Book Chat

This month’s book reviews contain affiliate links. All opinions mine.

God Less America StarnesI often hear, and enjoy, radio commentaries by Todd Starnes. So when I learned that he had a book out, and that he wanted bloggers to read and review it, I was happy to comply. God Less America: Real Stories From the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values is his book.

The book is largely made of  various outrages in the news today. I was able to read a succinct version, for the first time,  of the sad tale of Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor imprisoned in Iran because of his Christianity. I read about an NFL player who sacked Christian player Tim Tebow during a game, and then “Tebowed” him — pretended to pray in celebration on bended knee. Always the thought is there: apparently making fun of Christians is fine. But would it be acceptable to openly mock a Muslim player, for instance? There was also a troubling chapter on the US military and its growing insistence on gay rights.  Christian military chaplains are apparently being told that they cannot pray in the name of Jesus or quote scripture. Ummm … I’m wondering what they can do, then? And in several instances, members were chastised for even voicing opposition to gay marriage. One military member made the observations that, in the military at least, Christians and gays appear to have changed places: gays are out of the closet, while Christians are being forced into it.

Much of the “God Less” trend appears to be led by President Obama, and numerous examples are given: for instance, for their first Christmas at the White House, the Obamas apparently told their social secretary that they wanted to plan a “non-religious Christmas.” Starnes goes on to elaborate on specifics — Obama has released multiple statements recognizing the observance of various Muslim holidays, but often either fails to mention Christian holidays at all (example: Easter 2011), or redefines Christian holidays in non-religious ways: “Service to others — that’s what this season is all about. For my family and millions of Americans, that’s what Christmas is all about.” O-kay then.

These chapters inevitably raised my blood pressure, so it’s nice that they were interspersed with humorous, fictional chapters. Starnes really shines at humor writing. I was cracking up as he described a modern church, with its “King of the Juice” drink bar serving “Laodicea Lattes” — neither too hot nor too cold, natch … He also quips that perhaps a Nativity scene should have been set up in front of our embassy at Benghazi, as help (or at least some type of attention) might have arrived sooner …

At times the book gets a bit laundry list-ish, with its seemingly never-ending detailing of the war against Christianity. And while I get that Starnes is a good ‘ol Southern boy, I did tire after a while of all the mentions of sweet tea, buttered biscuits, and “bless your heart.” Nevertheless, a good read overall and a call out of complacency for Christians. It’s amazing how far our nation has slid, morally, just in my lifetime.

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where somebody waitsWhere Somebody Waits is the story of Ruby, a remarkable woman who made her mark on many during her lifetime. We follow Ruby from her young adult years through her death in her 80s, and the author does an excellent job creating the southern environment the book is set in.

“The Ferris wheel goes up, and it comes down. You got to pay to take the ride,” Ruby says by way of explaining love to her young nieces. She should know — she married her husband after breaking things off with her original beau, who had adored her. Ruby seems to be adored by pretty much everyone and to end up in the center of many controversial issues — abortion, infidelity, AIDS, racism. In fact, the book began to feel a bit laundry-list-ish to me, with Ruby predictably taking the right-but-unpopular-at-the-time side on every social issue as it arose. She seemed to be an instrument for the author to make a social commentary. I found the storytelling style difficult to follow as well:  each chapter is narrated by a different person, and often it’s hard to know who is speaking for the first few pages. The time frame jumps all over the place too.

Still, the voice and writing style were well done, and I enjoyed them. I’d recommend reading this one in one sitting so you can keep all the varying story lines straight and just wallow in the atmosphere.

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Elsewhere RussoHaving read and enjoyed “Empire Falls” and other books by Richard Russo, I thought I’d enjoy Elsewhere, described as his memoir. However, this book was really more about his mom than himself. It was interesting, though: Russo was the only child of Jean Russo, who was married to his dad only briefly. She always considered herself and “Ricko Mio” to be a single unit, telling him that they would always be together. That turned out to be fairly accurate. When Richard decided to move from New York to Arizona to go to college, Mom came right along with him.

As the years passed, Mom continued following Richard (and in time, his wife and daughters) wherever he moved for various university teaching and then writing jobs. And Mom was quite the character: demanding, quirky, you name it. While she was no doubt grateful to her son for all he did for her, her words often belied this, as she’d berate him for this and that, complain about the latest apartment he’d found for her, and always hurl that ultimate put-down of one’s powers of empathy: “You have no idea what (fill in the blank) is like.”

Only after Mom’s death and his own daughter’s strange symptoms does Russo put together that Mom had OCD (and honestly, based on this book, I’d have said she was bipolar or something more serious than that). That this surprises him struck me as odd, but I guess it’s human nature to want to deny quirks in our closest relatives as something more benign than perhaps they really are.

Interesting book, which inspires you to think about the various traits in families and how they show up here and there — although the book is pretty depressing overall. I’m with Russo wholeheartedly in his gratitude that he was able to take his own personality weak spots and turn them into a satisfying career better than his Mom did.

 

Also A Wilder Rose about the relationship between Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose

and Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money by Dave Ramsey and daughter Rachel Cruze

What’s the best book you’ve read lately?

 

8 thoughts on “Book Chat

  1. I don’t know that I’ve read anything by Richard Russo before, but I generally enjoy memoirs and family dynamics tend to be very interesting to me (as someone who belongs to one of those happy families who are all alike :-P) I might have to check out Elsewhere.

  2. Great reviews. I’d take the first one with some salt, but overall I know there is real truth in there.

  3. I’d like to read God Less America, but doubt I could handle it. I think I’d get too upset to be able to finish it.

  4. Where Somebody Waits sounds very good. A year ago today I was riding a ferris wheel on Coney Island so it’s fun to see that photo. :)

  5. It sounds like you read some interesting books this month! I’ve wondered about that Dave Ramsay book. I’m not a HUGE fan (not because I don’t agree with him, but because I don’t like his style), but I do think that book might be beneficial for my children.

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I enjoy hearing from you.