Miles, Jack. God: a Biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995.
Jack Miles has an interesting concept. In order to write a biography on God he had to first consider him as a character in the Old Testament. He had to analyze the “character development” and bear witness to the relationships between God and the other primary “characters” of the Bible. One has to think of God and Lord as different. God takes on a variety of roles (including animal husbandry counselor). Miles’s philosophy is strong and pragmatically sound, even for an agnostic like me. It works. Somehow, it really works. Others must agree because God: a Biography won Miles a Pulitzer.
Favorite lines, “Our only identity is a lack of identity” (p 22), and “He is not just unpredictable but dangerously unpredictable” (p 46).
Confessional – I didn’t finish this. I got the gist of it after 100 pages. I think that was good enough.
Reason read: Easter has got to be one of the most religious holidays people celebrate. So, in honor of Easter and religion in general I am reading God: a Biography.
Author fact: As a former Jesuit priest Miles is no stranger to religious studies.
Book trivia: As I mentioned before Jack Miles won a Pulitzer for God: a Biography. What I didn’t mention was the date: 1996.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Dewey Deconstructed: 200s” (p 65).
Neal, Mary C. To Heaven and Back: a Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again.Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2011.
I was supposed to deliver this book to my mother. My aunt bought a copy for all of her sisters and it was my charge to make sure my mother got hers. Of course I had to read it before passing it along. I read it twice.
I am not a religious person. I lost my faith when my father passed away. Unfortunately there is very little anyone can do to make me believe in Heaven, Hell, or even God at this moment. I do believe in spirits and angels and a reason for everything. I think my father is still with me in weird ways, but I do not believe in the Bible.
Having said all that, I had a deep appreciation for Dr. Neal’s story. While it is centered around a religious faith there were moments that resonated with me; passages that moved me to tears. Dr. Neal was kayaking in Chile when she had a terrible accident and technically drowned. she was pinned under water way longer than a person should/could survive. While she was dead she experienced heaven and Jesus holding her. She believed she was spared because her purpose in life on Earth wasn’t finished. Throughout the rest of To Heaven and Back Dr. Neal recounts different moments where her presence saved the life of someone else or God’s presence had a hand in guiding her to make the right decision. Even after her son is tragically killed she found a spiritual way to push through the pain. It is an uplifting story of inspiration.
August was a little of this and a little of that. Some people will notice I have made some changes to the book challenge – some changes more noticeable than others. For starters, how I review. I now add a section of why I’m reading the book. For some reason I think it’s important to include that in the review. Next, how I read. I am now adding audio books into the mix. I am allowing myself to add an audio book in “trapped” situations when holding a book and keeping my eyes on the page might be an inconvenience (like flying) or endanger someone (like driving). I’m also making a effort to avoid wasting time on books I don’t care for (like Honore de Balzac). One last change: I am not as stringent about reading something within the month. If I want to start something a little early because it’s right in front of my face then so be it.
What else was August about? August was also the month I lost my dear Cassidy for a week. I spent many a night either in an insomniac state or sitting on the back porch, reading out loud in hopes the sound of my voice would draw my calico to me. The only thing it yielded was more books finished in the month of August. She finally came home one week later.
Anyway, enough of all that. I’ll cry if I continue. Onto the books:
I started the month by reading and rereading Tattoo Adventures of Robbie Big Balls by Robert Westphal. This was the first time I read and reviewed a book after meeting the author. I wanted to get it right. I also wanted to make sure I was an honest as possible about the situation. Everything about this review was unusual. For the challenge:
- After You’ve Gone by Alice Adams ~ I read this in three days and learned a valuable lesson about Adams’s work: read it slowly and parse it out. Otherwise it becomes redundant.
- Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin ~ I read this in ten days, tucking myself in a study carrell and reading for an hour everyday.
- Fahrenheit 541 by Ray Bradbury ~ an audio book that only took me nine days to listen to.
- Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum ~ read with Wicked by Gregory Maguire. I took both of these to Maine and had oodles of car-time to finish both.
- We Took to the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich ~ this was probably my favorite nonfiction of the challenge. Rich’s Maine humor practically jumped off the page. I read this to Cassidy.
- The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder ~ I read this in three days, again hiding myself away in a study carrell.
- Ten Hours Until Dawn by Tougis ~ another audio book. I’m glad I listened to this one as opposed to reading it. Many reviewers called it “tedious” and I think by listening to it I avoided that perspective.
- The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson ~ I read this in two days (something I think I thought I was going to get to in June).
