Sunday, July 20, 2008

Where Yesterday Lives

Title: Where Yesterday Lives
Author: Karen Kingsbury
Date Finished: July 18, 2008
Pages: 416

If you have never read a book by Karen Kingsbury before, I strongly suggest you pick one up. I was introduced to her books a couple years ago and every time I read one, the same thing happens... I cannot put it down. I started this book Friday evening and was so involved in the world of the Barrett family, that I did not want to leave, so I continued to read page after page until I finally finished somewhere around 2 a.m.

Before I go into all the reasons why this book touched me so, I would like to tell you a little about the author. Karen Kingsbury is a Christian writer and puts not only her love for the Lord in every book, but really tries to connect with readers on a personal level. This particular book was her first novel, and with it being so, happened to be somewhat autobiographical. For those of you who are hesitant to read any book that is labeled "Christian" for whatever reason, I would ask you to give this author a chance. Not once have I felt like her books were preaching at me, or trying to make me believe a certain religion is better than another. They are just stories that make you remember that God is good, and he does good things in our lives, and no matter how far we've wondered, or how big our problem may seem to us, they are never too big for Him in all his mighty power.

This story begins with John Barrett the father of Ellen, Jane, Megan, Amy and Aaron collapsing from a heart attack in the hallway. His last minutes are spent looking up at the pictures of his children hanging on the wall. As the family comes together to mourn the loss of their father, they are struggling to make it through one week together as all their past demons resurface. Throughout this one week, temptation, old sibling rivalries, and hidden secrets are keeping these five children and their mother from offering each other the kind of comfort and emotional support they are all looking for.

Ellen, the oldest daughter, is struggling to find the outlet to grieve that she desperately needs, only to be brushed off by her husband because he is busy with work and does not like funerals. As the week begins and she is constantly being snubbed and criticized by her next sister, Jane, she find herself turning to her first true love, whom she never really stopped loving. Having him drop everything to be by her side almost proves too much for Ellen to bear as she watches her family fall apart around her.

Jane, being the only sibling to have children of her own, is struggling with an emotionally scarring secret that she has never before shared with anyone. Right before she leaves to join her family for the funeral preparations, she finally tells her husband why it is that she does not feel anything about the death of her father. My heart breaks for Jane as she is constantly attacking Ellen, much to the other's dismay for what seems to be for no particular reason.

Megan, still living in the same town as her parents offers to let Ellen, Jane and her children stay with her. Trying to be the referee and keep the girls from each other's throats proves to be an emotionally draining task for Megan. She is just trying to abide by their mothers wishes that for one week, they act like a family who cares about each other.

Amy, the youngest girl, has always felt like she is being ignored and cutoff by the others, and does not go anywhere without her husband. As the story progresses, you see a transformation in Amy, as she starts to stand up for herself and show the others that she is an adult just like they are.

Aaron, being the only boy in the family has a rough time showing his emotions. Whenever he is confronted, Aaron become violent and then abruptly will disappear in his car.

As the funeral approached, their mother asks each of them to write a few words about their father for them to read at the ceremony. Ellen, being a writer has no problem with this, and takes the time to help some of the others who are struggling with what to say. The purpose is to share with everyone what their father meant to them, and their family. The ending to this book proved to be very emotional for me on several levels. As each of the children approach the podium to share their stories it becomes clear that each child saw their father in a different light. For each of them, he was the man they needed him to be. Whether that be a cheerleader, an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, or just a friend, John Barrett was that for each of his children, loving all of them equally in the way that was most important and meaningful for them.

Anyone who has ever lost a family member, or had a fight with a sibling will find someone in this book that they can relate to. It shows how wonderful the power of family can really be, and that in the end, you can always turn to your family for support, no matter how far away you've drifted over the years. There is something very special about the bonds of a family intertwined with the power of prayer.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Book Club

Having never been a part of an official "Book Club" before, I was surprised and very excited when the company I started working for a little over a year and a half ago said these very words to me while interviewing "We have a book club here, as well as a small library in the back where you can check out or donate books for others to share and enjoy." My attention was completely captured and I knew I was going to join immediately if I got the job.

The first meeting was very exciting for me. I even made notes on the characters so that I wouldn't forget the points that I wanted to make during discussion time. We stayed in the office for this meeting, so everyone brought snacks and drinks to share. The turnout was pretty good, there were about 10 people, and from what the others said, it was probably the biggest meeting yet. The book was Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner, which I thoroughly enjoyed, this having been my first Jennifer Weiner book.

So here I was, finally in a real book club, which is something I probably should have looked into before since one of my greatest passions is books, and I geared up for the next meeting which was another Jennifer Weiner book, Good in Bed. Someone had put almost all of her books on the list and we were slowly making our way through them. I was kind of disappointed that we weren't meeting very often, and since I read more than one book every quarter (probably more along the lines of 20 or something embarrassing like that) I found myself waiting until the last minute to read the books. I am really bad about remembering what happens in each book, and since I read so many, I did not want to get them mixed up.

(Side note: I have decided that from now on, with the books that I own, I am going to write a short synopsis, including my feelings/emotions after reading a book and put it in the front cover. This way, if I ever want to glance back without rereading the book, I will be able to remember what my thoughts were on that particular book.)

Over time the book club basically became a social gathering instead of an actual book discussion, and we started losing quite a few members. Not long ago, I was put in charge of the club, and went about restructuring. My first suggestion, since people would come having not even opened the book, was to only pick books that were also movies. That way, if someone ran out of time, or was not interested in actually reading the book, they could watch the movie and then we could discuss the differences between the book and movie, since we would have a mixture of people that had done both. Well, we did not even make it to the first meeting before people started saying that they could not make it. So, I yet again restructured the meeting to where it would actually resemble a Book club. Having only members that wanted to meet and talk about the book we had read. Each person was designated a month, and on their particular month they would be the host. By being a host, you picked the book, the meeting location, and were in charge of facilitating the discussion. We decided to meet on a monthly basis, and had our first official meeting on Monday. There were only 4 people that attended, but I feel like we had a pretty good discussion, and afterwards, instead of just social chit-chat, I was amazed to find us still talking about books in general. How we find new authors, where we shop for books, our bookshelves and home and the amount of space our books take up, as well as what we do with our books after we finish them.

Overall, I think that this newest edition of our book club has a real chance of being a success. It's nice to actually be in a group where you feel comfortable talking about a book you read, and if for some reason you did not enjoy it, or thought it was going to be one of your all-time favorites, you have people to share this with. Our first book was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I really enjoyed the book and will post a review soon. I am really looking forward to our next meeting, and my hope is that overtime, our club will expand to include more book lovers, but if for some reason it does not, at least I know that those who are there want to be there, and they are the ones I can go to in the future for referrals, or just to share insight into something interesting I read.

YEAH for books!!!