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TRAIL, BC Jul 15, 2015/ Troy Media/ – I’ve read some wonderful books since last summer, and I’m looking forward to meandering through a few more over the next weeks.
Here is my list of good reads for summer 2015:
One of the best books I read this year was The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea. The Hummingbird’s Daughter recounts the story of the author’s great-aunt Teresita, a curanderas (healer) whom some Mexican communities still revere as the populist Saint of Cabora. Set against the backdrop of pre-revolutionary Mexico, the adventures of Teresita and her community are punctuated with scenes of magical realism and a unique form of mysticism that blends traditional Yaqui and Mayo cultures with Christianity. According to Urrea, readers with a “cosmic bent” find the “mysteries of sacredness” woven into the narrative.
The Rosie Project is a delightful, warm romantic comedy by Graeme Simsion. Fans of Sheldon Cooper from the television series The Big Bang Theory will immediately like Professor Don Tillman who has decided it is time to marry. He devises a detailed questionnaire to weed out undesirable candidates in his search for the perfect wife. Funny and poignant, this is a perfect book for a hot, languid day at the beach.
Watch How We Walk by Jennifer LoveGrove explores the relationship between identity, family and religion. This heartbreaking tale revolves around the struggles of a young Jehovah’s Witness girl trying to reconcile the precepts of religion with some troubling realities in her family life. Unable to make sense of her sister’s rebellion and her uncle’s disfellowshipping (judging and shunning), Emily unravels.
Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda is not for the faint of heart. This gripping historical narrative includes murder, kidnapping and graphic scenes of torture. Set in the early days of the Jesuits’ arrival into Canada, Boyden tells the story through the eyes of three narrators, a Wendat warrior, an Iroquois girl, and a Jesuit priest. As cultures collide and communal life comes under attack, the narrators come to new understandings about themselves, one another, and the different cultures in which they move.
If non-fiction is more to your taste, Dancing with the Enemy by Paul Glaser recounts the story of his Jewish aunt Rosie Glaser who survived the Nazi concentration camps because of her wit, talent and beauty. An important aspect of the story is the author’s unexpected discovery of his Jewish background. Raised as a Catholic, Glaser describes various family reactions to his discovery of their Jewish heritage and the realization that most of their relatives died in concentration camps during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Rosie’s story also brings to light the unconscionable treatment of Dutch Jewish survivors at the hand of their own government following the war.
If science and the environment are more to your liking than history, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert discusses the impact of human behaviour and activity on the planet. There have been five major extinctions in the earth’s history, all of which were the result of some cataclysmic event or a shift in climate. Unlike the previous five, humans are responsible for the sixth extinction which, according to some scientists, will affect between 30 to 50 per cent of species over the next 50 years.
For readers looking for something on the theological side, I am currently reading Short Stories By Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables Of A Controversial Rabbi by Amy-Jill Levine, professor of New Testament and Jewish studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School. Levine offers a fresh take, laced with humour, on some of Christianity’s most famous parables from a Jewish perspective. Levine explores the parables in light of first century Judaism and imagines how the first followers of Jesus would have heard and understood his words. Referencing Jewish traditions, laws and Biblical stories, Levine probes the parables for their multiple levels of meaning, correcting interpretations that misrepresent Judaism and debunking popular Christian interpretations. She cautions against accepting standard, easy interpretations of the parables saying that these limit their meaning and miss the genius of Jesus.
I am also reading The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, a hefty tome of over 800 pages that friends recommended to me. Set in 1866 during the New Zealand gold rush, this story of adventure, murder, theft and greed caught my interest almost from the first page. Time will tell if it manages to hold it.
Troy Media columnist Louise McEwan has degrees in English and Theology. She has a background in education and faith formation.
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