Book Chat

Promise Me ThisMeh. Not too descriptive, but that kind of sums up my thoughts on “Promise Me This.” I downloaded it with high hopes: it was a fictional tale based around the sinking of the Titanic. I thought that sounded fascinating.

I began reading. Nursery worker Owen sets sail on the Titanic, leaving beloved sister Annie behind, but promising to send for her when he can earn enough. Orphan Michael stows away on the ship as well. Of course the Titanic sinks and Owen (my favorite character in the book) along with it, but Michael survives and goes on to live with Owen’s relatives in America.

You’d think the tale would wrap up here, but you’d be wrong. This is maybe 30% of the book. It goes on, into WWI. Michael serves there, as does Annie (as a nurse). The two correspond, and although they haven’t met, they fall hopelessly in love. Also thrown in are an aunt so evil she makes Hitler look sweet, and a host of other minor characters.

I probably should have just given up after the Titanic part, but I hesitate to ‘break up’ with a book, always hoping it will improve. “Promise Me This” was never really bad, but neither was it ever really good. It was just … meh. If you like long, sweeping epics with a Christian undertone, you may enjoy it.

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Of Mice and Men SteinbeckSo, I felt the need to cleanse my palate with a classic. This time, “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck. My daughter had it from the library, it was short (100 pages), and I’d never read it. I *had* read “The Grapes of Wrath” by Steinbeck in high school, and my main memory of that was the “inter chapters” (??? I think that’s what the teacher called them) where the action stops and the author describes a turtle crossing a road or something similarly fascinating. I remember at the time feeling that these had some deep meaning, but I had no idea what that might be.

Anyway, back to Mice and Men. It was on my mind anyway due to a clip on one of my favorite TV shows, The Middle, where Brick gives a hilarious synopsis of the book to his siblings. Wish I could find it online, but I can’t.

So, “Mice” is the tale of 2 guys, Lennie and George. Lennie is big and dumb, George smaller and the brains of the two, but that’s not saying a lot. They go from job to job, usually getting canned when Lennie, who doesn’t know his own strength, hurts somebody . But they keep going, propelled by the dream of someday having their own place, where they can take it easy(er), raise their own rabbits, and Lennie can tend some beloved rabbits.

The story is set in the 1930s, and I found it heartbreaking and refreshing at the same time to read about a group of guys who are down-and-out, but putting in an honest day’s (or lifetime’s) labor for their board. Back then, there was no WIC, no food stamps or welfare. Poor folks weren’t lounging on the sofa watching TV while they claimed disability and unemployment. These guys were to be pitied, but they had dignity.

You’ll probably guess that the tale doesn’t end well, and you’re right. But the characters are so well-done, and the feeling of foreboding you get reading this book is worth the time it’ll take you — which isn’t long. Recommended.

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My Emily PattersonImagine your first child is born with Down Syndrome. Now imagine that a few years later, she’s diagnosed with leukemia as well. That’s the situation facing Bonnie and Matt Patterson in “My Emily.” Emily is a sweet, loving child, who loses her battle with leukemia just 6 months later.

Matt writes the book 20 years later, and shares his story in a heart-felt way. Reading the book, I could just feel what a loving, great dad he was and is to his girls (he has two other daughters). I loved how, although he was understandably crushed to lose Emily, he always cherished the time he got to spend with her, and he took some important lessons from her life: Emily’s life, with all its imperfections, had great meaning. Because of how many people she touched, I realize we are far more than what we can accomplish. We are the very thumbprint of God.

Or: Our lives, as short as they may be, are a test. And one of the biggest tests we can endure is how we respond to those moments when we don’t feel the presence of God in our lives. I believe deeply that one of God’s greatest gifts is to teach us there is a purpose behind every single one of our trials or problems.

Don’t read it without a Kleenex. Recommended.

One thought on “Book Chat

  1. I would certainly not read “My Emily”. I feel life gives me enough grief without reading a book that contains more.
    “Of Mice and Men” – I wonder if the W.P.A. was going then. I could google it and find out real quick. My family said it stood for We Piddle Around.
    You have inspired me to READ books this summer. This is huge for me! Woo Hoo – Let’s all hear it for Attic Girl!!!

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