The Book of Longings

I am Ana. I am the wife of Jesus ben Joseph of Nazareth. All my life, longings lived inside of me, rising up like nocturnes to wail and sing through the night. That my husband bent his heart to mine on our thin straw mat and listened was the kindness I most loved in him. What he heard was my life begging to be born.– pg. 3

Ana

Ana is a normal girl living in Sephoris, listening to her aunt’s stories and recording narratives about the women in the Torah.

Ana longs to be a woman with a voice; she even puts her sacred prayer in her prayer bowl: “When I am dust, sing these words over my bones: she was a voice” (pg. 11). She wants to be someone who is heard and remembered, that her voice, as well as her writings, will live on long after she’s passed.

Her fierce aunt teaches her how to become her own person, and to revere the women in the Torah.

Then she learns that she is going to be married to a man she doesn’t know, and certainly doesn’t like.

Ana’s life changes once her betrothed dies. Relieved and overjoyed, she only wears the mourning clothes for show.

Her life changes again once she meets Jesus, a stonemason who is clearly devout. She is at first curious about this man, then falls in love with him. They end up marrying, and Ana goes to live with Jesus and his family.

Jesus

Jesus begins to preform small miracles, as well as what I will call acts of kindness. He helps the lepers into the pool to bathe, and begins to form a following based around his beliefs about God. As he decides to leave his home to further create outreach for his ministry, Ana is left behind, and left excluded from the tales of Jesus of him preforming further miracles and practicing his ministry/what he teaches.

Final Thoughts

The story is limited, unfortunately, by telling the story of Jesus through the eyes of Ana. I feel like, while I know the story of Jesus, it would’ve been interesting to hear his take on what’s happening to him as he formulates his own ministry.

This is my only major critique of the novel. That, I guess, and the pacing. It takes a while for you to really get into the story, and then the novel itself is lackluster for large, exciting plot-lines.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed The Book of Longings, it just wasn’t my favorite novel by Sue Monk Kidd. I have The Secret Life of Bees, and am eager to see how the book matches up with the film.

I really appreciate, however, a woman’s perspective on Jesus, especially when women aren’t the narrators/writers of Jesus’s life in the Bible. Yes, women are mentioned in the Bible, but they aren’t the center of the Bible. They are put second in a world where men are put first. So, I enjoyed the perspective and Ana’s fierceness very much. I loved how she wrote poems and composed literature on the women of the Torah, giving them the credit and credence that they deserve.

If you like novels about religious figures, this book is something you should at least try. Even if you’re a practicing Christian like me, I say that this book helps give you something to think about in terms of women, the Bible, and who it’s written by and how this could have been different if women had been allowed to write the Scriptures alongside their male counterparts.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Little Fires Everywhere

In Shaker Heights, the Richardson family lives a comfortable life. They rent out their rental home to Mia and her daughter, Pearl. Mia and her daughter turn out to be interesting people, someone Mrs. Richardson can’t stop thinking about. She begins to obsessively hunt for clues about Mia’s life, determined to find out more.

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In Shaker Heights, the Richardson family lives a comfortable life. They rent out their rental home to Mia and her daughter, Pearl. Mia and her daughter turn out to be interesting people, someone Mrs. Richardson can’t stop thinking about. She begins to obsessively hunt for clues about Mia’s life, determined to find out more.

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Fahrenheit 451

Ray Bradbury’s classic futuristic novel focuses on a world in which firemen burn books instead of putting out fires. Guy Montag, a fireman, has his whole world turned upside down when he begins taking books from houses. He begins to question everything, thanks to his new neighbor Clarisse. Once he learns that books are sacred, Montag must make a decision: Should he return to his old life of burning books, or should he keep growing and run away from his peculiar life?

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The Giver

Jonas lives in the Community. In the Community, there is no more hunger, or pain, or colors. When Jonas gets his assignment to be the new Receiver for his Community, he meets an older man called the Giver. The Giver will teach Jonas about the world he’s missing: colors and snow. But he will also pass onto Jonas more sinister feelings and memories. Jonas will finally know the haunting truth about his Community.

