i am woefully behind in blogging about the books i’ve been reading. but i HAVE been reading! i’ve managed to keep up my goal of 2 books (1 “fun” and 1 “spiritual/growth”) per month.
april ~ i actually read THREE books!
the bean trees is a first person memoir-ish excerpt of sorts about a girl in her early twenties who leaves her backwoods small town behind and sets out to find a new life. any life, really. along the way an abused toddler is literally dropped in her care and becomes something of an adopted daughter. the book is about how she ends up in tucson, arizona, the people she meets, the experiences she has, and the life she chooses for herself.
it’s a very raw story, told honestly and humorously. i felt that it alternated between light-hearted (often via the writing style) and heavy realism (the subject matter). the story felt like it could have been anyone’s story. the people were real and raw. hardship and suffering sprinkled with random simple pleasures and moments of happiness throughout.
honestly, this type of story is not my usual cup of tea. not gonna lie – i like “novels” of the more quintessential type – romantic and/or adventure stories with happy endings. strong realism isn’t my preference. i tend to read fiction for reasons similar to why i watch movies – to escape reality, haha. but this book felt… good for me. a good deviation from my norm. a good change up.
but frankly, the whole book felt worth it when i came across this part:
i had recently been feeling really discouraged over not getting pregnant. i felt weary of this trial, confused by the lack of apparent explanation and frankly, bordering on hopeless. and on top of that, i felt guilty for having such feelings when there are people who have been trying/waiting longer that we have, or who have found out they are unable to conceive.
i had no idea that “esperanza” meant to wait and also to hope. if you didn’t know – the street that zach and i live on is esperanza. as soon as i read this there were tears in my eyes and comfort in my soul. God led us to this apartment here in california and he has brought us every step of the way in this journey toward parenthood. it’s no accident that during this particular trial of ours, we live on a street that reminds us to wait and hope in God. it was exactly what i needed to hear – God used it to break through the despair that had started to creep into my heart and to refresh my soul with a reminder of His perfect sovereignty and goodness in my life.
i was interested in reading this book because i had heard that georgette heyer wrote a number of novels very much in the style of jane austen. being a lover of stories, books and movies that are jane austen-esque in nature, i was eager to give this author a shot!
oh. my. gosh. jane austen would roll over in her grave to hear that a story such as this is being compared to her work! it was awful. infuriating. it was all i could do to not throw the book across the room. i almost didn’t even finish it! ::pant pant::
ok let me try and write something a bit more constructive.
the primary male and female characters – Venetia & Demerel – are both independent, spirited adults looking for distraction from their current life. Venetia is experiencing pressure to marry, but wants more than just “stable and respectable,” which, in her mind, equals boring. Demerel comes from a life rumored to have been filled with womanizing and immorality (even by today’s standards). he moves into the neighboring estate and befriends Venetia, despite some minor outcry from those in Venetia’s life (because of the rumors). there’s really not much to the story, honestly. blah blah blah, they fall in love and agree to marry in the end.
it’s their character – or lack thereof – that pretty much drove me up the wall. upon reading the rumors of Demerel’s character, i initially thought that they would prove false and Venetia would end up being the only one that truly believed in him and/or was willing to give him a chance to prove himself, etc. but no. the rumors were all true. his life had been filled with revelry, womanizing and promiscuity. he basically came back to Venetia’s neighborhood because he ran out of money and was bored. by the end of the book, Demerel has apparently “changed” because of / for Venetia, but you never know what about her, exactly, brought about the change in him. it just… happened?
this is NOT an example of an austen leading male. the “good guys” in austen stories are men of strong and consistent character, unselfish and honorable. by contrast, Demerel seemed to resemble austen’s scoundrels – Willoughby, Wickam, etc. – wealthy, charming and good looking but that’s about all. and although they may appear to change upon meeting a certain woman, their true character is always revealed because the life they had led was based in character of the heart and can’t simply be turned off with a switch.
