I’ve read some wonderful books since last summer, and I’m looking forward to meandering through a few more over the next weeks.
One of the best books I read this year was The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea. The Hummingbird’s Daughter recounts the story of the author’s great-aunt Teresita, a curanderas (healer) whom some Mexican communities still revere as the populist Saint of Cabora. Set against the backdrop of pre-revolutionary Mexico, the adventures of Teresita and her community are punctuated with scenes of magical realism and a unique form of mysticism that blends traditional Yaqui and Mayo cultures with Christianity. According to Urrea, readers with a “cosmic bent” find the “mysteries of sacredness” woven into the narrative.
The Rosie Project is a delightful, warm romantic comedy by Graeme Simsion. Fans of Sheldon Cooper from the television series The Big Bang Theory will immediately like Professor Don Tillman who has decided it is time to marry. He devises a detailed questionnaire to weed out undesirable candidates in his search for the perfect wife. Funny and poignant, this is a perfect book for a hot, languid day at the beach.
Watch How We Walk by Jennifer LoveGrove explores the relationship between identity, family and religion. This heartbreaking tale revolves around the struggles of a young Jehovah’s Witness girl trying to reconcile the precepts of religion with some troubling realities in her family life. Unable to make sense of her sister’s rebellion and her uncle’s disfellowshipping, Emily unravels.
If non-fiction is more to your taste, Dancing with the Enemy by Paul Glaser recounts the story of his Jewish aunt Rosie Glaser, who survived the Nazi concentration camps because of her wit, talent and beauty. An important aspect of the book is the author’s unexpected discovery of his Jewish background. Raised as a Catholic, Glaser describes various family reactions to news of their Jewish heritage. Rosie’s story also brings to light the unconscionable treatment of Dutch Jewish survivors at the hand of their own government following the war.
For readers looking for something on the theological side, I am currently reading Short Stories By Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables Of A Controversial Rabbi by Amy-Jill Levine. Levine offers a fresh take, laced with humour, on some of Christianity’s most famous parables from a Jewish perspective. She explores the parables in light of first century Judaism and imagines how the first followers of Jesus would have heard and understood his words. Referencing Jewish traditions, laws and scripture, Levine probes the parables for their multiple levels of meaning, correcting interpretations that misrepresent Judaism and debunking popular Christian interpretations. She cautions against accepting standard, easy interpretations of the parables saying that these limit their meaning and miss the genius of Jesus.
Over the next weeks, I have set myself the task of reading The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, a hefty tome of over eight hundred pages that friends recommended to me. Set in 1866 during the New Zealand gold rush, this story of adventure, murder and mayhem caught my interest almost from the first page. Time will tell if it manages to hold it.
Trail resident Louise McEwan is a freelance religion writer with degrees in English and Theology.