Summary

Jonas lives in a Community where there is no more hunger or pain. There’s also no more colors in the world. Everything has been altered to create sameness, even among the children as they grow up. Jonas has no idea that he’s trapped in a dystopia; he believes that everything is for the good of the Community. He feels content. But when he gets his assignment at the age of twelve to become the new Receiver for his Community, he will learn the terrible truth about his world.

Jonas’s journey

Jonas, as the new Receiver, must learn about the past from the Giver. The Giver has an ability to pass memories, sensations, and emotions through Jonas by placing his hand on the boy’s back.

Slowly, over the course of a year, Jonas learns about what he’s missing: snow, colors, and the sight of a rainbow. But, as time goes on, he learns the terrible truth about the Community: the old and the very young are killed, removed from the Community by lethal injection in a process called release. The process for the old is a ceremony, a supposed happy occasion where the older member’s life is remembered and recited for the older generation to hear. Then, they are led away through a door, and never seen again. The lie is that the older person will have gone to another Community, when in reality they are lethally injected.

The very same process is done to underweight babies. Jonas watches in horror as a underweight baby is injected, then dies before him on a screen. Shocked, Jonas realizes that release is actually a death sentence, and refuses to go home. His father, who is a nurturer to infants, preformed the release. He was very caviler about the whole thing, even telling the baby “bye, bye, little guy,” before dumping him down a garbage chute.

Jonas and the Giver devise a plan for him to escape, with baby Gabriel, that same night. (Gabriel is scheduled to be released, and has been temporarily living with Jonas and his family.)

As he and Gabriel make their steady way to another Community, they encounter dangers along the way: a snowstorm, as well as people in aircraft searching for them.

Will Jonas and Gabriel make it to their new home safely?

Final thoughts

I love how The Giver is written. Lois Lowery is an excellent children’s author and does a fantastic job of writing through the eyes of a young boy who doesn’t know that he’s living in a dystopian community. I’ve read Messenger (the third book in the series) long before I read The Giver. As an adult, I’m able to grasp the darkness, and am able to understand the complex issues that are tackled in the novel. While this is intended for children, I feel like anyone can read these books, partly because they are so readable.

Lois Lowery is one of my favorite children’s authors, right up there with Tamora Pierce, who writes for young adults.

I cannot stress enough how important books like The Giver are to children and adults alike. Like most dystopian novels, it’s a warning about what might happen should we control the world around us.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Darius the Great is Not Okay

Darius has depression.

As a teenager, he’s had it for as long as he can remember. When his family decides to visit Iran, he feels apprehensive about finally meeting his grandparents—whom he’s only seen on Skype calls over the years. While in Iran, Darius befriend Sohrab, a young man about his age. As the two of them bond, Darius begins to open up to Sohrab, forming the first real friendship he’s ever had.

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Station Eleven

book cover for Station Eleven

A strain of flu creates an apocalyptic world, one where technology and modern comforts are seldom seen as the norm. Amid this new world are a group of traveling actors, a symphony of men and women who have survived the pandemic that altered their world.

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Educated

Tara Westover’s memoir left me wondering how a life can truly change with the help of an education.

I loved going to school. Throughout my childhood, I was taught in elementary school how to read, how to write, and learned common facts and ideas about the world. This continued throughout junior high and high school. In college, I expanded my knowledge of the world around me, and chose to declare a major in English as my main (and only) focus. I grew up learning to love getting an education: I worked hard, tried to teach myself how to study, and (more so in college) what it means to have an education. After reading Educated, I’m thinking more about what it truly means to have grown up with an education.

Tara grew up with very little of that. At a young age, her father stopped her from going to school.

