listening to gusts of wind and whipping palm fronds and bursts of rain, and I’m glad for our comfort and safety and destroyed that every mama can’t sit here with me, warm and dry and assured her children are well.

Image result for medical teams internationalPlease consider joining me in making a small donation to help our Haitian momrades. Or a large donation… I won’t stop you. My money is going to Medical Teams International. I will stake whatever reputation I have on the quality of MTI’s humanitarian response team. I’m the former executive assistant to the current CEO of MTI as well as the last two CEOs; I can tell you these people know what they’re doing and the rock the heck out of it. Love made flesh. Not only have I personally witnessed the highest level of decision making, fiscal responsibility, and deep and abiding care for those MTI is privileged to serve, MTI also carries the highest ratings available from charity watchdog organizations.

Sending love and waving in the dark to all the momrades and dad-rades and people made out of human who have triumphs and tragedies,

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P.S. I generally like Disney vacations because I can eat whatever I want (read: every fried thing) and not gain weight because of all the walking. I’m not convinced, however, that I’m going to have the same results after sitting in a hotel room eating caramel corn, BBQ potato chips and Chef Boyardee raviolis for 36 hours straight. Turns out, I do not make the very best hurricane choices. :/ Live and learn.

A Likely Story Book Club: October 2016 Book Selection

Oct 3 2016

ALikelyStory

Announcing: October’s Book Selection!

I’m excited about this one!

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Leviathan
by Scott Westerfeld

Described as a young adult, steampunk, alternative history adventure, Leviathan reimagines WWII from the perspective of teenage Prince Aleksandar Ferdinand of Prussia.

It is the cusp of World War I. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ genetically fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet.

Aleksandar Ferdinand, a Clanker, and Deryn Sharp, a Darwinist, are on opposite sides of the war. But their paths cross in the most unexpected way, taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure….One that will change both their lives forever.

I read Scott Westerfeld’s dystopian Uglies series and enjoyed it quite a bit even though dystopian novels aren’t my usual go-to genre. I found Westerfeld’s world building excellent and his pacing and characterization appealing. When Leviathan, also by Westerfeld, came highly recommended by one of my favorite librarians who loves fantasy and YA novels as much as me, I was sold. I’m also new to steampunk novels, having only recently read (and loved) Meljean Brook’s Iron Seas novels, a much more steamy romance take on the genre, so reading steampunk as YA intrigued me.

If you’d like to join the public Facebook group for A Likely Story Book Club, click here. You can read about the genesis of A Likely Story Book Club here. And you can also always join us on Facebook here, where we often wave to each other in the dark.

Sending love… and the hope for a little escape for us all,

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A Likely Story Book Club Review: The Golem and The Jinni

Oct 2 2016

 Likely Story Book Club Review:
The Golem and the Jinni
by Helene Wecker

ALikelyStory

Last month, we started our very own book club. A Likely Story is for those of us who revel in escapist fiction and long for more stories built in brilliant worlds with strong and flawed heroes and heroines; Young Adult, Fantasy, Dystopian, Fairy Tale, Magical Realism, Legends, Mythologies, and Tall Tales of every type.

Our debut pick for A Likely Story was The Golem and The Jinni by Helene Wecker.

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In The Golem and the Jinni, a chance meeting between mythical beings takes readers on a dazzling journey through cultures in turn-of-the-century New York.

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic and dies at sea on the voyage from Poland. Chava is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899.

Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire born in the ancient Syrian desert, trapped in an old copper flask, and released in New York City, though still not entirely free

Ahmad and Chava become unlikely friends and soul mates with a mystical connection. Marvelous and compulsively readable, Helene Wecker’s debut novel The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction and magical fable, into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.

Here is our joint review, compiled from our Likely Story Book Club discussion on Facebook:

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A Likely Story Book Club Review:
The Golem and the Jinni
by Helene Wecker

OVERVIEW:

“Well written, compelling, fantasy/historical fiction encompassing themes including the nature and value of free will, lust for power/fear of death, and loyalty to family and community told via the astonishing tale of a golem and a Jinni who find themselves and each other in late 19th century New York city.” Barbara Safee Stouter

“It’s a love story. It is not a romance. I loved the setting. I loved how the big questions were asked. Religion plays a big part in their stories. Good read.” Tina Sedor Bounds

THOUGHTS ON THE RELIGIOUS AND FAITH ASPECTS OF THE NOVEL:

