Wednesday, June 15, 2016
June 2016 "Quick Lit"
As I do on the 15th of most months, I'm joining Modern Mrs. Darcy's "Quick Lit" linkup, where we share short reviews of what we've been reading.
All Out by Kevin Newman & Alex Newman (memoir).
This excellent memoir explores the relationship between a father and son. Kevin Newman's demanding career as a journalist and broadcaster in Canada and the United States not only exhausted him and caused him to doubt who he really was -- but also created distance between himself and his son Alex, who was struggling with his own identity and his sense that he was not the son his father wanted him to be. Alex's coming out as gay was a catalyst to bring the two closer together and allow them to start really knowing and understanding each other. I loved the honesty and authenticity of this book; its unique structure, with the two authors' voices alternating from chapter to chapter, allows us to see many of the same events from both father's and son's perspective, adding to the emotional impact.
This is Not My Life by Diane Schoemperlen (memoir).
Schoemperlen, a well-known Kingston novelist, was volunteering at a soup kitchen when she met and became romantically involved with another volunteer, Shane, a parolee who had been convicted of murder. In this book, which chronicles their tumultuous six-year relationship, Schoemperlen explores why she fell in love with Shane, why she stayed in the relationship as long as she did, and the truths she had to face about herself in order to move on with her life. Schoemperlen's beautiful, honest writing makes you want to keep reading, even as you sense that the relationship can't possibly have a happy ending. The book also takes a sobering look at the effects of the Canadian prison system on inmates and their loved ones.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (memoir).
Kalanithi was a successful neurosurgeon with a brilliant future when he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer at age 36. In this small but powerful book he discusses the questions about calling and purpose that led to his becoming a doctor; the decisions he and his wife had to make after receiving his diagnosis (could and would he continue to work? would they have a baby?); and the process of facing death while embracing life. His wife Lucy, also a doctor, provides a moving epilogue describing her husband's death and the legacy he left to their family and others. A beautiful exploration of life, death, and meaning.
Positively Powerless: How a Forgotten Movement Undermined Christianity by L.L. Martin (nonfiction).
The "forgotten movement" in question is the positive thinking movement, whose history Martin sketches in the first section of the book -- but as she shows, the ramifications of this philosophy are still present. She explores how the foundation of this movement -- a focus on self-affirmation and optimism -- is largely at odds with Christianity and can be dangerous because it fosters pride, de-emphasizes human brokenness, and wrongly encourages people to expect perfection in this life. I particularly liked her final chapter on facilitating safe, transparent community, as well as her "Appendix of Practical Ideas and Resources for Cultivating Humility and Staying Focused on Christ"; these help show that her purpose is not just to criticize a movement but to encourage readers toward a healthier view of self and God. Martin, whose blog I often read, is a thoughtful, clear, balanced writer.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (fiction).
My book club did this novel for our latest meeting; this was my first time delving into the popular young-adult trilogy. On the whole, I enjoyed the book. The concept -- highly controlled dystopian world in which two children from each of twelve Districts are forced to compete in a violent death game in which only one can be left standing -- is original and interesting. The narrator, 17-year-old Katniss, is an intriguing character: tough, brave, and reluctant to trust. I found the writing a bit cliched -- "My whole body's shaking like a leaf" [of course it is!] -- but the book raises thought-provoking questions about heroism, sacrifice, friendship, loyalty, and power; and it kept me turning the pages.
What about you: have you read any of these? What have you been reading this past month?