Summer is hear and with it times of sitting on the deck, or the beach, or in the backyard with a cool drink and a good book. Or, at least that what I am hoping for! Below are some reviews of books by your fellow Highlanders to get your started in your search for your next summer read. You can also check out past reviews and recommendations by looking under the category Books to the right.
If you have any books that you have really enjoyed and you think other Highlanders will as well please let me know and we can include them here.
I hope you find something new to read and engage with this summer.
Jayber Crow a novel by Wendell Berry
Wendell Berry sets his novels in the fictional town of Port William, Kentucky. The main character is Jayber Crow, at one time a divinity student, who has returned to Port William where he is the town barber (and gravedigger). The book tells about Jayber’s relationship to the wonderful cast of characters who make up “the membership” of Port William. Wendell Berry, besides being a novelist, a poet, and an essayist, is also a farmer who regrets the decline of the family farm and the rise of agribusiness.
Why I like this book: storytelling at its best and its emphasis on living in harmony with the earth.
-- Tony Vander Woude
The Price of Freedom
The Price of Freedom is the story of Simon Ivascu, Steven Ivascu and Wesley Pop, who fled Romania when they were only teenagers. In Romania after completing high school men must join the military and being conscientious Christians, they could not join the military because freedom of worship was restricted. The three men embarked on the journey of a lifetime, sneaking into a container on a large ship to flee the country. They spent weeks in darkness headed to an unknown destination. The story was very captivating and keeps you on the edge of your seat. I loved reading this book watching the power of God’s work.
-- Chevelle Rempel
Home by Marilynne Robinson (2008) was for me a deeply moving novel. A middle-aged sister and brother have come home to be with their father, a respected small town clergyman, in his dying days. It seems that their father would be able to die in peace if only he could be reconciled with his son who left home under a cloud many years ago and has mostly been absent from the family ever since. So there is great joy when Jack finally shows up. Jack’s younger sister Glory, has put her own life on hold and moved back home to take care of her father and it becomes her mission to smooth things out between father and son. Days pass and we learn through small events and conversations about the lives --the joys and sorrows-- of the three main characters. Each has been hurt to some extent, but this is a decent, loving family and the yearning for reconciliation is palpable. So what is the problem?
Disconcertingly, we see Jack struggling in his role as the returned prodigal, and it becomes apparent that he may not stay. His excessive courtesy and awkward formality reveal “a dread and certainty of being unwelcome, a bother, out of place.” We are told “(h)e had fallen back on estrangement, his oldest habit.” Jack has had a hard life since leaving home as a troubled young man. He stands to gain a home (and a house), if only he will receive it, and, perhaps, settle down finally. What is it, one may ask, that prevents some people from feeling at home, from ever finding home? There is pathos in the way this story unfolds. The reader will want to know if there can still be some type of reconciliation in the family under the circumstances. When I mentioned to a fellow reader, someone of my generation, that I had wept my way through a second reading of this book, he described a similar response in his own case. It should be noted that while Jack’s story is what drives the plot, Glory has her story as well, as does the father.
Home is the second book of a trilogy; I judge it to be the most accessible of the three, but all are wonderful. Marilynne Robinson (one of Obama’s favourite authors) is a novelist of depth and subtlety. Conspicuously absent from her fiction is the irony that characterizes much of modern literature. Her characters are neither rascals nor hypocrites but normally flawed and complex individuals, trying to live their lives with courage and integrity. I find that a welcome relief. She is also a brilliant essayist, lecturer, and widely respected culture critic.
-- Ernie Ewert