Still - Notes On A Mid-Faith Crisis

Still - Notes On A Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren F. Winner

This is the personal story of Lauren Winner who was raised Jewish and later converted to Christianity, an experience she wrote about in a previous book "Girl Meets God". In the beginning days of her journey with Jesus she felt His presence and talked to Him easily, but life got hard and things began to fall apart. She lost her mother just before she got married, then her marriage failed. Anxiety, grief and guilt took their toll and doubt crept in. She questioned her faith and the very existence of God. This is her journey through that darkness.

It's rare to find an author who can be honest about her personal life while still maintaining discretion. Ms. Winner does it beautifully. She admits to doubts we all have and hide, but in her admission there is tact and grace. There is no wallowing. There must have been some of that in her actual experience but she's a good enough author to leave it out of her book. Her writing is intelligent, honest and clear in a way that has you nodding your head and recognizing yes, you've been there, or maybe are there now.

Her graceful candor is a breath of fresh air to one who has read too many I-have-all-the-answers books. She works her way through this "mid-faith crisis" by putting one foot in front of the other. She keeps breathing, working, living, though much of it seems pointless at times. In her own words "...I continue to live in the world the way a religious person lives in the world; I keep living in a world that I know to be enchanted, and not left alone. I doubt; I am uncertain; I am restless, prone to wonder. And yet glimmers of holy keep interrupting my gaze."

"Still" was not written as a how-to manual for getting through your own periods of doubt, but it is a light for the darkness. Hope is necessary for survival and it is strengthened when we hear of someone else going through a crisis similar to ours and surviving with faith intact. You will find no pat answers here; what you will find is encouragement to carry on, and that is far more valuable.

"Quite a Curiosity"

Quite a Curiosity - The Sea Letters of Grace. F. Ladd Louise Nichols

Grace Forrest was born in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia in 1864. At the age of twenty-one she married Fred Ladd, captain of a sailing vessel, and traveled with him around the world for most of his sailing career. They raised their young children onboard until they were old enough to be at school full time.

This book is a collection of letters that she wrote to her father from various places around the world. Included are a few that he wrote back and some of her daughter Kathryn's memories. By the time Katheryn was born, steam ships were handling most of the trans-atlantic crossings so her memories are mostly of sailing up and down the Atlantic coast of North and Sound America, making her own experience different from that of her brother, Forrest, who saw the world in his early years.

I can barely imagine what it's like to raise a toddler on a ship but the Ladds seemed to have have no problem with it. They took care of medical emergencies, weathered storms at sea and celebrated Christmas with gifts and festive meals. The pictures of their living quarters are impressive so I know they had some creature comforts, but still, it would take a strong woman to live that life and feel comfortable raising her children on the sea. I have nothing but admiration for this woman.

Grace collected "curiosities" from the places she visited, hence the title. She and her husband made friends of other sailing couples they would meet in various ports and even visit between ships when they were at sea. In port she did the tourist things, shopping and seeing how the natives lived, then writing of her father to tell what they had seen and done.

I was born and raised on the east coast of Canada and lived here all my life but had never heard Grace Ladd's story, so I was thrilled to come across this book. It's a fascinating look at sailing life in what is called "The Golden Age of Sail" and at the personal details of domestic life and child-rearing at sea. A great read, indeed.      

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower"

The Perks of Being A Wallflower

I’m not sure there are any - perks that is - but it was a good book nevertheless. I didn’t really begin to get into it till about a third of the way through, but the main character, Charlie, intrigued me so I kept going. Really it was a fight to even begin it. It’s a YA novel, a coming-of-age thing so there’s a lot of angst and high school stuff and sexual awakening. The truth is I find that all a bit tedious now - there’s just so much of it in books, on tv and in movies - and I would never have chosen this book for myself, but a couple of friends at book club put it in my hands and said I should read it. I trust them, so I did.

I liked it. I still didn’t enjoy all of that stuff - I think my own high school experience was more than enough for me - but Charlie is a fascinating character. He has no idea what’s wrong with him, but he knows there’s something. He doesn’t react to things the way other people do. He feels things differently. He is detached and sometimes feels that he isn’t there at all. He’s highly intelligent, well mannered and lovable in a quirky, Sheldon Cooper kind of way, but there’s something wrong somewhere. Life doesn’t feel good to him. He’s different in a way he doesn’t understand.

The book is written in letters, all to “Dear Friend” and signed “Love always, Charlie”. He writes letters because he believes them to be more real than a journal. He does share the very personal changes in his life, but the book is written with restraint and is never salacious, in my opinion. Your opinion may differ.

The “Dear Friend” he writes to is someone he chose because another friend (we don’t know who, other than it’s a girl) said he listened and was trustworthy, but he makes it clear that names and details are changed to maintain his anonymity. He doesn’t want the recipient to ever know who was writing to him. We never learn the identity of the “dear friend” but that doesn’t matter because it feels like Charlie is talking to you, the reader, the entire time.  He gets to you, this boy who quietly carries more pain than any child should have to.

It was interesting to learn that the author, Stephen Chbosky, wrote the screenplay for the movie “Rent” and was executive producer of the tv show, Jericho. He obviously knows how to tell a story. This is his first novel.