Saturday, June 15, 2019

June 2019 Quick Lit: What I've been reading

Today I'm joining Modern Mrs. Darcy for Quick Lit, where we share short reviews of what we've been reading.

Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry. 
I have read some of Berry's poetry and the occasional essay, but this was my first foray into his fiction. This is a magnificent book that reads more like a memoir than a novel. As she nears the end of her life, elderly Hannah Coulter reminisces about her life in the Kentucky farming community of Port William: her formative relationship with her grandmother; her youthful, short-lived first marriage; her years married to Nathan and raising three children on the farm; her observations about agriculture, changing times, and community. The whole time I was reading this book I was wishing I'd read it while my mom was still alive so that I could have told her about it. She'd have read it; then she'd have passed it on to Dad; and they'd likely have spent many hours talking about it and connecting with its themes. It's really beautiful. If you're looking for fast pacing and a strong narrative arc, this book won't fit those requirements -- but if you want an uplifting story about ordinary people living ordinary but meaningful lives, this book is for you.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb.  
While Berry's book is a novel that reads like a memoir, this one is a memoir that often feels like a novel. Gottlieb, a therapist, is devastated when her longtime boyfriend ends their relationship because he doesn't want to marry someone with a child. She realizes she herself needs a therapist to work through this crisis and the deeper issues it has brought to the surface. Gottlieb's story of her work with her therapist, Wendell, is interwoven with stories of her own clients as they work their way toward healthier relationships and greater life satisfaction. This book is entertaining, funny, and thought-provoking and will probably provide a few aha moments for any reader.

The Collected Schizophrenias by Esme Weijun Wang. 
Wang was diagnosed with schizoaffective/bipolar disorder as a teenager; in this collection of beautifully written essays, she discusses not only her own personal experiences -- such as how she was essentially pushed out of Yale University because of her illness when she was a student there, or how she uses her knowledge of fashion to help her pass as more put-together and therefore more stable -- but broader themes such as media depictions of mental illness, crimes involving mental illness, and the debates surrounding diagnosis of schizophrenia and related disorders. Wang's blending of memoir and rigorous research makes for a fascinating book.

 Love, Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life by Henri J.M. Nouwen.  
This is the book I'm currently reading. Nouwen was a prolific letter-writer, and this volume is a collection of letters he wrote to friends and strangers about spirituality, faith, and vocation. This book is more than just a window into an interesting life; reading it is a truly spiritual experience in itself. Nouwen's kind, probing words, his vulnerability and sharing of his own struggles, make you feel like you're in the presence of a trusted friend or spiritual director who, with a few well-chosen questions, will give you new perspective and grounding. Brene Brown's foreword to the book shows that this was her experience too. I'm reading this book slowly and really savouring it.

What have you been reading lately? I'd love to know!