Book #126 of this year was Wish, by Barbara O'Connor. My mother sent me a copy of this book, autographed for me by O'Connor. Getting a book in the mail is such a wonderful thing, and I enjoyed this one very much. It's about Charlie (short for Charlemagne, an eleven-year-old girl), whose parents can't care for her because her father is in prison and her mother is too depressed. Despite these bleak circumstances, and Charlie's deep sadness about being shipped to a little town in North Carolina to live with an aunt and uncle she hardly knows, this ends up being a lovely book about friendship and family and making wishes. I put it on the shelf in my classroom when I was done with it; I think some of my seventh graders will like it, even though the protagonist is quite a bit younger than they are.
Book #127 was Nightwoods, by Charles Frazier. I didn't like this quite as much as the other two Frazier novels, Cold Mountain and Thirteen Moons, but when you're dealing with a writer as remarkable as Frazier, that certainly doesn't mean it's not a good book. It's just as weird and atmospheric and vivid as the other two books, with complicated, alive characters. Is Frazier working on another novel? I sure hope so.
Book #128 was a book that I downloaded myself onto my Kindle, but it felt like another gift in the mail, only this time from God Himself. "Hey, you should read this," I imagined Him saying. "This guy wrote this book just for you and just for this week." The book is called How to Survive a Shipwreck: Help is on the Way and Love is Already Here, by Jonathan Martin. Martin quotes Chesterton, James Joyce, Buechner, the Bible, The Runaway Bunny, and more, but his book is wholly original. He gets crisis (shipwreck) just exactly right. His writing is poetic and soaked in metaphor, but not over-the-top "let's make a sermon illustration out of this" Christian metaphor. He writes about Paul's shipwreck in the book of Acts, sea monsters in the book of Job, New Orleans after Katrina, wind and water. This was one of the most comforting, grace-filled, beautiful books I have read in a long time, and it's one I'll definitely read again. "If death is not the final word," writes Martin, "and chaos produces creation rather than destroys it, then many of the stories . . . you thought were long over are far from over yet." This book made me believe that.
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