Saturday, April 13, 2019

Book Review Where the Crawdads Sing

Delia Owens' debut novel, Where the Crawdads Sing is one of my favorite reads for 2018.
It is a romance, a family saga, a coming of age story, and a murder mystery rolled into one, often poetic, book. Owens writes from a remarkable understanding of nature. A quote from her website reads, "When you can feel the planet beneath your toes and trees moving about, you must listen with all your ears and,--I promise--you will hear the crawdads sing. In fact, it will be a chorus."
This tells me much about the author and her debut novel. Owens spent over two decades studying wildlife in remote regions of Africa. As a result of this research, she makes the case that mammals in strongly bonded groups form those groups of exclusively females. In Where the Crawdads Sing, Kya is a female without a group and desperately wants one. Owens subtly makes the point that female bonding is in our DNA. Kya's mother is the North Carolina marsh and her teachers are the animals that populate the marsh. She is abandoned by her biological mother, siblings and eventually her father. Kya scrapes out a living and a huge education on the water's edge, befriending rare and wonderful characters like Jumpin, the general store and gas station owner, and Tate, the young man and friend of Kys's brother that teaches Kya to read. These people help her in her greatest times of trouble. Throughout the book, the characters are well-drawn and there are good and bad folk in equal measure. The marsh too, becomes a character as well as the town of Barkley Cove. 
I read one review of this book that said the reader did not find Kya's life believable and thus could never engage with the main character. I laughed with the reviewer because I too wondered at a young woman so isolated and yet able to make her way on tired grits and very little else. For me, this wasn't a problem, but a wonder.
If you haven't read this book yet, I highly recommend it. I read it then re-read it because I hated to finish it.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for reading books. Bev

published also at bacoots.com

Friday, April 5, 2019

Chewy has been Sold











Well, I have a gentleman's agreement on the sale of Chewy and I trust the buyer to tell me if he changes his mind. 
My husband and I may have named the truck Chewy because the old Studebaker sounded like Chewbacca when he headed down the road. I wish I could remember for certain. There are so many things I can no longer remember. Never-mind all of that. Chewy is going to a new home. Chewy will be with a family that likes old things and enjoys restoring them. The home even has young'uns interested in old things.
Lonny bought the truck for me when I started a novel that featured a '49 Studebaker truck. When Lonny brought it home and I drove it to Mom and Dad's for the first time, my father put his hands in his pockets and frowned. He shook his head and said, "Studebaker was very good at making wagons. They weren't very good at much else."
I worried some about what my father thought. I respected him, but pretended I hadn't heard. I liked Chewy for his blue paint and round top. I liked him because my husband bought him for me to encourage my writing. It was Lonny's way of saying, "I support you. I may not read what you write, but I'm proud of you."
We used to have fly-ins. My husband and I built an ultralight (which is a story for another time.) We would host other ultralight owners for a few days of games and feasting. 
 I had driven the Studebaker to work the day of one of these fly-ins. I came home just as the planes started arriving.
Lonny waved as I drove up and parked. His grin was broad, as if it wanted to jump off his face and give me a hug. I heard him telling one of the pilots about the truck.
Later he told me how much he enjoyed seeing me drive around in Chewy, how proud he was and how much delight he knew I took in driving the old blue Studebaker.
I remember that day now and wonder at how people can take joy in another's pleasure. It touches me to know that Lonny and I truly delighted in each other's happiness. It touches me that I tried to forget my father's comments. I am glad that I relaxed and drove the old truck even when my father shook his head and complained.
But Chewy is gone now. It is bittersweet. I knew I would never get him running again and I hope his new owner will. I took down the new owner's number. Maybe I'll stay in touch. Maybe I could drive Chewy one more time. Probably not, but life has some strange twists.
Thank you for reading. Bev

Monday, March 25, 2019

Lesson Six, Lessons from a Sheep Dog

Hagerman Bible Study Notes
18 March 2019
Scriptures:
Matthew 7:1-14
Proverbs 8
Mark 4

Our Lesson in chapter six was titled, Love and Discipline. In it Keller discusses the need to discipline his dog when she misbehaved. He says that he loved her too much to watch her be swayed from her purpose by a damaging distraction. He likened this to how God disciplines us and quotes Hebrews 12:6-11. We discussed God's discipline and how Peter was quickly restored to Jesus when Jesus asks three times, "Peter do you love me?" We touched on how God would be unworthy of worship if He didn't demand obedience or love us enough to insist on a right relationship.
Keller speaks early in the chapter of John 14-17. He makes the case that, like we are to Jesus, Lass was companion, co-worker and friend. We spoke about how God's discipline establishes boundaries and order and allows for strong lasting relationships.
In our Scriptures from Matthew we covered; judge not lest you also be judged, do not cast your pearls before swine, and if we as evil give good gifts, how much more so God who is good. The passage in Matthew ended with the golden rule. Our passage from Proverbs is the chapter on wisdom and we reflected on choosing God's instruction over riches. In Mark 4 we discussed the parable of the sower and having ears to hear.
We closed in prayer noting that we would meet Monday at the Community Center in Hagerman.
Thank you reading. Bev

