The Boy Who Loved Everyone by Jane Porter, illustrated by Maisie Paradise Shearring
This picture book is for the tenderhearted. Dimitri tells everyone in his preschool he loves them, but his classmates aren’t sure how to respond. When he doesn’t want to return to school, his mom tells him there are different ways to show love, and love “can’t help but spread and grow.” Dimitri notices the love in a smile, in a classmate sharing birdseed, and in a kind hug. Gentle and reassuring, the illustrations (see above) are cozy and reminiscent of Richard Scarry’s books.
Mystery and Manners by Flannery O’Connor
During my husband’s sabbatical, I took a course on Flannery O’Connor at Vancouver’s Regent College. It was so invigorating! Our first text was O’Connor’s Mystery and Manners, a collection of essays compiled after her death. O’Connor, whose faith was central to her life and writing, defined mystery (grace or divine truth) as the premise of story (which for O’Connor dealt with our place in this world), and manners (nature or concrete things) as the means to communicate it.
O’Connor’s work (and O’Connor herself) are not without controversy. Her stories are often disturbing. They don’t shy away from violence or racism. The quote most famous from the book, where she talks about her use of “life’s distortions” and violence says “…you have to make your vision apparent by shock — to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.”
I had a million takeaways. Instead of listing them out, I’m going to let O’Connor speak for herself in a future post of quotes pulled from the book. More soon!
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
For years my mom has wanted me to read this novel, and I’ve finally gotten to it! I think reading Dr. Zhivago earlier this year is the thing that pushed me pick it up.
It’s 1922. Count Alexander Rostov, an “unrepentant aristocrat,” is put under house arrest at Moscow’s Metropol Hotel. He’s moved from the luxurious room where he’s been living to an unused space in the attic. The book follows his life through the years, using the anniversary of his arrest as a touchstone. It’s a story that’s sure of itself; it’s not in a hurry. Honestly, I was rather itchy reading the first hundred pages. I couldn’t figure out where it was going or what I was supposed to make of things. But the writing was wonderful, so I decided to settle in for the experience. I’m glad I did. Sometimes funny, often profound, A Gentleman in Moscow is ultimately a story about making do, about thriving in unchosen circumstances, about friendship and kindness and dignity. For readers who like little pieces falling into place, they’ll find the last hundred pages very satisfying.
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
Last January my husband and I watched The Godfather trilogy. Neither of us had ever seen it, and I wanted a bit of background before my book club read the book. The movie was fabulous, but I didn’t catch everything: There were lots of names and characters to track. I didn’t always understand characters’ motivations or how much they understood. And scenes in group settings often included mumbling or insider talk I didn’t always follow. Even so, I spent a lot of time weeks after thinking about Michael Corleone.
But! The book cleared so much up for me! It’s written with an omniscient narrator, so I was able to see what certain characters thought (specifically the Godfather’s son, Michael, and his eventual wife, Kay). I could flip back to check on a character when I didn’t quite remember a name. The story and the world were a definite experience. It was interesting to see the culture and mindset of the underworld as well as the changing mores: family and loyalty above all else, a belief in fixing injustices while distrusting the authorities (even those in the Mafia’s pocket), a desire by the Don not to be anyone’s puppet (though weren’t his men puppets for the Don?), and a stringent commitment to secrecy. Also, who is the Godfather the title refers to? The Don, Vito? His son, Michael? I’ll definitely be watching the movie again now that I’ve grasped the story.