- All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque ~ I read this in honor of World War I ending. I also read it in one night while waiting for Cassidy to come home.
- The Lives of the Saints by Nancy Lemann ~ also read in one night. In honor of New Orleans and the month Hurricane Katrina rolled into town.
- Kristin Lavransdatter: the Cross by Sigrid Undset ~ finally put down the Norwegian trilogy!
For the Early Review Program with LibraryThing:
- The Most Memorable Games in New England Patriots History by Bernard Corbett and Jim Baker. This was supposed to be on my list a year ago. Better late than never.
- Sex So Great She Can’t Get Enough by Barbara Keesling. This took me an inordinate amount of time to read. Guess I didn’t want to be seen in public with it.
Wilder, Thornton. The Bridge of San Luis Rey. New York: Washington Square Press, Inc., 1966.
Warning! This review is with spoiler!!
The premise for The Bridge of San Luis Rey is fascinating. In a nutshell an Italian monk by the name of Brother Juniper was not only witness to a terrible tragedy, he was mere moments away from sharing the same horrific fate. An ancient bridge in Lima, Peru collapses just as five travelers have set out across it. Instead of suffering a kind of survivors guilt, Brother Juniper is instead encouraged to pursue his study of theology, using the tragedy to demonstrate scientific reason as to why his life was spared. Being a man of the cloth he wants to prove it was divine intervention that caused him to avoid such an unfortunate demise. More importantly, he can finally prove the five victims (who weren’t so “lucky”) shared a common fault and their deaths were part of a larger plan. In other words, luck had nothing to do with it. The other option, less likely in the eyes of Brother Juniper, was it was a simple, random accident. Brother Juniper devotes his life to researching the private lives and documenting the secrets of the five victims, in a search for commonality. All in the hopes of proving the collapse was considered an act of god, a shared destiny. This would be something Brother Juniper could finally attach his scientific study of theology to. The five unfortunate travelers are:
- Dona Maria, the Marquesa de Montemayor and her companion,
- Estaban – a twin grieving the loss of his brother and, before crossing the bridge, about to set sail with a sea captain.
- Uncle Pio, the actress Camila’s maid, singing master, coiffeur, masseur, errand-boy, reader, banker, coach, writer and tutor.
- Don Jaime, Camila’s son
In the end, Brother Juniper was burned at the stake along with his “research” on the five victims of the bridge collapse. He was charged with heresy.
Favorite quotes: “The Marquesa would even have been astonished to learn that her letters were very good, for such authors live always in the noble weather of their own minds and those productions which seem remarkable to us are little better than a days routine to them” (p 15).
“All families lived in a wasteful atmosphere of custom and kissed one another with secret indifference” (p 16). And another, “You see its the ocean you want” (p 67).
Can I just say I love the titles of the first and last chapters? “Part One – perhaps an accident” and “Part Five – perhaps an intention.”
Note: I should have started reading this book on July 20th, the day “the finest bridge in all of Peru” collapsed. Who knew?
Book Trivia: Bridge of San Luis Rey was made into a movie on three different occasions. It has also been interpreted as an opera and a play.
Reason read: August is the last month for students to travel before heading back to school. I chose Peru as the destination for the last adventure of August.
Author Fact: Thornton Wilder won a Pulitzer for The Bridge of San Luis Rey.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Peru(sing) Peru” (p 177).
Baldwin, James. Go Tell It On the Mountain. New York: Library of America, 1998.
What a simple concept. The beginning of the story takes place in a church. Fourteen year old John Grimes is praying beside his family – his Aunt Florence and parents, Gabriel and Elizabeth Grimes. It is in these prayers that an epic story emerges. Go Tell It On the Mountain is a tale told in three parts: The Seventh Day (a day in the life of the Grimes family on a Sunday), The Prayers of the Saints (starting with John’s Aunt Florence), and The Threshing-Floor (John’s “salvation”). The thread between all these parts is John Grimes in theory but the ending is all about his coming full circle. He is at a crossroads in his young life. He knows he is destined to be like the father he can barely stand, but the questions remains, how much like him? Will he become a preacher man, a servant of god? Will he carry anger and violence like his father?
Of note: in this good vs evil tale it is interesting to note the juxtaposition of good vs evil in the father, both in his actions and even his name. Gabriel Grimes is a a man of god who started his early adult years having sex with married women and drinking until he was blurry-eyed and as a married man comes home at night full of rage beat his family. Gabriel is the name of a well-known angel and yet the name Grimes suggests something dirty, something sinful.
Quotables: “And he knew again that she was not saying everything she meant; in a kind of secret language she was telling him today something that he must remember and understand tomorrow” (p 30).
