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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!

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger,  2014, Fiction

 

Andrew Le Peau worked for forty years in publishing and editing, mostly for InterVarsity Press.  I am sorry I didn’t discover him earlier.  This is a must read for every Christian writer.  He articulates writing issues that so many other specialists muddy.  He untangled the art of writing, finding voice, creating tone better than anyone I’ve found. His chapter on finding your calling creates a higher and much less self-centered standard.  There are examples, principles, and just plain good counsel on what could takes your writing to a deeper level.  I will re-read this one annually!

Write Better by Andrew Le Peau,  2019

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No Regrets: Hope for your Caregiving Season 
by Rayna Neises, Nonfiction, 2021

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I asked to review this new release book because I was i drawn to the premise:  caregiving for a loved one for a season in ways that leave no regrets.  That was my husband and me for our daughter, Lisa, for most of her life!  We were on call 24/7 as caregivers to problem solve or take over whatever paid caregivers could not do.  This book touches all the key factors I confronted:  scheduling, finding help, balancing family, making peace with daily grief, and so much more.  While it focuses on caring for parents and “walking them all the way home,” its principles can be applied to spousal caregiving or other situations involving family.  This isn’t just about strategy; it is a book of heart.  You need this book if you are called to change your life for a season and share your time, your home, your love and patience with a parent or someone else whose life has been stolen by dementia, disease, or the ravaging changes in aging. 

 
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Three boys find their opportunity to run away from the abusive, cruelly strict Indian School run by a woman they call the Black Witch. The trio becomes a quartet when 4-year-old, newly orphaned Emmy begs for rescue as well.  Thus begins a journey by an unlikely foursome by canoe on the Mississippi River.  Think Tom Sawyer meets the Great Depression. The heart of the story is about courage and resilience and finding home in unexpected places.  I join the thousands of others who say this is a must read for its story of heart, its masterful telling, its memorable characters, and for the hope it leaves you with,

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger, Fiction, 2019

 
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Irish immigrant, Sophie, answers a generic marriage proposal by newspaper.  She needed a new start after a failed marriage. She hoped that marriage to widower Martin Hocking who was father to Kat would provide it.  Sophie fell in love, but not with Martin who was alwayhs away on business. She fell in love with Kat, who had spoken little since losing her mother.  Just as Sophie discovered that Martin had secrets she didn’t know about, the San Francisco earthquake destroyed the rest of her life.  What ensues is a story of betrayal, new beginnings, friendship and belonging in surprising ways and unexpected places.. 

The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner, Historical Fiction, 2021

 

The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett, Fiction, 2019

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Patchett understated description, impeccable word choice, and complex family story is a work of literary art.  There are two central relationships to this sweeping story of family, secrets, loss, and discovery.  The first is the relationship between Danny, the story’s narrator, and his older sister, Maeve. Then, there is the family house, The Dutch House, named for the previous owners who built it.  It was a three story, six-bedroom house of grandeur and show.  How each person related to the house and the decisions they made because of it, affected everyone. I listened to an audio version narrated by Tom Hanks. He read it as if he had lived the story.  I highly recommend the audio version!

Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg, Fiction, 2004

 

I had always intended to read a book by Flannie Flagg after the hilarious and heart-tugging movie “Fried Green Tomatoes.”  That’s why I was glad my Book Club chose one this year.  Couldn’t have come at a better time.  The quirky, warm-hearted, not-so-normal characters of Elmwood Springs, Missouri in the 1940’s take you into their lives so completely you want to borrow a cup of sugar from one of them.  It is a romp through post-war nostalgia, a loving caricature of the time I was born into. There’s Neighbor Dorothy and her living room radio broadcast, son Bobby and his imagined life, the Oatman Gospel singers complete with wooden dummy Chester and Hamm Sparks and an almost unsolved mystery.  Need a complete departure from the pandemic?  This is your book.

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Rin Tin Tin: The Life and Legend by Susan Orlean, Nonfiction, 2011

 

This book had been on my TBR (To Be Read) list for a while and I was ready for nostalgia. I thought I was going to find out about one of my favorite children’s TV show, “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. It 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!

 
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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.