In the Summer of my Discontent

This summer there was rain. Lots of rain. There was work. Lots of work. There was extended school year. Almost every day. There was heat. Too much heat. And there were trips. Not enough of those.

But  I kept good to my promise of reading real books. Our iPad is dying a very slow, very painful death so we no longer use it but I just can’t embrace the electronic reading of books. I’ve tried and nothing can replace the satisfaction of finishing a book and closing the back cover or of turning real paper pages. Maybe I’m old. Maybe I’m not a true hipster…or maybe I am. But either way, I read real books this summer.

I started with Robert  Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men. Which is a political novel set in the 30s in Louisiana. It is based on Huey “Kingfisher” Long and told from the perspective of one of the Governor, named Willie Stark but called “The Boss”, ‘s most trusted advisers and politicos who gives Karl Rove a good run for his money. There is deceit, appearance-keeping and good ol Southern politics. It was  long and I enjoyed it but it took a good chunk of my summer to get through the 600+ pages.

I moved onto Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine. It is the story of 3 Native American families in North Dakota told from the perspective of multiple members of the family at various points in time. Nothing is chronological which did not bother me because you soon come to realize that their lives are so intertwined and so overlapping that every story requires you find out bot the outcome and back story. It was tragic with that kind of melancholy of “this is the way things always are in this family” kind of way.

I was sad when I finished Love Medicine but I could not have imagined the treat that awaited me in my next selection. I’ve owned Phillipa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl for probably five years and never picked it up. Those 600 pages flew by. What was so interesting to me is how I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next even though I knew the historical events that had taken place. I suspected Gregory would try to make Anne more sympathetic in her re-telling but was pleasantly surprised to find she did not succumb to sentimentality and that her fictional Anne was every bit as conniving and spiteful as the real-life Anne has been shown to be through historical documents. It also helps that I am a huge fan of both British history and anything to do with royalty, but I think someone not as in love with those things as I am would enjoy it as the characters are so richly portrayed and their stories compelling.

Since finishing The Other Boleyn Girl, I have started my current read Jane Smiley’s One Thousand Acres. One Thousand Acres is a re-telling of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Including a huge storm in which a mad father goes stumbling into. It’s re-told in America and during the late 1970’s in the southern mid-west on a farm. It took me a good while to really get into the book, but as the Lear elements became more and more apparent and the action ramped up, it’s become harder and harder to put down.

I’ve been keeping up my non-fiction “faith reading” after finishing Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts earlier in the year. I have read Amy Welborn’s Here. Now. The Catholic Guide to the Good Life and am currently reading Welborn’s The Words We Pray. I love Welborn’s style reflective and yet also confrontational. And I really enjoy reading the origins, variations on the prayers that we Catholics hold dear. I got about half way through it and then lost it, but praise God and props to St Anthony, it’s been found. After I’m done I am going to read Scott Hahn’s Rome Sweet Home. I have been drawn in recent years to conversion stories and how people came to find the gift I was blessed to be born into with my faith tradition. I cannot wait for Jennifer Fulwiler’s memoir/conversion story to come out as I have never heard of a story that didn’t have a mystical element in the conversion. One of the “aha” moment kinds. Jennifer and Joe converted out of logic and reasoning which is nothing short of amazing (and beautiful) to me. I am hoping Leah Libresco will consider writing hers as well as she came to Catholicism much the way Jen did. And I am also excited for Elizabeth Esther’s Girl on the Edge of the World and how she escaped her fundamentalist-cult youth.

And I consider Rod Dreher’s memoir/remembrance of his sister Ruthie, “The Little Way of Ruthie Leming” at it’s core faith reading and it’s on my birthday and Christmas wish list!

So, despite the rain, the heat, the child with the ruptured ear drum from an undetected ear infection, the bugs, and the discontent of this summer, I end it happily a voracious reader as ever.

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