Lesson Five, Lessons from a Sheep Dog

Hagerman Bible Study notes from March 11
Scriptures: 
Matthew 6:16-34
Psalm 104
Job 38

Lesson five was titled, the Test of Faithfulness. Keller speaks of Lass becoming frantic when she loses sight of her master. In observing Lass's behavior, Keller saw the necessity of being quietly steadfast and faithful wherever God placed him. He makes the case that God asks us to be loyal steadfast friends, and Keller demonstrates in the negative using the example of Lass. He says that when Lass was distracted, she became useless and often did more damage than good. Keller says that it is essential for us to examine our lives to learn what diverts us from God's calling for us as His co-workers.
Thinking of myself as a co-worker in God's great Economy gives me pause. It stirs in me a sense of urgency and I thank Keller for his clear analogy.
Keller ends this lesson saying that it is our job to be faithful where God places us.
Our teaching from Matthew covered instructions on fasting, storing up treasures in Heaven, and the light of the body is the eye. When we spoke of not serving two masters, we likened it to Lass serving her distractions or serving Keller. We spoke about not being anxious and how this assisted steadfastness.
In Psalm 104 we marveled over the glory of God's creation and then in Job 38 we marveled over God's gentle rebuke of Job about God's creation.
We spent some time talking about forgiveness and how to forgive when we don't have a name or a face, but feel betrayal anyway.
We closed in prayer.
Thanks for reading, Bev

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Prairie Fires Book Review

Written by Caroline Fraser,  Prairie Fires is a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, her parents, grandparents and daughter couched in a history and discourse of the American frontier.
The biography finds purchase in the final third of the book, describing how the Little House books came about.
In most of the reviews I've read, Little House fans adored Prairie Fires. They cut their 'reading teeth' on Wilder's books, many learning how to read from the Little House books along with how to accomplish many other frontier tasks. I don't disagree that Wilder helped form the frontier conscience of our nation, but I think this was unwitting on her part.
Wilder was not my first read. In fact, my mother tried to get me to read the Little House books but I found the work tedious and too shiny. (Funnily enough, I found Prairie Fires tedious also.) I knew even at five and six years of age, that I was being forced to swallow the Pollyanna without much story. I just couldn't find a footing in the books and if the books were bad the television series was deplorable. My tastes ran more to fantasy, which I knew wasn't real and enjoyed it all the more for it. I mention all of this 'me' stuff because I am an unreliable reviewer for this book.
I admired Fraser's research but became bored with her preaching about the sins of early American governments. This nation is an easy target and often exploited. But as a writer she is surely entitled to her own soap box. I just thought the book would have been a much better read without the discourse.
The other thing I took issue with was the pressure of the 'truth.' Wilder wrote rosy children's books. I think it would be clear that she had help writing them and that she kept to the sunny-side of major tragedies. I see no reason to dive into Wilder's past in order to state the obvious and be so exercised about it that countless references fill the book. Maybe this is unfair to Fraser who is a talented writer and remarkable scholar. Like I said, I am an unreliable reviewer.
So why read the book? If you are interested in the American frontier, read this book. Farser's research is superb.
If you treasured Wilder's series, read the last third of the book. It is a well detailed story, if a bit skewed against Rose. Perhaps Rose was a quarter bubble short of plumb. I am not so convinced in this telling, which seems to rely on Rose's political views as much as other facts. But I did enjoy how Wilder developed her stories and her skills.
The final reason to read this book is to join the discussion which is full and rich and very American. Thanks for reading. Bev

Monday, February 25, 2019

Hagerman Bible Study from February 18

Our Scriptures for last Monday were:
Matthew 5:43-6:15 and Ecclesiastes 5 
We read chapter 4 in Lessons from a Sheep Dog

Our lesson from the book covered the topic; delight in obedience. We discussed how Lass loved to work with the author. We drew the parallels between our life of obedience to God's commands and how, in obedience, we delight in our relationship with God. We spoke about our excuses for not following God's will. One of those excuses is we don't know what God's will is or can't understand it, but we see that God's will is clearly stated in His Word.
We discussed the fear of God, noting that it is reverence, loving esteem and admiration, not unlike Lass and her master. We spoke of how Lass kept her master in constant view and how she learned his will even by hand gestures. Similarly we may turn every thought to God and thus respond to His will in any situation as we deepen our relationship. Keller says, "We begin to look for God's hand in all the details and events of our days. We become acutely sensitive to His presence. We find our minds, spirits, and emotions concentrated on Christ, eager to do His biding."
Our passage in Matthew gave us commands that we may grow deeper in relationship with God. In this passage Jesus tells us to love our enemies and give to the needy. He also tells us how to pray.
In Ecclesiastes 5 we covered fearing God and the vanity of wealth and honor.
Thank yo for reading. I will see you tonight. Bev