Showing posts with label new york times bestseller. Show all posts
Showing posts with label new york times bestseller. Show all posts

Thursday, April 7, 2022

The Broken Way - Book Review

Read an Excerpt

So much of life is paradox.  Like, for instance, how the having is in the giving.  Or, how abundance flows through generosity.  And, as Ann Voskamp models in The Broken Way, how healing emerges from the shattering pain of brokenness.  

Truth be told, we are all broken, yet few of us want our broken laid bare for all the world to see.  Voskamp, with astonishing vulnerability, makes it safe for us by being the one to expose her cut lines, her cracks, and those moments when bad brokenness made way for good brokenness.  

As is especially apparent right now, we live in a broken world.  Yet, it is those things that break our hearts that provide us with the openings needed for a healing that can only come through union with other broken hearts.

In the introduction, Ann asks us this: How do we live with our one broken heart?  This is a book that challenges us to take our time with that question.  What else is time for if not for that?  

Voskamp shares:

Maybe what matters isn't what we want from the time we have to live... but what time wants from us.  There is a time to be broken and given into all the world's brokenness.  

With Easter fast approaching, I cannot think of a better time to reflect on what that means.  

This book came to me when I needed it most and I know there is someone reading this who will feel the same way.  A sure sign of an impactful reading experience, for me, is how much I write while absorbing a book.  I filled an entire journal with notes, insights, reflections, and quotes.  

Ann Voskamp's broken heart met up with mine through her exquisite way with words, her raw honesty, and her immense capacity for communion.

How do we live with our one broken heart?  We live by giving it away.  We live by connecting our broken to another's broken.  

Brokenness is our unity... our common ground... our gift to one another.  










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Thursday, January 30, 2020

An Invisible Thread - Book Review

"An invisible thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, and circumstance.  The thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break."  ~ Ancient Chinese Proverb

Read an Excerpt
It began, for both the author and me, in much the same way.  We were two busy professional women, rushing past panhandlers, only to feel yanked back by an invisible thread.  Something we knew nothing about at the time, Laura Schroff in bustling Manhattan, and me in sleepy, rural Colorado, drew us to connect with individuals whose circles and lives were so far removed from our normal daily existence.

Was it destiny?  Perhaps.  All I know is that one instant of pausing to really see the person behind the sign became a moment of recognition.  For some reason, both Schroff and I were to have an awakening that came at the hands of destitution.

You never really see that coming—a whole new purpose born of paying attention, of listening, and of being drawn into the stories of those who have so little... those who are stereotyped as takers rather than givers.  This book review, of An Invisible Thread, is really the story within a story of how all of our lives are intertwined.

It seemed like any other ordinary day when Laura Scroff's life was profoundly, and forever, changed.  She had no intention of meeting up with a disadvantaged street child, but things that are meant to be tend to override executive sales agendas.

After initially passing up eleven-year-old Maurice, who asked Scroff for spare change because he was hungry, she found herself looking back over her shoulder at him, and then backpedaling to take Maurice to McDonald's for lunch.  This seemingly unassuming, one-time act of kindness then took on a life of its own.  Over Big Macs and fries, Laura and Maurice launched what would become a lifelong friendship.  Through months, and then years, of weekly meal dates and life-enriching experiences, these two became chosen family.

As one who had grown up with abuse, Schroff could empathize, and feel great compassion for this young boy who was attempting to survive the most extreme poverty—a poverty that extended well beyond that of hunger and lack of safe shelter.  Surrounded by drug-addled adults who were emotionally unavailable to nurture him, and living by his wits alone, Maurice's poverty went soul deep.

Though her friends and colleagues warned her off, thinking Schroff's outreach to Maurice was too risky, Laura's commitment to, and bond with him would not, and could not, be broken.  This would not turn out to be a one-way charity case.  It became a mutually beneficial friendship that transformed and healed both individuals.

He Shared His Story With Me Over a Subway Sandwich
Those who follow my Facebook postings know that I interact with homeless individuals on a daily basis.  It isn't something I would ever have thought would become a mission for me.  I just felt compelled one day to stop and listen to the personal story of the man behind one of those panhandling signs.

I Felt Compelled to Stop and Let Kindness Connect Us
I don't even like the word panhandler because of its negative connotation.  Doesn't it spark labels of beggar, or for some people, even something as ugly as loser?  I've seen and heard those drive-by insults when standing on a corner checking up on one of my homeless friends.  You know... the guy who rolls down his window and shouts, "Get a job, loser!"

Perhaps We Are All Living on a Prayer
What Laura and I found, when really getting to know the person holding that piece of cardboard in his hands, was a whole new way of living... a whole new way of perceiving those willing to bare their vulnerable souls to a public that isn't always very welcoming to them.  We both discovered, and opened up, the gifts of these beautiful souls.  We became the recipients of change that is not spare.