and Venetia. upon first meeting, you respect her and like her well enough. she is confident and secure, responsible and capable with a good head on her shoulders. she is not obsessed with marriage and doesn’t want to marry someone simply out of convenience. but in the end, her choice of man is not one to be admired! she’s drawn to Demerel for all the wrong reasons. never once is there mention of her falling in love with him because of his character, his firmness/constancy, his wisdom, his thoughtfulness or his vision. it’s all about the way he makes her feel and the fun they have together. she even goes so far as to state carelessly that she doesn’t expect him to change his party-ing ways just for her, questions how faithful he’ll actually be to her and flippantly states that she really doesn’t mind because she is confident that he will always at least love her. whaaaaat???? at one point, Venetia turns to her divorced, estranged, social outcast mother for advice and help!
other minor characters who raise objections to Venetia’s choice are represented as prudish and narrow-minded. the 2 other suitors who are interested in Venetia are refused, essentially, because of a lack of chemistry. they aren’t… fun enough, basically. they may be a little eccentric, but they are stable, upstanding men of reputable character. um, colonel brandon, anyone???
even the writing style/language didn’t measure up. austen wrote in her own vernacular. heyer’s verbage felt unnatural. forced, even. i have rarely had a problem reading and understanding austen’s writing. even some of the old-fashioned terms weren’t entirely lost on me. but this? this had all sorts of random odd words and terms that made no sense. like it was over-stylized. like i said – it felt forced. either that or heyer threw in too many words from her current era (’20s)? i don’t know, but it was awkward and annoying to read.
the one positive thing i saw in the story was that at least Venetia & Demerel’s relationship developed. sometimes in austen’s stories i felt that the unfolding of relationships (especially those that ended in marriage) happened a bit quickly, or didn’t really seem to happen at all. (ok don’t kill me, but i always had a hard time understanding how in the world Lizzie & Mr Darcy developed any kind of true love relationship admist all that pride and prejudice! at least with Emma & Mr Knightley, Catherine & Mr Tilney, Elinor & Mr Ferrars there was a friendship that developed!)
so anyway. i found this book to be a huge, infuriating disappointment. that may have been because i had unrealistic/too high of expectations or made an unfair comparison with jane austen. but since that’s what initially caused me to pick it up, that’s the angle from which i read it. whatever.
i had recently been feeling like the holy sacrament of communion was lacking in significance and meaning for me. being raised in a christian family and attending church my whole life, communion felt… routine. and i was not ok with this. so i asked my father-in-law (who is also conveniently our pastor) for a book on communion that i could read to help me understand the significance of the Lord’s supper in a deeper way. i took my time reading this book and also took notes on each chapter to help my absorption. here are some quotes/notes that helped me:
– 4 purposes of communion: remembrance of Christ, obedience to Christ, worship of Christ, fellowship with Christ & His people
– communion is a picture of dining together. “it should be a time where we linger with the Lord in the enjoyment of His gracious provision for our spiritual needs.”
– “a sacrament is an outward sign by which the Lord seals on our conscience the promises of His goodwill toward us…”
– we do not receive special grace through the act of communion. “The Lord’s supper was meant to increase and help the grace that [we have], but not to impart the grace that [we have not].” JC Ryle
– “at the table it is not only a past event that must fill our thoughts, but also a present experience of the love of God to us in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
– we cannot biblically have communion on our own – it is an act of fellowship and you can’t have fellowship without others
– probably one of the most meaningful things that came during my brief “study” was an exhortation that lynn baird (another one of our pastors) gave prior to the church taking communion together on a sunday. paraphrasing, he said that consuming the bread and the “wine” were symbolic: the elements are absorbed by our body and nourish us, giving us strength and vitality, and also can no longer be removed or separated from us. the same is true of Christ. once He has been received, he is in us giving us new life, strength and vitality and can no longer be separated or removed from us. what hope and grace we have!
those were april’s reads. hopefully i’ll get around to may and june’s soon! 🙂