Marilynne Robinson: Housekeeping
This novel begins with a train wreck and continues with transience, decay, and death.
I cannot think of a better way to describe what Robinson does with language than this phrase from The New Yorker's review, as quoted on the book's flyleaf: "the tense precision of good poetry."
And yet I wonder - if I had read this novel before reading anything else by Marilynne Robinson, would its depressing themes have discouraged me from trying Gilead and the rest of her books, no matter how much I love what she does with language?
This is the first book in a mystery series set in Quebec and featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, a very sympathetic crime investigator, and lots of other vivid characters I'd like to get to know better. Too bad that one of the most interesting characters is the one whose death Gamache is investigating here, so I'm pretty sure she won't make an appearance in the later parts of the series.
On the whole, this is a pretty enjoyable traditional detective novel. Not exactly "a cosy mystery" despite the people and setting, but not too gory or gloomy either. If you are wondering whether this series might be your cup of tea, go to Louise Penny's author website and read the excerpt - it's a good sample.
Micha Boyett: Found. A Story of Questions, Grace & Everyday Prayer
A mother of a toddler feels she has lost the prayer life and the relationship with God she used to have. She looks for help and inspiration in the writings of St Benedict and the practices of Benedictine monks.
Reading this was a bit like going on a journey with Micha as she discovers grace, even and especially when she doesn't find simple clear-cut answers to her questions. I identify a lot with her tendency to try to earn the love and approval of God. And yet, that's not at all what life is about, and I think I'll go back to this book some day to remind myself of that.
Gary Wilkerson: David Wilkerson. The Cross, the Switchblade and the Man Who Believed.
A son writes his famous father's biography, and does it well. The book gives a complex portrait of David Wilkerson: both the victories and the struggles, weaknesses and strengths. Family, friends, and coworkers give their views. And what a story it all makes. This is no hagiography, but it's a testimony of what God has done.
William Zinsser: On Writing Well. The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction (30th anniversary edition)
Apparently Zinsser knows what he is doing as a writer, because I really enjoy reading this writing guide. Essential reading for people who want to write nonfiction.