My Summer Reading List, Part Two

In between getting the three younger girls ready to go away to three different universities, I have managed to get caught up on reading the pile of books that has been growing on my nightstand.

In my post, My Summer Reading List, I talked about Atonement by Ian McEwan, Bossypants by Tina Fey, Two Kisses for Maddie by Matthew Logelin, and Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

Since then, I have read four more books including Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo, Heaven Lake by John Dalton, and The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards.  The fourth book is one that I am being paid to read and review so I’ll be talking about it in an upcoming post.

Heaven is for Real is the real life story of Todd Burpo’s then 3-year old son, Colton, who had a near death experience.  Over the few years after this experience, Colton tells some pretty amazing stories about meeting God, Jesus, relatives, and even his sister, who his parents lost due to a miscarriage, while in heaven when he almost died.

It was a quick read, not necessarily powerfully written, but very conversational.  I don’t know if reading this book would convert you if you weren’t a believer, but it leaves you feeling that, yes, there is a heaven if you are a good person and “accept Jesus as your Savior”.  I am not normally a cynic, but I felt just a little suspicious about the spin on the story since Todd Burpo is a minister.  I was quite honestly surprised that this book spent some time on the New York Times Bestseller list.

I received the book, Heaven Lake, from a high school friend.  It was written by her younger brother and published in 2004 and received critical acclaim.  The story revolves around the coming of age of a young missionary from a small, Midwestern town who travels to a small town in Taiwan.

It took me awhile to get a feel for where the story was going, but it was very well written and, unlike a lot of fiction that I’ve read lately, the story and character development is not rushed and occurs over a period of time.  You can feel and appreciate the multi-dimensionality of the story and characters.

Dalton has a new book out, Inverted Forest, and I am excited to read it.  Heaven Lake was his first novel, and it was worth the read.

Finally, I read The Memory Keeper’s Daughter.  I had very high expectations for this book because so many people have commented so favorably on it.

I believe that some of the punch of this story gets lost along the way as the last third of the book seems to meander off topic.  It’s as if the author didn’t want to devote the same level of attention and detail to the ending and was having trouble bringing the disparate pieces back together again.

What I found appealing, though, was the way the author shared the attitudes toward children with disabilities, women who suffered the loss of a child, and post partum depression from the era of the 1960s to 1970s.  As a woman and a mother, I could relate on many levels to the struggles of Norah Henry and Caroline Gill.

I was much less sympathetic to David Henry who made decisions to make himself feel better with little regard for how they impacted others.  He was almost a stereotype of the old fashioned father figure – cold, distant, unable to share true emotions and feelings and, thus, creating a wedge in his closest relationships yet, when he died, the funeral was packed with those he helped the most, strangers.  Reminded me of my father.

His family only gets to know him posthumously by discovering his secrets and unpublished pictures.  It’s sad, but I didn’t feel sorry for him.  I was a little angry that Norah and his son let him off the hook so easily in the end.  I think the author could have discarded some of the extraneous pieces in the story to delve into the forgiveness aspect in more depth.  That would have provided a better ending – not necessarily happier, but better.

Out of all of the books I have read this Summer, my favorite has been Atonement.

What have you been reading and what do you recommend?

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