I highly recommend An Invisible Thread, not because it has been a New York Times bestseller, but because of its focus on kindness and goodness.  Do I believe there is an invisible thread?  Oh, yes... absolutely... and I am so thankful for those on the other end of my thread.







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Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Perfect Mother (2018) Book Review

"Some people are so good at making perfect look easy…"

The Perfect Mother is a psychological domestic thriller as well as a reflection on motherhood. It is set in Brooklyn, New York, where a group of new mothers whose babies are all born in the same month become friends through a mom’s group and go on to support each other through the ups and downs of new motherhood.

These women and one 'token' man are very different individuals and come from a variety of backgrounds. However, they are united through the common experience of motherhood.

When the mothers finally allow themselves to go out for an evening and leave their babies at home, their worst nightmare comes true. A baby is kidnapped.

A few members of the group become obsessed with helping recover the baby and their informal investigation unearths secrets from the past that will test marriages and friendships.

Author Aimee Molloy told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that she came up with the idea of the book when her own children were less than five years old. She was still very aware of “the pressures women face and the choices they have to make, particularly when they’re raising a child in a city with no family around to help.”

Here is the short book trailer, which does not really tell much about the book but definitely gives you a feel for the mood in this story:

The Perfect Mother is Molloy’s first novel. However, she also wrote the very successful New York Times Bestselling biography However Long the Night: Molly Melching’s Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph and she is the co-author of several non-fiction books.

Is The Perfect Mother RECOMMENDED by me? It is. It is a very enjoyable, easy-to-read book with a suspenseful ending that will keep you guessing. Amazon says that it was one of the most anticipated books of the summer of 2018 though I do not know how they measure that statistic. It did go on to become a New York Times bestseller and will soon be a movie. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle said it is "gripping and suspenseful and impossible to put down, a true who done it." Pick it up and you will take a suspenseful trip into motherhood.

Of special note is the fact that the grandmothers in my book club who have young grandchildren enjoyed the daily emails woven throughout that detailed what babies might or might not be doing at each stage.

Order your copy of The Perfect Mother on Amazon by clicking right here. If you have read it, do tell what the rest of us what you thought of the book and, if you enjoyed it, do stay tuned for the upcoming movie version of this novel that is being compared to the previous book and movie releases, Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.

See you
at the book store!
Brenda

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah - Book Review

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah - Book Review
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Kristin Hannah, author of the runaway bestseller, The Nightingale, has yet another instant New York Times Bestseller in her new novel, The Great Alone.

It's 1974.  Turmoil abounds.  Think Watergate, the Munich Olympics massacre, Patty Hearst's kidnapping, and Vietnam.  Despite the great uneasiness of the times, our country's immense angst is no match for that which churns within Ernt Allbright, recently returned prisoner of war.

In search of escape from what Allbright perceives as external madness, he loads up the VW van and moves his family off-grid to Alaska's remote wilderness.  For a few idyllic weeks of summer, there is bliss in the Allbright's ramshackle cabin.  Just as Alaskan summers are the most fleeting of seasons, the much-needed respite known by Ernt's wife, Cora, and teen daughter, Leni, will disintegrate with the eternal darkness of the Arctic winter.  It is in the midst of Ernt's downward spiral that the women in his life will learn the truest lessons about what it means to survive, to love, and to find yourself.

Hannah's descriptions of Alaska's raw beauty are breathtaking.  It is here that her writing soars.  Having spent significant time immersed in the splendor of the last frontier (her family owns an adventure lodge there), the author has an intimacy that draws the reader into her own authentic wilderness experience.  Even when the circumstances in the story were bleak, or daunting, I found myself wanting to pack up and leave for the Great Alone.

The book's title comes from a poem by Robert W. Service:
"Were you ever out in the Great Alone, when the moon was awful clear, and the icy mountains hemmed you in with a silence you most could hear... "
It is that awful clarity, and the many different kinds of alone, that make this a powerful story of forging the only kind of connectedness that really matters.











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Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Glass Castle: A Memoir - Book Review

The Glass Castle:  A Memoir - Book Review
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Some things just speak for themselves.  That Jeannette Walls' memoir, The Glass Castle, has been on the New York Times Best Seller List for seven years is one of those things.  Obviously, I am not the only reader who has found this book to be extraordinary.

The Glass Castle, in short and yet potent vignettes, reveals what has to be the most bizarre childhood of all time.  Born to an artist and a dreamer, Jeannette and her three siblings find themselves living the barest of subsistence lifestyles.  A good day is one on which they are feasting on green grapes and stardust.

On the move constantly, their lives are an alchemy of famine, fire, fleeing (doing the skedaddle), fairytales, and far-off fortune.  One day, their father promises, just as soon as he perfects his invention, The Prospector, and finds gold, he is going to build them a glass castle in the desert.  While Rex chases his elusive dreams, and their mother, Rose Mary, loses herself in her art, the children are left to fend for themselves.

