Thursday, July 26, 2012

Three Books, Three Responses

I love to read! I've loved to read as long as I remember. I love to connect with the authors and discover more about people, the world, and myself. Sometimes I like to be inspired, other times I just like a good escape from the problems around me or a good laugh. Sometimes I read a rash of non-fiction, books on adoption, psychology, FASD, gardening, knitting. Other times I look to fiction, or biographies, which in my opinion always include a bit of fiction no matter how objective the author tries to be.

The past two weeks I've been reading three books I pulled from the new book section of our local library. The first one is When I Fell From the Sky by Juliane Koepcke. It is an autobiography written about her experience before, during, and after a horrible airplane crash in the rain forest of Peru in which she was the sole survivor. I picked this book because I wanted to read something inspiring, something that would be encouraging. I mean, wouldn't a book about a seventeen year old surviving a crash AND eleven days in the wilderness encourage me to not give up too?

I guess it did to a point, but that was pretty much because I was reading that message into it. Instead, it seemed she spent most of the time writing these kinds of messages: Will you stop asking me what happened in the crash? I don't want to talk about it! Just leave me alone to study the wildlife in my precious jungle, just like my mom! People keep getting the story wrong! Don't ask me what happened! Just make it so I can be left alone with my trees, bats, and birds! No one understands and cares to get things right! Don't talk to me about it!

It made me want to donate to a fund for some good therapy for her, rather than her wildlife preserve. I liked her descriptions of the beauty of the rain forest, but I just couldn't connect with Ms. Koepcke, which would probably suit her just fine.

The second book I read, Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson, was also about a plane crash survivor. I know, two books in a row about plane crashes? But in my defense, the subtitle was An Incredible Story of Hope, Triumph, and Everyday Joy, which is what drew me to reading this book, not the plane crash theme. There were glimpses of inspiration, but it was hard to connect, even to another mother of a large family who also blogs. The book could be summarized in three words, Faith, Family, and (F)phoniness.

I almost put the book down after the first few pages because of the EXTREME Mormon (LDS) preaching.  It doesn't let up either, but is on just about every page, Mormon doctrine, Mormon church, and Mormon families. It is so pervasive, it's hard to find the real person under the facade. First, before the plane crash, she depicted her life as so idyllic, it was unbelievable. She opened up her humanity while she was recovering from horrible burns, but her family quickly formed a protective wall around her, even buying a house nearby so they could more easily take care of her.  There were disturbing themes of outward appearance and image above all else, at least it seemed so to me, a recovering legalistic woman who had been caught in religion.  It's a good reminder for me to be real, open, and honest, even while admitting of my need to depend on God while I write. But the syrupy, "I'm better than you are because I have it all together, and my church has it all together" message is not inspiring. It's nauseating.

The third book, The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure is enjoyable, at least so far. I'm only fifty pages into the book, but I'm enjoying Ms. McClure's adventures in discovering more about the world of Laura Ingalls Wilder in the "Little House" books. I'm finding I'm connecting to another woman in Ms. McClure, who also has put herself into a character's shoes and wondered what Laura's life was really like. And not only wondering, but taking the steps to experience a world and time so different than we twenty first century women experience, unless of course, we live in some third world country. I can't wait to read about the author's next adventure.

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