Wednesday, 16 September 2015

September QuickLit - some recent reads

Päivi Laitinen: Pieni pyörä preerialla (A Little Bike on the Prairie)

For those readers who aren't fluent in Finnish: I'm so sorry this book is not likely to become available in English. :)

At the time Päivi Laitinen cycled across the USA on the TransAmerica Trail route by Adventure Cycling Association, she was a 48-year-old journalist taking a leave of absence from a Finnish small-town newspaper. Even though the book looks a bit "self-published" visually, the text shows that she's a professional writer. She gives the essential flavours of the places she visits, some local background history/stories, some significant details, and it's like you'd seen it yourself. (And she also has the professional writer's knack for leaving things out so that reader doesn't get too tired.) Such a fun book.

And as she cycled the flat straight roads of Kansas, she had plenty of time to think how to put her experience into one sentence. And this is what she came up with (my translation): "USA is a big and hot place with horses, nice people - and all too many hills!"

Joseph Loconte: A Hobbit, a Wardrobe and a Great War. How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis rediscovered faith, friendship, and heroism in the cataclysm of 1914-1918

Mostly, I picked the book based on the cover and the title. And those made me want to learn more about how J.R.R. Tolkien's and C.S. Lewis's experiences of WW1 influenced their views and writing. However, I was a little disappointed, feeling that I didn't learn much new. (If you have read quite a bit about WW1 and if you have read Tolkien's and/or Lewis's biographies, be forewarned.) I'm not saying it's not a good read, but maybe I'm not enough of a Tolkien/Lewis fan to 'love' this book.

So, Tolkien kept his Christian faith despite the war making many of his generation more cynical. C.S. Lewis actually became a Christian much later, and you can't say the war made him lose his faith nor to rediscover it. What they "gained" from the war was knowing the kind of fellowship that develops between people who fight together, and those deep friendships are a big part of their stories. The author also points out that they didn't lose the hope that there are things worth fighting for, though war and fighting is not glorified in their fiction. The gritty and gruesome realities of war are more subdued and hinted at in Lewis's Narnia (after all it's written for children) and more horribly realistic in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Their heroes don't enjoy fighting, but they get on with what has to be done.

Joni Eareckson Tada: A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty

I haven't quite finished this one yet, as I'm savouring it slowly. If anyone, Joni Eareckson Tada is well qualified to write about this topic. It's not just the decades of quadriplegia, but also the more intense chronic pain that she has suffered (apparently this book was written before she had the breast cancer, too, because she doesn't mention it).

With all her personal experiences of suffering, she's definitely been asking lots of questions and also looking for answers in Scripture. None of her conclusions are drawn lightly or superficially. I love the way this book makes me think and points me towards God.

This is her conclusion about healing: God reserves the right to heal or not... as He sees fit.

Definitely, if you want to read a good book on the issues of suffering, faith etc., put this book on your reading list, now. :)

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