What is it that makes this collection of stories so compelling?  I asked myself this question over and over again as I began to draft this review.  I mean, there are plenty of memoirs about dysfunctional families out there.  What would make any of us want to immerse ourselves in another family's dysfunction?  Don't we have enough of our own?

One reviewer surmised that it could be the same human nature that makes people slow down and gawk at a wreck that draws one into this memoir.  Perhaps we can't help but stare at the scene of an accident.

Here's what I think.  It is the fending the children did, and the odd ties that bind a family together, that make for compelling reading.  I just had to stay by the side of Jeannette, Lori, Brian, and Maureen as they figured out how to survive each disaster.  I just had to know how they moved beyond the kind of upbringing that would scar most children for life.

This is the kind of book that puts things in perspective for anyone who previously thought he or she had a tough childhood.  It is also a memoir that reminds us of the amazing resilience of children.  Thank heavens for that.  I have a favorite quotation from the book that pretty much sums up the beauty of this memoir:
One time I saw a tiny Joshua tree sapling growing not too far from the old tree.  I wanted to dig it up and replant it near our house.  I told Mom that I would protect it from the wind and water it every day so that it could grow nice and tall and straight.  Mom frowned at me.  'You'd be destroying what makes it special,' she said.  'It's the Joshua tree's struggle that gives it its beauty.'
May you be reminded, in a healing way, of what has made you beautiful as you enter into this walk on the painful side of childhood.  Here's to coming out on the other side.









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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Rescue Road: One Man, Thirty Thousand Dogs, and a Million Miles on the Last Hope Highway - Book Review

Rescue Road Book Review
Heading northward the other day with a vanload of precious cargo, rescue dogs being transferred to prime locations where their adoption chances were vastly improved, I got to thinking about the individuals who do this on a grander scale throughout the year.  What would it be like to be the individual who has driven a million miles to save 30,000 dogs?  Who could sustain that kind of commitment for the long haul?

The who is Greg Mahle and Rescue Road is the inside story of what it takes, week in and week out, to give thousands of dogs a stay of execution.  Animals in high-kill shelters in the South, facilities that kill four out of five dogs due to overcrowding or lack of resources, would have no chance without the network of dedicated volunteers who make it their mission to move dogs away from a sure death via the last hope highway.

When the author, Peter Zheutlin, adopts a lab that had ridden its way to him on Mahle’s eighteen-wheeler, he becomes curious about the intricacies of the rescue operation.  We make the journey with Zheutlin as he rides along with Mahle to immerse himself in the grueling, and yet joyous, work of uniting homeless dogs with their new families.  Over the course of a week, we travel from Ohio to the Gulf coast.

Along the way, we meet the inspirational heroes without whom there would be no future for these abandoned animals.   This is book that celebrates happy endings without glossing over the realities of rescue work.  Anyone who loves dogs, or loves the people who make it their life’s work to save animals, will appreciate this book.

As one who is involved in the rescue mission, I seek out books that will inspire me to continually do more and be more.  Though you and I will most likely never drive one million miles, and though I transport smaller numbers of dogs, the message we can take to heart is this: There is something we each can do to make a difference in the lives of desperate beings.  How we do it is a very personal choice.  Whether we adopt, or volunteer, or donate, or educate, or transport, it all adds up.  The sum of our actions is significant.  I encourage you to read Rescue Road and then to help spread hope wherever it is needed most.






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Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying

The Bright Hour
Some books are so achingly beautiful they cry out to be read.  This is one of them.  To not read The Bright Hour would be to deny yourself one breathtaking moment after another.  This is a memoir that reveals how to savor every day—even the days, especially the days, we would not typically love.


When Nina Riggs was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 37, it was one small spot that seemed fixable.  “No one dies from one small spot,” she reassured herself.  Within a year, though, Riggs was dealing with a terminal diagnosis.  Lest you think the book turns grim at this point, let me assure you that this is not a dark accounting of impending death—far from it.

The question at the heart of The Bright Hour is this: What makes for a meaningful life when your time is limited?  It is an extraordinary individual who can see and illuminate for us the radiance and joy to be found in the seemingly mundane moments that fill our lives with meaning.  Nina Riggs’ poetic eye, and soul, gifts us over and over again with word pictures that not only dazzle, but that enrich our spirits.

What if, like Nina Riggs, we were to live the answer to that question every day?  Isn't that the key to loving our days and living with fullness of life?

The Bright Hour is the most important book I have read this year.  Having recently lost a good friend to cancer, I found this memoir to be a poignant way to reflect on how Susan also lived her life with great meaning and purpose.  It can be healing in many ways to read a book that celebrates a life force that is not diminished by death.  I highly recommend this book.








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