The Dutch House

by Ann Patchett

Fiction, 2019

 

This is my first Anne Patchett book.  Her 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.  They are their own cornerstone in the twists and turns of family and life.  Then, there is the family house, The Dutch House, so named for the previous owners who built it.  The house 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. Perhaps the most important question of the book is the one that Danny asks when he returns in adulthood to view the house where he lived some of his best and worst years: “Do you think it’s possible to ever see the past as it actually was?”  I listened to an audio version of the book, 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.

Life Without Lack

by Dallas Willard

Nonfiction, 2018

Dallas Willard was a spiritual formation writer and teacher whose publications and recordings are still go-to standards for spiritual growth.  Dallas takes the simple claim of Psalm 23 when David proclaims, “I shall not want” and reminds us what must happen before “a life without lack” can become a reality.  He writes about the sufficiency of God, trust that is more than an anemic hope, and a death to self that is so complete that God has complete permission to fully invade a surrendered life.  Perhaps the most helpful part of the book is his challenge at the end to “to live a day with Jesus.”  It isn’t a retreat as much as it is a way to live in complete awareness that Jesus companions you in a presence so personal, that you can believe it is possible to live a life without lack.