Recent Acquisitions

I made a trip to a bookstore today because in twelve days I’ll be on an airplane home, and I desperately needed some reading material to get me through the ten-hour journey. I originally went with the intention of picking up Sharon Lathan’s sequel to Pride and Prejudice, but the bookstore didn’t have the first book in the series. Instead, I picked up another book by Woodsmall, whose series I adored, as well as a book I saw recommended on several book blogs. The third novel I bought is by Lalami, whose first novel I absolutely adored, but I’m a little confused as to why the back cover of this one say’s it is her debut novel as her other novel is her first.

Book Mentioned:

  • Lalami, Laila. Secret Son. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin of Chapel Hill, 2010. Print. 305 pgs. ISBN: 9781565129795. Source: Purchased.
  • Lathan, Sharon. Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One. Naperville, Ill.: Source Casablanca, 2009. Print. 320 pgs. ISBN: 9781402215230.
  • Rosnay, Tatiana de. Sarah’s Key. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2008. Print. 293 pgs. ISBN: 9780312370848. Source: Purchased.
  • Woodsmall, Cindy. The Hope of Refuge. Colorado Springs: Waterbrook, 2009. Print. 336 pgs.  ISBN: 9781400073962. Source: Purchased.
Photo © Me. Books for the airplane. Taken: April 30, 2010.

Plain Perfect by Beth Wiseman

Escaping from her abusive boyfriend, Lillian Miller has turned to her grandparents and the Amish community her mother abandoned in order to find herself. Her sandals are no match for the long walk from the train station to her grandparents’ house, and she gratefully accepts a ride in Samuel Stolzfus’ buggy, a widowed Amish man. As she befriends Samuel’s eleven-year-old son, she finds herself developing feelings for Samuel — feelings she cannot have because she isn’t Amish and she doesn’t even believe in God.

The first thought that pops in my mind when I think of this book is rushed. Really rushed. There are just too many plot lines occurring in this novel that each one feels rushed and undeveloped, especially as the novel reaches it’s happy ending. Quite possibly the most rushed story line is that of Lillian’s mother, Sarah Jane, return to Lancaster County, PA and her immediate acceptance the Amish religion she once rejected. Lillian’s acceptance of God and her relationship with Samuel also felt rushed and underdeveloped, and I feel like that stems from the fact that both occur and therefore isn’t enough time for both to develop. Plus, the whole thing was fairly predictable and formulaic, and the characters speak in written English rather than vernacular English.

All that said, I found Wiseman’s novel to be a diverting, light, and quick read that provided a nice wind down to a very busy day. I also found it interesting to read a novel about a girl raised outside the Amish faith joining an Old Order Amish community. It’s certainly not something I’ve read before.

Others’ Thoughts:

Book Mentioned:

  • Wiseman, Beth. Plain Perfect. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2008. Print. 305 pgs. ISBN: 9781595546302. Source: PaperBackSwap.
Book Cover © Thomas Nelson, Inc. Retrieved: April 27, 2010.

Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami

In her debut novel, Lalami introduces us to four Moroccans as they attempt to illegal cross the Strait of Gibraltar into Spain — Murad, Halima, Azziz, and Faten. The novel begins with the four illegal immigrants being forced out of the boat that promised to take them to the shore and into the icy, cold Mediterranean Sea. Each one is told to swim before the Spanish guard is alerted to their presence and meets them at the shore.

Part I covers the “before”, the reasons why these four people have payed large sums of money to smuggle themselves into Spain. Muard is a man who loves languages and reading, but his college degree has reduced him to directing tourists around Tangier. Fleeing her drunken husband, poverty, and a the chance that a divorce would lead to her losing the rights to her children, Halima brings her three children along with her. Aziz is a man stuck in a cycle of joblessness, who must leave his devoted wife to find work in Spain. Religious fanatic Faten has to leave after the father of her friend calls in a favor and gets her expelled from university. Part II covers the “after”, what happens to all of these people after they’re picked up on the shore of Spain.

The structure of this novel is different from other novels that utilize flashbacks as it reads more like a collection of short stories rather than one complete narrative. Sitting in the boat is what entwines these characters; they have no interactions with one another before finding themselves swimming across the Strait of Gibraltar. It’s as though the characters are there own lines that meet at one point and them diverge from that point, from each other. Each character peels back the proverbial curtain to expose a small part of modern Morocco, of illegal immigration, of life in diaspora, and I adored this novel.

Book Mentioned:

  • Lalami, Laila. Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2005. Print. 195 pgs. ISBN: 073946700X. Source: PaperBackSwap.
Book Cover © Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. Retrieved: April 23, 2010.

Books About Mormonism

My father and I are looking for books that deal with the history and current practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as Mormon or LDS). I’ve read quite a bit about the fundamentalist Mormon sects and we enjoy watching “Big Love”, but we would like to know more about the mainstream religion.

I follow a handful book bloggers who align themselves with the LDS church, but rather than put anyone on the spot, I thought I would open the ability to suggest to anyone. If you have a suggestion or know where I can find suggestions (the LDS website and GoodReads were not helpful), please leave them in the comments or email me at theardentreader[at]gmail[dot]com.

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

Krakauer’s book about Mormon fundamentalism begins with the story of the Lafferty boys and the violent murder of Brenda Lafferty and her young daughter, Erica, on July 24, 1984 two of the Lafferty boys committed. The two brothers claim they were ordered by God to kill their sister-in-law and niece, and both align them with a fundamentalist, break-away sect of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as Mormons), the fastest growing religion in the world. (Because the two are not apart of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it would not be correct to identity them as FLDS.) Drawing from this fact, Krakauer delves into the development of this “American religion” and the, often troublesome, history of the religion founded by Joseph Smith.

When I first picked up Krakauer’s book, I was a little apprehensive about how much the narrative rests on a single, gruesome murder, and I honestly did not see the connection between the murder and Mormon fundamentalism. But I found the book to be a very interesting examination both of what religious extremism does the psyche and the history of this religion.

A simply chilling, if unsympathetic, look at Mormon faith, the conflict between Mormons and Gentiles (read all non-Mormons, including Jews) and between the upper echelon of LDS leaders and U.S. government completely fascinated me. As for Mormon fundamentalists, Krakauer likens them to the proverbial uncle everyone avoids at family functions — the one that should not be heard and not seen. He manged to maintain a distinguish between LDS and FLDS (as well as other fundamentalist sects), in my opinion, but he does draw a thread through his discussion of the church’s history and theology that connects its underlining of direct communication with God and charismatic leadership with the manifestations of particular elements in fundamentalist Mormon communities that makes it easy to understand why the fundamentalists appear more like the crazy uncle than a completely different religion.

Despite skipping a few pages here and there that dealt more with the Lafferty brothers and their villainous act, I found Krakauer’s book to very interesting. Rather than concentrating on polygamy like other nonfiction books covering Mormon fundamentalist, Krakauer covers the shared history between the two groups and how FLDS can still be considered “Mormon”.

Others’ Thoughts:

Book Mentioned:

  • Krakauer, Jon. Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith. New York: Doubleday, 2003. Print. 393 pgs. ISBN: 0385509510. Source: Library.
Book Cover © Random House. Retrieved: April 18, 2010.