After two recommendations from sources I respect, I finally ordered Ordinary Grace from my library. I wasn’t disappointed. Krueger’s sensitive, understated, but all-you-need-to-know description keeps characters, action, and scenery in proper perspective. Main character, Frank, tells this story in retrospect, which is a good way to collect every lesson possible. He is part of a Methodist minister’s family in the early 1960’s living in Minnesota. Each character will contribute to the story that involves deaths and a miracle. The last death shakes Frank’s world like nothing else, but also helps him start building a faith based on ordinary grace from an extraordinary God. Don’t expect to like everything that happens, but expect to like the way it ends!
The Joy and Light Bus Company by Alexander McCall Smith, 2021, Fiction
The popular No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series adds a new adventure, In Botswana. At the center are detectives Mma Ramotswe and her assistant Mma Makutsi. They juggle domestic conflicts and community mysteries in their Botswana village. When Ramotswe’s husband plans to join a friend's bus company which, if it failed, would threaten their detective agency; Mma Ramotswe fears her future for the first time since she started her successful agency. Waiting for resolution, she works on other domestic and community issues with her common sense wisdom and understated presence. The Kirkus Review calls this new release “comfort-food reading” and I agree!
Christmas Bells by Jennifer Chiaverini, 2016, Historical Fiction
Jennifer Chiaverini has dealt with Civil War history before. She used her information to give us the back story of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem set to music, “Christmas Bells.” She uses two time period stories the Longfellow’s Boston story and a contemporary fictional story of music teacher Sophie in an underprivileged Boston school. We learn of the tragedy that devastated Longfellow and threatened to silence his poetic pen. We wait with Longfellow for encouraging news about his wounded son in the Civil War. There are present-day losses for Sophie when her music program loses funding. Other student stories like Alex struggling while his father is in Afghanistan. When Sophie agrees to direct her church’s Christmas Eve program, she chooses to include Longfellow’s poem set to music. The endearing words of foundational truth tie all the stories together. I don’t recommend this book as an audio listen as I accessed it. There are two many stories weaving throughout. I join other reviewers who loved all the Longfellow details and wish the author had only told his story.
The German Wife by Kelly Rimmer, 2022, Historical Fiction
This book brings together two different survival stories. Lizzie struggles against the dust bowl of Texas when she loses her parents and eventually the family farm because of it. When Calvin offers a marriage of security, she moves to Huntsville, Alabama. Later, when her brother returns from the war broken with nightmares and delusional interludes, she tries to help him survive.
In Germany, Sophie and her rocket scientist husband, Jürgen, try to survive Nazism without losing their lives and morals. When Germany loses the war, they face another challenge: generalized prejudice against anyone who worked for the Nazi regime. But when America offers selected scientists a pardon and an invitation to work in the US race to space program, Sophie and Jürgen accept it as a new beginning.
That’s when survival stories collide. Sophie and Lizzie must confront their assumptions and prejudices to accept new definitions for survival and learn that survival has different faces.
Interesting note: the character of Jürgen is loosely based on the real life Wernher Van Braun, the German scientist who came to America through the Operation Paperclip program.
Prevail: 365 Days of Enduring Strength from God’s Word by Susie Larson, 2020, Devotional
I have been working through this devotional book for the last two years. Susie writes arrow-sharp truth in down-to-earth ways. I have personally starred or dated many entries because of the way God used Susie’s words to settle, encourage, or help me decide something. The devotional takes you from Genesis to Revelation in a summarized overview that informs as well as shares foundational principles. I highly recommend this book as a stand-by for those days when there isn’t enough time to dig out truth for yourself or when life is hard or confusing and you need Truth to stabilize you. Susie Larson is a gifted devotional writer and I will be exploring more of her work.
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger, 2014, Fiction
Rin Tin Tin: The Life and Legend by Susan Orlean, Nonfiction, 2011
“The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin." was a 1950’s TV show about a orphan boy and his dog and their adventures living with soldiers on a US Calvary post. What I wasn’t prepared for was how the true story of the original German shepherd dog named Rin Tin Tin began during World War I! Nor was I prepared for the way a dog was the cause of lawsuits and retationship rifts as well as filling deep pockets for the film industry. Susan Orlean (author of The Orchid Thief and The Library Book) knows how to take you on a journey through history as if you are a participant. She not only tells a historical story, she tells a personal story. This book almost confirmed what I believed as a child—that Rin Tin Tin was part human, could read minds, and was the perfect companion, body guard and playmate. This book almost made me believe it was true!
The Memory Weaver by Jane Kirkpatric,Historical Fiction, 2015
Jane Kirkpatrick write Oregon historical fiction and this book is based around an 1847 Cayuse Indian massacre. Jane builds a story around Eliza Spaulding, daughter of missionaries to the Nez Perce Indians and well accepted by them. When young Eliza is held hostage for a while after the massacre, the story becomes one of how the mind weaves memories using the threads of assumption and perspective. As Eliza becomes a young woman, marries, and has children; you will cheer her pluck, caution her strong willed defiance and embrace her epiphany when she must let go of memories to accept the truth.
I, Saul by Jerry Jenkins with James MacDonald, Biblical Fiction, 2013
Jerry Jenkins delivers a high-stake story of intrigue that connects the life of Paul imprisoned in Rome and the life of seminary professor August (Augie) Knox in Texas, (present day). A frantic call from an Italian friend draws Knox into a race to procure a lost parchment penned by Paul. While Jerry tells a fiction story, he bases it on biblical facts that lead to could-have-happened situations and what-if dilemmas. Toggled between Paul’s reminiscing with Luke in the days before his death and present day August Knox who must make an unscheduled trip to Italy to save the life of a friend, it is a story that will make you ask again and again . . . what if.
Once Upon a Wardrobe, by Patty Callahan, Historical Fiction, 2021
Patty Callahan, best-selling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis, tells an enchanted tale of her own to uncover how Narnia of The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe came to be. She uses 8-year-old George, who won’t see another Christmas, and his big sister, Megs, a student at Oxford where Lewis is a professor to do it. George must know more about Narnia and asks Megs to ask Lewis how Narnia came to be. What follows is an unexpected relationship with the Narnia creator who answers Megs’ questions with stories about his boyhood Ireland, his brother Warnie,their imagined worlds, an agnostic professor, and so much more. Lyrically written as if Lewis penned it himself, this is a book I had to re-read as soon as I finished it.