On the highway below, the school bus rolls past without stopping.
I am only seven, but I understand that it is this fact, more than any other, that makes my family different: we don’t go to school.

pg. xiii, Prologue, Kindle edition

Tara grew up living in the mountains of Idaho, where she lived out her days running wild and free. As she got older, she worked for her father in the junkyard, then worked elsewhere. Her brother encouraged her to get her GED and go to college; he helped influence Tara into getting out of her parents house.

With a survivalist Mormon family, with an un-diagnosed bipolar father, and with a brother who became steadily more abusive, Tara sought getting an education as a way of getting out of her dysfunctional family.

At seventeen, Tara got into college, and later went on to Cambridge University. Tara first learned about the Holocaust in college, and had to further educate herself about topics that were common knowledge to her classmates. With the help of her mentors, she learned how to think critically, and how to navigate the world of academia. Her roommates helped her, too, mostly in teaching her personal hygiene, because her father didn’t believe in using soap to wash your hands after using the bathroom.

Educated has taught me how important it is to have an education. It’s important to have a basis of knowledge about the world around you, and to learn how to challenge yourself through higher learning by attending a university.

I’m so grateful to my family for having me pursue a college education. I not only learned how to write better, but how to be independent and live on my own. Without a higher education, I wouldn’t have my amazing English degree. I wouldn’t have made the close friends I now have because I went to college. If I had just gone into the workforce, I feel like I wouldn’t be as confident as I am now. I wouldn’t have the extra classes that I took under my belt.

For Tara, getting an education meant escaping her family, and becoming independent from her parents. While her education came at a cost, she still feels grateful that she went to college: “You could call this selfhood many things. Transformation. Metamorphosis. Falsity. Betrayal. I call it an education” (pg. 328, Kindle edition).

If you like reading memoirs, and if you like compelling non-fiction, Educated should be on your reading list.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Girl, Woman, Other

Girl, Woman, Other is a multi-faceted story about several women—young and old—who live in Great Britain. At first glance, it seems like the novel is comprised of vignettes, but the deeper you venture into the novel, the closer these women become. Every one of the characters is connected to someone else in some way: a daughter, a friend, a lover, or a mother.

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Fates and Furies

Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives.

Lotto and Mathilde get married at twenty-two years old. As a young couple, they move from the honeymoon period into co-existing with each other, to almost breaking their marriage. As the years change and test their life together, Lotto (Lancelot) and Mathilde stay together, weathering rough patches in their relationship, betrayals of trust, and months of absences from one another.

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The Immortalists

In 1969, Varia leads her other three siblings to a fortune teller, a woman who tells each of the kids when they will die. It’s no secret that this book will be about death, but it’s surprisingly about living your life.

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The Starless Sea

Bee, key, sword.

Erin Morgenstern’s second novel cannot specifically be defined as one genre. The Starless Sea is many things: a mystery, an adventure, a multi-faceted love story, and above all, a world within a world. Each vignette from various books brings you closer to the characters, who are less random and more real than you originally think.

When Zachary Ezra Rawlins finds a book with a piece of his childhood written exactly as he remembers it in the campus library, he’s stunned. He re-reads the collection of short stories over and over, but nothing of his own story comes up. Sweet Sorrows enthralls Zachary, compelling him to take the book with him everywhere, including a gathering with fellow students.

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Symptoms of Being Human

Riley Cavanaugh is your typical rebellious teen: Riley likes to wear Doc Martins, Dad’s old Ramones shirt, and has an ambiguous haircut. Trying to fit into a box isn’t Riley’s thing, especially when it comes to gender. Because Riley is gender-fluid. 

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By Chance Alone

Max grew up during the ’30s and ’40s. As a child, he loved spending time with his grandparents, his aunt and uncle, and his immediate family all under one large roof. When Hitler came to power, Max’s life rapidly changed. As a Hungarian Jew, he and his family members were targeted and witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust.

Now, as a Holocaust survivor, Max’s testimony to the atrocities at Auschwitz reminds fellow survivors and listeners alike that it’s important to never forget such a terrible time in history.

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