Book Review: Folly

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I've read Laurie King before, but in a very different setting: Sherlock Holmes, to be precise. I wouldn't normally pick up a book that promises to "keep you up at night" because--hey--I have kids and my own nightmares to do that. However, the recommendation was really compelling, so I decided to give it a try.

Glad I did!

This book really kept my attention, but not in a terrified way. It was unsettling more than creepy, and I definitely wouldn't classify it as horror. Also, hard to call it a "thriller" when 90% of the book describes the protagonist rebuilding an old house on a beautifully forested, albeit deserted, island in the northern Pacific. 

Rae (a retired woodworking artist) has the saddest life story ever, but the book doesn't make you dwell on the darkness of her past. The experiences are presented in flashbacks to help you understand who Rae is (childhood neglect, debilitating mental health issues, sudden great loss, assault), but you aren't as the reader forced to experience these traumatic events which is something I personally don't handle well. 

The narrative is broken by journal entries from Rae, occasional correspondence, and a journal from her great-uncle Desmond, the previous owner of the house she is rebuilding. Everything weaves a very interesting tale of generational issues and PTSD (his from WW2 and hers from abuse and assault).

The tricky thing is a few random, sinister and threatening messages from an author the reader can't identify. Rae is quick to believe that anything strange she experiences is due to forgetfulness or hallucinations, but there's obviously more going on than she wants to think possible.

As the reader, you are usually left to assume that what Rae tells you is true, but Laurie King also intersperses what Rae calls "her own Watcher" where she sometimes has a sense that her mental illness is affecting her perception of a situation. It's explained that in the middle of a panic attack, Rae becomes aware that she's experiencing a panic attack and that can help her reason a bit. Rae describes it as the difference between her 'fear'--because she has had very real reasons to be afraid--and her 'anxiety,' when every twig snap sounds like a man behind her, poised to attack.

I enjoyed all three elements of the story: watching the house (named 'Folly') be rebuilt, interpreting the actions of Rae's stalker, and feeling Rae find peace and begin to heal.



             

Stormy Waters

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The Lord directly ministers to me through my children's morning Bible lessons. So many times, I've found myself with three little faces staring at me while I weep over breakfast cereal. Somehow, just the right story is always on the next page. God reaches down and shakes my shoulders with His truth before my morning chai is even gone.

We read "Jesus Stills the Storm" this morning. I choked up as read the line, "Master, don't you care that we are about to drown?" How impertinent to speak to Jesus... in the exact way I speak to Jesus in my prayers.

The funny thing is, at least in the ESV, the impertinence is really only found in Mark 4. (Luke 8 and Matthew 8 each relay a softer 'we are perishing.') Was Mark the only disciple who felt like I feel sometimes?

DON'T YOU CARE? DO YOU EVEN SEE THIS? I shout, pounding my chest like Lt. Dan as the stormy waters soak my hair and threaten to sweep me overboard. It's an ugly picture, and Jesus in mere moments will rebuke their lack of faith. Because you know what they never had to yell? They never had to yell, "WHERE ARE YOU?"

Do you know why? BECAUSE HE WAS IN THE BOAT. The Creator of the universe was in their boat.

I AM NOT ALONE. When it's stormy, when it's pouring rain, when the wind is so strong I can't take a deep breath... I am not alone. He is in the boat with me.

Wow.

Today I will cling to the truth that my Savior is in this boat with me. And in HIS perfect timing, the storm will cease. 

"They had never before heard of anyone who could command the wind and waves like this. It was almost like Creation week, when God said 'Let there be light!' ... and the world was made at His command. Now the Creator had spoken again and creation recognized His voice."

(Quote from Life of Christ, by Beka Horton and Fannelle Shepperson, A Beka Book)



             

Hast thou not seen?

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I'm trying to sulk about my foster care frustrations today. It was such a perfect day for it. Cold, pouring rain. The day after both a holiday weekend AND my son's birthday when the let-down of all the celebration drops you into the gutter. 

The good news is that good friends don't let you sulk. They are understanding of the challenges in my life, but don't let me wallow. Much encouragement, more prayer--that's what I get. And that's what I need!

Also, I turned on Pandora and Fernando Ortega started singing Praise to the Lord the Almighty:

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,
  the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy
  health and salvation!
    All ye who hear,
Now to His temple draw near;
Sing now in glad adoration!

