The Book Pile: Gemma, Betsy, and prayer

My reading list is as eclectic as ever these days.   A little contemporary fiction, a little spiritual food for thought, a little comfort reading: I like the variety.   Here’s what’s been on my nightstand.

On Mother’s Day, Scott very sweetly offered to bring me breakfast in bed.   And though my pancakes were partially consumed in the company of two very rambunctious boys, who went spelunking in the caverns of the blankets of the bed,  they eventually left to go eat their own meal and I hunkered down with The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey.  It’s quite a good read: a retelling of Jane Eyre, set in 1960s Scotland.  I am such an Eyrehead that I just had to read this book, and it’s enormously fun to see how the author reimagines the characters, the settings, and the plot.  I’ve read the book so many times (and taught it, too), that I know it like the back of my hand, and I love how Livesey uses small details of the story (such as the bird imagery of the original novel) as motifs.  Good stuff.

One of the best parts of last summer was discovering Margaret Silf.  Her book Close to the Heart is an amazing guide to developing a prayer life, so I was thrilled to read her new book The Other Side of Chaos: Breaking Through When Life is Breaking Down.  In this book, Silf writes about how the messy transitions/losses/uncertainties of our lives can actually be opportunities for tremendous spiritual growth, if we approach them with openness.   I love her writing because she is wise but never pedantic; her tone is inviting, and she is a genius at offering exactly the right story to illustrate a spiritual concept.   She looks at well-known Bible stories, like the Flood and the Exodus, and considers them through the lens of a spirituality of transition, with insights that blew me away.   If you’re going through any kind of transition in your life right now, this book is a fabulous companion.  And her chapter called “Will You Save Your Life or Spend It?” is truly amazing.  I wish I could make it required reading for every person I know.

I’m one of those people who loves to re-read books, and the one series I’ve re-read more than any other is, hands-down, the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace.   These fabulous books describe the author’s childhood in small-town Minnesota in the early 1900s; they start when Betsy is a child and end when she is married, and they are the feel-good books to end all feel-good books.  Betsy is a thoroughly modern heroine (and an aspiring writer, which is one reason I’ve always loved her), and her life in Deep Valley sounds like a heckuva lot of fun. I’ve just finished Betsy was a Junior and Betsy and Joe, which cover her last two  years in high school, and reading them is like putting on my comfiest pair of  slippers. They’re great to read right before bed, which is a time when I generally don’t want any angsty images entering into my subconscious.   The Betsy books fill my mind with thoughts of picnics and high school essay contests and friends and family who support a young woman as she navigates her way into adulthood, and that’s a very pleasant way to end the day.


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