“It is very unusual to read about Jews in a story where the story isn’t Jewish/ about some aspect of Judaism (Naomi Ragen’s books for example) unless the slant is antisemitic in nature which this book isn’t. It deals with the mystical aspect of Judaism (Kabbalah) which is also very unusual and a golemn at that. In Judaism the study of mysticism is very strictly regulated. Only men over the age of 40 are allowed to study it and they are not allowed to discuss their studies in public. Naturally there are lots of people who study it regardless of the rules but still it is not well known literature. The depiction of the Jews and the Jewish neighbourhood as well as the immigrants was spot on. I am pretty sure that the same was for Arab cultures described. Life is sacred to Jews. The Torah very clearly states the rules for how we should behave towards fellow people as well as animals – all based on respecting one another. So the Rabbi’s attitude towards the Golemn is not surprising. I think the strangest part for me was the fantastic elements of the Golemn and the Jinni set against the backdrop of Jews and Arabs which has a very real feel for me (I live in Israel). Bottom line I think is that it is weird to read a book about Jews that isn’t in any way about Judaism or the Holocaust.” Mandi Levitan

“I saw the two main characters as representing two different responses to faith, which I would define for these purposes as a dynamic friendship with God. The Golem represented religion – acting out of obligation or guilt, lacking the ability to engage freely in relationship. The Jinn represented hedonism – whatever makes me feel good is the right thing to do. Both of them were unable to engage in fulfilling relationships with humans (in the Golem’s case, her creator) because of their natures. I think they both made efforts to temper their natures (don’t we all?), and succeeded to some degree, but it’s pretty clear throughout the book that the only friendship either of them truly values is their friendship with each other (except the Rabbi – I think he represents grace). Authenticity and trust are huge elements in this – if our true nature creates fear and animosity in others, we’ll hide as much as possible. And if we believe that God is innately against us, we’ll behave like the Golem, trying to follow all the rules to get God to like is, or like the Jinn, rejecting all the rules because who cares about the opinion of such a judgmental God?” Heidi Funkhouser Farr

 

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OVERALL RATING: Using a rating scale of 1 to 5 — 1 being “this book is drivel; save yourself the time” and 5 being “this is one of my favorite books EVER, and I plan to read everything this author writes” — we rated The Golem and the Jinni a collective 3.7. No one rated this book below a 3, but there was quite a bit of variety in the 3-5 ratings among the Facebook group.

“4. Solid, engaging, character-driven, immense world building, and I loved the way all the loose ends tied in together by the end. 5 is a bar not even my favorite series meet (Harry Potter and Paksennarrion: I haven’t read everything by either JK Rowling or Elizabeth Moon) but I couldn’t stop turning pages and the characters were sooooo human. (Even when they weren’t.)” Kyla Nannery Galbraith

“3. I was able to get into the story and enjoyed it. And, I won’t need to read it again.” Tabitha Bird Weaver

“5++ I’m planning to read it again while waiting for the next book. Took me a while to figure out where the plot was going but I found the characters so gripping I just wanted to keep reading.” Cornelia Spoor

“I may have to re-read it in the not too distant future! I read fast because I wanted to see what happened next!” Corrie Mantell Kolbe

MY THOUGHTS:

The Golem and the Jinni was, truly, an original and unique story. Speaking for myself and not the rest of the book group, I will say it was a slow start for me. I tend to be pulled in by books that are high on action and adventure, driven by dialogue, and built in beautiful, imaginative worlds. The Golem and the Jinni was, instead, very much about internal and intrinsic motivation, set ostensibly in New York but really in the characters’ minds, and I was surprised that the novel was nearly half done when the two main characters finally meet, which says more about the way the publishers chose to market the book than perhaps about the book itself. It was interesting, for sure, but not my usual foray into escapist literature. I was fully engaged in the story after the first 8-10 chapters, though, and enchanted by the way Helene Wecker feathers the characters’ stories and timelines together, asking age-old questions about faith, community, and nature vs. nurture. She set herself a tall task writing nonhuman characters and managed to keep them both other-than-human and compellingly sympathetic throughout the book. Overall, a very strong debut novel for Wecker.

OCTOBER BOOK COMING SOON!

October’s book will be entirely different from The Golem and the Jinni. My goal is to hit a variety of escapist fiction genres. The Golem and the Jinni was both fantasy and historical fiction. Our October book is a young adult steampunk, alternate history novel. In other words, October’s book is coming soon… TOMORROW, in fact, on October 3rd. Stay tuned!

 

A Momrade in Need Is a Momrade, Indeed

Oct 1 2016

This is the message I received from Not Susanna today:

Beth,

We haven’t met. I’ve participated some on your blog. I recently moved with my family to be nearer to our extended family and to have more living space. We left 14 years of friends and connections and memories.