Praise to the Lord, who o’er all
  things so wondrously reigneth,
Who, as on wings of an eagle,
  uplifteth, sustaineth.
    Hast thou not seen
How thy desires all have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, who hath fearfully,
  wondrously, made thee!
Health hath vouchsafed and, when
  heedlessly falling, hath stayed thee.
    What need or grief
Ever hath failed of relief?
Wings of His mercy did shade thee.

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper
  thy work and defend thee,
Who from the heavens the streams of
  His mercy doth send thee.
    Ponder anew
What the Almighty can do,
Who with His love doth befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord! Oh, let all that
  is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come
  now with praises before Him!
    Let the Amen
Sound from His people again;
Gladly for aye we adore Him.

Several lines of this song are just what I needed today:

  • Hast thou not seen how thy desires all have been granted in what He ordaineth? This line always brings to mind Gladiator when Russell Crowe yells, "Are you not entertained?" (I'm not intending to be irreverent.) The fighter's question cuts off the "how could you possibly NOT be?" That's the tone of this excellent question from the hymn. HAVE YOU NOT SEEN WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR YOU? HOW COULD YOU EVER DOUBT?
  • What need or grief ever hath failed of relief? Same thing. Basically, "Name one failure. Oh, none? Didn't think so." He's always been there. Is there now. Always will be there.
  • Ponder anew what the Almighty can do. I need to type that one again, bigger.

Ponder anew what the Almighty can do!

Amazing how quickly I forget what He has done, what He can do. Ponder ANEW -- think on it again. Come back to it. Dwell on it. Think about it in new ways. Imagine it bigger, better, and more amazing each time you consider it.

This brings me back to my favorite verse (and frankly a much better mood than I started this in):

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
    his mercies never come to an end;

 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.



             

Life After: A Book Review

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Katie Ganshert's Life After is just part of a title. The rest of the title is "...I woke up as the sole survivor of a terrorist train bomb." 

(And look at this pretty picture I took of the appropriately worn library copy against the first-day-of-spring blizzard the northeast was awarded this week?)

There's a lot of heart in this story. Survivor Autumn gets to know the families of the victims  (everyone else on the train) as a way to pay tribute to their memories. She is deeply entrenched in survivor's guilt, and even has some heaped on her by a few families. Others are resilient and see her as a beacon of hope. The entire city of Chicago focuses on her with either hope/faith or anger that she can't or won't be who they expect her to be. One deceased woman's daughter connects with Autumn and, of course, then there's her handsome widowed dad... The story revolves around their intersecting church/work/therapy worlds and the two damaged but tentatively hopeful people forming a relationship.

Story element I could have done without: the "just friends" go to a baseball game. Surely, they won't be put on the big screen Kiss Cam, will they? 

Autumn seems to be true to what I've read about PTSD and survivor's guilt. You definitely see her struggle to even want to "move past" this experience before she can even consider trying to actually do so. She wanders in cemeteries and compulsively clips newspaper articles. She reads about the people online and starts a video tribute for them. Reality shows up when not everything is good and peachy and wonderful. They were real people, with issues.

I had hoped this book would be more about Autumn's recovery as a person and in her relationship with God--and less about her finding romance. (I found this novel researching comps for the novel I finished last year, which focuses on the God-protagonist relationship recovery after a tragedy.) But that's not the book this author chose to write, and I enjoyed it very much. He's FAR more than handsome; she's FAR more than wounded. A giant leap-and-a-half above many Christian romances I've read.

Recommend. 



             

Deep Water: A book review

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A book about a patent lawyer shouldn't be this interesting.

I stumbled onto this series while looking for books with a hearty story that don't go light on the science. Of all things, this book is written by a PhD in Art History. 

The story is about a clinical trial for a drug to "cure obesity" -- and there's extensive descriptions of labs, lab procedure, and a lab book which ultimately ends up factoring into the story very heavily. 

There's a lot of human drama, too -- somebody's dead ex-wife may or may not have been involved in the patent case -- and somebody's young child may or may not be suffering from a rare genetic condition impacted by the drug trial's failure.

Girl Power Highlights: Written by a woman, scientists are women (but not because they are Bond's Christmas Jones--kill me now--or some similar caricature). Drama between women isn't about dudes, so a nice passing of the Bechdel test.

The final scene was the best in the book. A lot of things pulling together into a scary, fiery, watery, stormy action sequence, touched by sacrificial family love.