“He would enter on another day, when he had read all the books uptown, an achievement that would, he felt, lend him the poise to enter any building of the world” (p 35). Yeah, books have that power, don’t they?
“The question always filled her with an ecstasy of hatred” (p 81). Pretty powerful stuff. To be sure, there are others.
Reason read: James Arthur Baldwin was born on August 2, 1924.
Author Fact: Go Tell It On the Mountain was Baldwin’s first book and is considered semi-autobiographical.
Book Trivia: Inspired by “Roots” Go Tell It On the Mountain was portrayed as a made-for-television movie in 1984.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “African American Fiction: He Say” (p 10).
Kemelman, Harry. Friday the Rabbi Slept Late. Greenwich: Fawcett Crest Book, 1963.
Rabbi David Small is Barnard Crossing’s newest rabbi. His presence is a mixed blessing. While the community debates renewing his contact for the next year he is simultaneously fingered as the prime suspect in a murder case. It’s hard to dismiss the evidence – the murdered girl’s purse is found in his car and he admits being in the area at the presumed time of death. In the interest of clearing his name (and getting his contact renewed) Rabbi Small becomes a professional snoop, helping with the investigation. He becomes friendly with the lead detective and they share leads as well as discussions on religion. It is interesting to note how police work has changed! In this day and age Rabbi Small would never been able to interview the victim’s employer or search her room and yet, he does both; ultimately solving the case.
Favorite line: “The girls he went out with didn’t mean that to Mel…They were somebody he went to bed with, like he might go to a gym for a workout” (p 113) and “We Yankees don’t like anybody, including each other, but we tolerate everybody” (p 140).
Author fact: Kemelman was a Massachusetts man and died in Marblehead.
Book Trivia: Friday the Rabbi Slept Late was Kemelman’s first novel. It was also made into a made-for-television movie.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 119).
I spent the first eight days of October “stranded” on a remote, windblown island off the coast of Maine. Every morning was spent leisurely reading in bed, half listening to the sounds of surf and squabbling gulls. Cloudy afternoons were spent either hiking along rocky shores and overlooking cliff high vistas or combing seaweed strewn beaches for sea glass and shells. Quiet evenings were whiled away in front of a snapping orange glow fire with a good book in hand. It was a delicious way to end the day - just as I had started it, behind the pages of a book. Because of this simple routine it was easy to finish three books in eight days:
- Messiah by Gore Vidal ~ in honor of Vidal’s birth month. This stayed with me as prophetic as it was.
- The Poison Oracle by Peter Dickinson ~ in honor of October being special child month. Another futuristic story about a different kind of greed.
- The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve ~ in honor of Halloween. Probably my favorite book of the month.
After the vacation home I returned to the daily grind and was able to finish the following books:
- Ways of Seeing by John Berger ~ in honor of Art Appreciation month. This took me a lunch break to read so I read it several times.
- Bonobo: the Forgotten Ape by Frans de Waal ~ in honor of de Waal’s birth month and October being animal month. At first I was bothered by the graphic Bonobo photography but I got over it.
- Woman: An Intimate Geography by Natalie Angier ~ in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month. I have to admit – the cover of this book cracked me up (simple, yet says so much).
- Nothing Remains the Same: Rereading and Remembering by Wendy Lesser ~ in honor of National Book Month. This was okay.
- Bird Brains: the Intelligence of Crows, Ravens, Magpies and Jays by Candace Savage ~ in honor of Bird Watching month. A big, bold, beautiful book (loved the photography).
For LibraryThing and the Early Review program, two books:
- Yes You Can! : Your Guide to Becoming an Activist by Jane Drake and Ann Love was waiting for me when I returned from vacation. Since it is only 133 pages long and written for young adults it took me just a few hours to read it cover to cover.
- Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin was really, really good.
Confession: Autumn has always been my private hell. People think I’m kidding when I say bad things always happen to me between September and December…until I start recounting the black clouds. This year while I had a few bad things roll in my direction it was nothing like what happened with friends and family. Losing fathers, losing jobs, losing lives. The walls came tumbling down. As one friend put it, “I’m having a hard enough time recovering as is and now this?” And now this. I bury my head in books to avert my heart.
Vidal, Gore. Messiah. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1954.
