Tuesday, September 22, 2015

THE SECRET CHORD by Geraldine Brooks and **GIVEAWAY**

(I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher)

Geraldine Brooks has a real talent for helping readers connect to history in a very personal way. In her latest book, she turns to the Biblical story of David for inspiration. We are given the basic of David's life in the Bible. We know of his fame in youth from his battle with Goliath. We know of his difficult rise to power through conflict with Saul and the punishment brought on through his misstep with Bathsheba. We also know of his famed son Solomon. Brooks takes the bare bones of David's story and fleshes them out so that readers can see David in his his flawed glory.

THE SECRET CHORD is told from the perspective of the prophet Nathan. Brooks uses the traditional Hebrew names in the book so Nathan is referred to as "Natan" and Solomon as "Shlomo." The book begins with Natan looking back on his life with David and remembering one of the tasks that David gave to him. When David no longer took to the battle field, he grew restless and lacked occupation. Natan took the project of writing David's biography and left to interview the key figures in David's life. Through the stories of these characters as well as Natan's own memories, we begin to see the story of David come to life. It is a far darker and unpleasant story than the Sunday School version. However, David's flaws humanize him as much as they also tarnish his golden image.

As someone who regularly attends church and teaches Sunday School, I found myself drawn into this story on a very personal level. I am not sure how the experience would change for someone who is either not religious or not at all familiar with David's story in any form. One of the things I found so interesting about this book was comparing my memory of David's story with the one that Brooks presents in the book. It definitely made me want to get out my Bible and go back over the Biblical story of David.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. I found this book to be quite enjoyable. Some more conservative Christians may take issue with David's portrayal but I found it compelling and sympathetic. When the book was over, I found myself wanting more. Perhaps a follow-up on the life of Solomon?


I am so lucky to be able to offer a copy of this book to one winner!  (United States address only, please)

To enter, leave a comment telling me your favorite story from the Bible. (if you have one)

Make sure I have a way to contact you if you win.

This giveaway ends on October 5, 2015 at 8:00am PST.


Wednesday, September 02, 2015

FEAR OF DYING by Erica Jong

(I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher)

I am embarrassed to say I have never read FEAR OF FLYING. It seems like a serious reading omission for any feminist worth her salt. After reading FEAR OF DYING, I have decided I need to immediately run to the library and pick up the one I missed.  Jong returns to the familiar territory of sexuality and marriage with FEAR OF DYING.  Vanessa is a 60-year-old actress happily married to a man 25 years her senior.  Vanessa's parents are both very old and ill. She is facing the hard realities of age while fighting to remain youthful and relevant. In an attempt to deal with everything happening in her life, Vanessa decides to post an ad in a Tinder-like service called Zipless in the hope of making a sexual connection and feeling alive again.

There is a lot going on in this novel. I would say Vanessa's frustrated sexuality is probably one of the least interesting parts of the novel. I love the fact that Jong is delving into the complexities of life at 60 for women. When I was in my twenties, I looked at the women in "Sex and the City" who were in their thirties and forties and marveled at how glamorous they were!  Now, I am 40 and looking ahead to Vanessa and her peers for guidance as to what comes next. Instead of dealing with common aging subjects such as menopause and body changes, Jong instead chooses to focus on not only desire and sex but also at the complex emotions that rise out of the deaths of our parents. The fact that Vanessa's husband is so much older than her also offers an interesting side to the story. The whole book gave me a lot to think about.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. I can't really explain why but I loved this book. I thought Vanessa was a wonderful character and found her struggles with death and aging incredibly compelling and interesting.  The ending was a little out there but I thought the book was really terrific overall.