I apologize in advance for dumping this on you. Possibly this is not good boundary setting, but I don’t feel like there is anyone else I can tell who won’t completely freak out. I just need someone to sit next to me and say that they understand and that I am not crazy and that they don’t know how to fix it, either.

I am so tired. I am tired of feeling. Tired of feeling sad, feeling scared, feeling lonely, feeling responsible. I just want to hide from it all for a while. I am numbing the pain with food and the Internet and a confusing pendulum swing between busy-ness and lethargy. I am terrified to try alcohol or pills or shopping. But all the feelings are exhausting.

I walked down the sidewalk this morning in a part of town where no one knows me and I had to fight to keep from lying down and giving up. I went into the bathroom in a public library and had to fight to keep from curling up in the corner of the floor.

I am not okay. I am lost inside. I don’t know how to make decisions anymore. This is horrible and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I am tired of being brave. I am tired of being unknown,  but I am also tired of introducing myself.

I don’t know if I have time for friends. I don’t know what I can or should commit to. I can’t seem to make myself make a schedule/routine and stick to it. Even though I know that I am a person who feels safer and more competent when I have a schedule/routine.

Just shout out a prayer for me would you? Likely I will feel better in a couple of days. I am going to try to keep treading water until then.

Thanks. I hope this doesn’t find you huddled in the corner (literal or metaphorical) hiding from your world, but if you are, please know that you aren’t alone.

Now I have to walk into a new-to-me grocery store, find and buy things on my list and hope to hold it together if/when the clerk asks about my day.

Not Susanna ( <– not her real name. Obviously.)

Oh, momrades. I SO GET THIS. We ALL get this, yes? WE HAVE ALL BEEN THERE. I wish it wasn’t so — I wish, I wish — but this is part of the Mama Condition. And part of the Human Condition. A piece of it. A gigantic, hard to chew, impossible to swallow piece of the Human Pie.

And Not Susanna is So Right. I can’t fix it because I’ve lost my magic wand, and Jesus keeps forgetting to act like one, even though I keep telling him and telling him I think that should be in his job description.

Besides, all of our “fixes” are different. Some of us (ME, for example) need medical assistance; our brain chemistry demands it. Some of us need TIME. Some of us need Wise Counsel, professional and otherwise, and some of us need friends to wave in the dark and let us know we’re not alone, though it feels so very much like we are, while we wait for dawn, which is inevitable but oh-so-slow to arrive, like waiting for the watched pot to boil. Some of us need all of the above, a cocktail made of medicine and patience (which I hate) and counseling and mamaraderie and finding the elusive Village, and so I send my thoughts and my prayers — which is a way we beckon Love closer — to Not Susanna.

Love to you, Not Susanna, while you wait.

I wrote to Not Susanna, in part…

I want to lay down in a meadow with you.

Which sounds a little suggestive, now that I think about it. I should probably think before I speak and before I write, but where’s the fun in that? NOWHERE, I suspect, so I’ll add it to a list of other “shoulds” I never intend to actually do, like balancing my checkbook and making my bed.

I want to lay down in a meadow with you,

I wrote to Not Susanna, and also,

It will have wild flowers and be surrounded by mountains with pine trees and the sky will be cobalt with big, white, fluffy clouds that will drift in front of the sun. There will be only charming, small beetle bugs and no gnats or flies or wasps, and the ground will be spongy and soft and dry and we shall not twist our ankles as we walk to the very middle of the field and lay down on our backs and find shapes in the clouds.

We will rest.

Other momrades will join us. They’ll drift from the trees, the young with babies on their hips and the crones full of wisdom and grace, and they’ll lay down beside us and look to the sky and remind us that mamas go ahead of us and come behind, and we will be each other’s cadre, present to support and defend. 

Love to you. And laying on the sidewalk, too.

xoxo,

B

And, so in conclusion, I invite you to be each other’s cadre today. To support and defend. And to send messages of love to Not Susanna and to each other in the comments below.

Thank you for being our people.

With love,

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P.S. I was supposed to write you yesterday with our book review of September’s Escapist Book Club book, The Golem and the Jinni. But THINGS, guys. Things. I hope we’ll do this tomorrow.

P.P.S. And today’s blog post is supposed to be the introduction of our October Escapist Book Club book. But see above, which didn’t happen yesterday. So maybe Monday? But it’s picked! And I’m excited! Coming soon!

P.P.P.S. I think we can agree Not Susanna is more important right now than even books, though, which is Saying Something, because books. Mamaraderie and the Village, though, are at the top of the priority list. Now and always.

P.P.P.P.S. Also, this, friends: