Tag Archives: Review

Book Review: “The Spiral Garden” by author Anne Hines

Description from Goodreads:
Moses never saw the Promised Land. King David didn’t get to build the Temple. Jesus preached an unpopular message and died on the cross. Reverend Ruth Broggan thinks God has something to answer for. Unsatisfied with traditional teachings, Broggan takes a radical approach to finding the meaning of life.

My Review:
The Spiral GardenThe Spiral Garden

by Anne Hines

The rating of this book will depend on the perspective of the reader. Spiritual perspective. Open minded perspective. Humourous perspective. Faith tradition perspective. Family life perspective. Realizing that all of these perspectives follow us, and impact the way we live, and the way we review, I believe they are particularly important when reading and reviewing this book.

The book is comprised of letters, diary entries, log books, formal announcements, journal entries, and phone messages. The dates on all of these are concentrated between 2003 – 2005, and are not sequential. If jumping through the years, locations, and characters, is not your style, you may want to pass on “The Spiral Garden”.

The main character is Ruth Broggan, a Minister of the Unified Church, and takes place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Ruth is divorced, has two children, two best friends, and an unusual perspective of faith. This faith perspective has developed in Ruth over her years as a cleric. Ruth is fired from a church in Markham, Ontario for preaching outside of the church’s teachings, and tries to settle into her new location, while still speaking and preaching a message that conflicts with the church.

Ruth’s struggle is our struggle – why are we here? what comes after? and why does the world suffer pain and tragedy? Ruth has asked God to speak to her, with answers to these questions, and locks herself into the manse in order to wait in silence for God’s reply.

What ensues outside the manse is a growing following of Ruth, culminating in half a million people heading to downtown Toronto, to wait for Ruth to come out of the manse, and celebrate a Church Feast of The Winter Solstice.

Ruth’s take on life is serious, funny, thoughtful, prayerful, witty, and very engaging for the reader. I found that the author, Anne Hines, skillfully pulls the reader into Ruth’s life, and at times I found myself so identifying with Ruth, her writings felt like my own. This is the type of book that I will pick up again, and again, reading only pages here and there – the ones that made me cry, and the ones that made me laugh out loud!

If you want to be entertained, and learn something at the same time, this book is for you. If you are open minded about religion, this book is for you. However, if you are easily offended by slights against any faith tradition, and especially your own, then this book would not be for you.

I was given this book free from a second hand bookstore, but after reading it, I would definitely pay full price!

All in all, I would recommend this book for its humour and for its life lessons.

Take a look for “The Spiral Garden”, and Enjoy!!

Patricia

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Book Review: “Mary Jane” – Dorothy Sterling

One of my favourite memories from elementary school is the Scholastic Book Catalogue!!! Do you remember that Catalogue? In my school we started to receive the catalogue in Grade 4. It was the first place I actually purchased books!! It was so exciting! I can remember pouring over the catalogue, reading the descriptions of all the books, and seeing how much they cost! As you can imagine, my parents had a slight cap on how much I could spend, at times bending the rules when I could not decide between titles. I filled in the order form, gave it to my teacher, and waited. Waited for the arrival of THE BOOKS!! When the day came, I would come back to my desk after recess, and there they would be – a neat little pile on my desk. Oh, my! That was thrilling!

For the most part, I still have my Scholastic books, which proudly occupy a shelf in my ‘book room’! My all time favourite Scholastic book and actually I would say it is still my all time favourite book, was and is “Mary Jane” by Dorothy Sterling. I purchased it in Grade 5. The lead character is Mary Jane Douglas, who lives in High Ridge, in the southern United States. The book is set in the early days of integration; Mary Jane is a black American – who has decided to go to what was an all white high school – Wilson High – simply because it was the best high school in town. Integration had just started and Mary Jane, and her friend Fred Jackson, were the first, and the only, black students starting at the high school, junior level.

After Mary Jane has spent the summer on her Grandfather’s farm, she returns home to find her mother talking about getting ready for high school. Mary Jane’s Mother is putting more excitement in this new year, than ever before! Mary Jane is overwhelmed by her Mother’s purchases: new clothes, shoes, school supplies, and even a new ‘big’ bed.

On the first day of school, Mary Jane and Fred are escorted by their fathers, right into the door of the school. To get to that door Mary Jane, Fred, and their fathers must go through a large crowd of white protestors – they even have a police escort. The crowd is filled with angry townspeople, neighbours, students, and parents, and is a startling experience for Mary Jane.

Mary Jane does not really understand what the problem is – she is simply starting high school! All around Mary Jane, other characters in the book, especially in the first half of the book, frequently speak about “they”: ‘they won’t like this’, ‘they have rules’, ‘what will they say’ and ‘what will they do’? This puzzles Mary Jane, who really cannot understand what the fuss is about and cannot figure out who are ‘they’?

Mary Jane faces discrimination, taunts, and physical hurts; but that does not stop her. When shunned in the lunch room, she calmly sits alone. When hurtful words and hurtful names are thrown at her – she forges ahead; learning new subjects, completing projects, she is befriended by one fellow classmate, two teachers, and eventually entering a Science Fair with trained white mice. Mary Jane even becomes part of a Junior Science Club, where she meets students who do not care about the colour of her skin – a happy experience for Mary Jane.

A typical first year high school student, Mary Jane does get mischievous, visits the science room after school is over, hides a squirrel named Furry, and hides secrets from her parents. The book ends just as the Science Fair is getting underway, and although the mice act as they were trained, whether or not Mary Jane wins a prize, is left to the reader’s imagination.

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I just re-read this book about a month ago and it held my interest as much now as it did in Grade 5. I enjoy the fact that Mary Jane is a strong young girl, who accomplishes everything she puts her mind to, and my imagination sees her becoming a leader as she continues through high school, and moves forward to a career. Mary Jane’s grandfather is a retired biologist university professor, her father is a lawyer, her elder sister is a nurse, and her brother is studying to become a lawyer. Mary Jane’s great-grandmother was a slave who fought to educate herself, knew things “were better up north”, and eventually escapes the south, only returning after the Civil War. These are Mary Jane’s heros.

I love the way this book is written so easily, and flows so gently, while attacking the painful hurt of discrimination. Dorothy Sterling’s writing just draws me in – even after all these years – into Mary Jane’s life and world, and eventually I feel like I am Mary Jane, feeling all her challenges and emotions through the difficult beginning of high school, and the difficult time of forging new friendships in a world that could be peaceful, but instead is alive with racism. This book is definitely written for a grade five student back in the ‘60’s. Some of the phrases are outdated today, but the sentiments are still real. The lessons and teachings of this book contributed to the lessons and teachings I received at home from my parents. Be kind to everyone. Treat everyone the same. Treat everyone as you would like to be treated. And 45 – 50 years later the world still needs to know about Mary Jane.

It was only recently that I found out that Dorothy Sterling continued her career as a writer, completing approximately 35 books for adults, including some of the first non-fiction works about black history. The attached article was written when Dorothy Sterling died in 2008, at the age of 95. Interesting reading. I think a trip to the library is in order!

<a href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/05/arts/05sterling.html” target=”_blank”></a>

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Scripture Reflection Mark 5: 25-26

When I read and reviewed Cynthia Patterson’s book, “It Had to Happen”, (see my post of July 16, 2011), I was taken aback by which scripture passage Cynthia had chosen – Mark 5:25-26. Almost exactly ten years ago that passage was given to me for meditation – for me to put myself in the role of the hemorrhaging woman longing to be cured by Jesus. It was suggested to me that instead of hemorrhaging, I could substitute a real health issue that I was dealing with – whatever that might be.

The date was July 15, 2001.

I returned to my room, sat on the windowsill, and placed myself in the crowd scene with Jesus. And as I did that I began to long for a cure, and I knew that all I had to do was touch the hem of His garment. If I could only reach Him, I need to get closer, if I can but touch a small edge of His garment, my pain will dissolve:

Jesus is Waiting for Me

I call out for help
He’s moving too fast
He’s too far ahead
I cannot keep up.

I’m unable to run
I can’t move any faster
Don’t leave ‘til I get there
Hey, Jesus! Wait up!

He stops and He turns
He seems to be thinking
He seems to look back

Is He looking for me?
Is He waiting for me??

I fall and I stumble
While tears fill my eyes
I cannot quite get there
He seems to hear my cry
Hey, Jesus! Wait up!

I fall and I hurt
Where does this pain come from?
I blink through my tears
And now see His face
He turns and He smiles

He’s smiling at me!
Jesus is waiting for me!!

Patricia
Choose Joy!

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It Definitely Had to Happen!! Book Review!!

It Had to Happen” – written by Cynthia A. Patterson

One of our biggest hurdles in life is letting go of our past. As humans we seem to want to linger in the past, especially dwelling on our times of illness, suffering, and loss. The question that repeats itself is: “Why?”, “Why did this happen?”, “Why now?”, and “Why me?”

In the book “It Had to Happen”, Cynthia Patterson assists us in moving past the “Why’s”, and moving forward with the understanding that our past is necessary for our future; even the rough past, maybe especially the rough past. In less than 100 pages Cynthia Patterson brings the reader to not only acknowledge the past, (the good and the rough), but to move forward from that past to the present life. A pathway that is unique to each reader.

Even when some of the author’s life examples, life wounds, did not directly apply to me, Patterson’s skilled prose led me to an alternative place – that was uniquely mine. I would suggest that it will be the same for any reader poised to move forward on their life’s spiritual journey.

When I read a book, such as this book, which has questions at the end of each chapter, I sometimes bypass those questions – and therefore the subsequent internal work those questions imply!! Sometimes.

However, you know the phrase: “She had me at `Hello'”? Well, Cynthia had me at the very first question at the end of Chapter 1. The Journal Reflections, which repeat themselves at the end of every chapter, fit together with the questions in unique and compelling ways. Cynthia calls her questions: “Discovery Questions” and they are just that.

“It Had to Happen – Understanding that Everything You Go Through in Life is for God’s Purpose” is fully realized step by step, leading the reader to the revelation that everything truly did have to happen – for you to journey your own unique path during this life.

For her biblical connection, the author chose a passage from The Gospel of Mark, Chapter 9 – the woman with the issue of blood. Now, do not be put off by this scripture passage, it is simply referring to a woman with some sort of health issue. Basically referring to each of us, with our everyday health and spiritual challenges, whatever they may be.

Whether you are new to a quest of self discovery and personal faith, or seeking to deepen your connection with God and self, “It Had to Happen” is an enlightening place with which to move forward. It is a book that invites the reader back time and time again, with each reading bringing you closer and closer to your inner self and ultimately to God.

“It Had to Happen” is a definite `keeper’ on my personal bookshelf!

Cynthia Patterson introduced her book by stating that we would embark on a journey – that we would visit our past – and that we would see the direction of our future. And for me, it happened! “It Had to Happen”!

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