John Cave, as a professional embalmer, is intimate with death. While working on a client he has an epiphany of sorts. Suddenly he has deemed the act of dying a good thing. Cave is so taken with this revelation that he must share his idea with as many people as possible and without warning a new religion is born. His followers call it “Cave’s Word” or Cavesword. It’s strongest message is death is to be welcomed. As Cavesword spreads Cave establishes a following so large he needs a team to promote and protect him. Closest to him is Iris Mortimer, Paul Himmell, Clarissa Lessing, and Eugene Luther. Each individual has a different purpose for being part of Cave’s inner circle. It’s Eugene Luther who narrates the story of John Cave. With the help of Cave’s inner circle he develops and promotes a product to go with his message. Cavesway is a drug taken to make death even easier to initiate. As the world’s suicide rate rises, thanks to Cavesway, Luther’s perception of Cave and the cult-like message starts to distort and crumble. Messiah is prophetic and mesmerizing. I thought of it as “a hideous evil you can’t tear your eyes from.”
Favorite lines, “Stars fell to earth in a blaze of light, and where they fell, monsters were born, hideous and blind” (p 4). How’s that for a start? Other lines I liked, “The sky that day was like an idiot’s mind, wild with odd clouds, but lovely too, guileless, natural, elusive” (p 13), and, “We’ve finally made dying simply swell” (p 95), and finally, “Any direct statement of personal innocence has always made me feel completely criminal” (p 140). The last quote is probably my favorite.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called, “Gore Vidal’s Historical Novels: Too Good To Miss” (p 237). Obviously, Messiah is not a historical novel like Burr or Lincoln. Pearl threw it in the chapter as a personal favorite.
For the first time in a long time I am taking an October vacation. Wait. I don’t think I’ve ever really taken an October V A C A T I O N before. Maybe a long weekend around Columbus Day, yes. A real, honest to goodness, week off in October? No, I don’t think so. Finally, something good to look forward to… Here is the month in books:
- Bonobo by Frans de Waal ~ in honor of de Waal being born in October and in honor of Animal Month
- Poison Oracle by Peter Dickinson ~ in honor of special child month
- Ways of Seeing by John Berger ~ in honor of National Art Appreciation month
- Messiah by Gore Vidal ~ in honor of Vidal’s birth month
- Woman: an intimate geography by Natalie Angier ~ in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month
- The Ear, The Eye, The Arm by Nancy Farmer ~ in honor of National Fantasy Month
In addition I am still reading The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. The magic of this read is that I am savoring each and every word like it is the most expensive, the richest, most divine piece of chocolate I have ever tasted – simply because I don’t want it to end!
Trachtenberg, Peter. The Book of Calamities: Five Questions About Suffering and Its Meaning. New York: Little, Brown & co., 2008
This was an off-list addition. Glutton for punishment? Maybe. April had already been a hard month and here I am, deciding to add to the drama by deciding to read a book about suffering. It’s perverse but I find comfort in my little, uneventful life when I am reminded of fates worse than mine…much, much worse than mine. It’s the same reason why I watch ugly shows about murder and drug addiction. It’s my constant reminder that anyone, at anytime, can fall from grace. And fall hard.
But, anyway, back to Calamities. I will be honest. I picked up the book after reading a dedication. After researching the recipients I realized I needed to know more. It wasn’t enough to be aware and move on. I wanted knowledge. Who were these people and why did they die? Notice I didn’t say how? That much was obvious. Their tragedy deserved more than two seconds of my time. Which led me to Peter Trachtenberg’s book.
The Book of Calamities covers man-induced sufferings as well as the ones seemingly without explanation. The answer to each catastrophe lies in simple words like religion, nature, sanity, hatred, illness but try explaining those words beyond dictionary etymology and terminology. What exactly IS hatred? What drives two religions to war? How can Mother Nature be so cruel to the ignorant? Who defines mental illness and calls it insanity? These are hard questions but, Trachtenberg asks an even bigger question – why is suffering such a shock to us? It happens all the time. It happens everywhere. Why aren’t we more prepared for catastrophe? Is it a cultural thing? For some reason we, as a society, have this sense of entitlement to happiness; this sense of denial that bad things always happen to someone, anyone, else but us. Not so.
I didn’t have favorite quotes in this book, but there was one particular event that stood out. Here is the quote: “The first thing they did for me was to make me stop, kindly, with care not to make me feel any more foolish than I already felt, for who feels more foolish than a failed suicide?” (p 95). The reason why this passage stood out to me is this – in my friend’s suicide note he made reference to being embarrassed by possible failure. He understood suffering and didn’t want to make compromises to accommodate that suffering. Here’s the thing – he didn’t need to be embarrassed. He didn’t fail on May 10th, 1993.
Dennis, Carl. “Prophet.” Practical Gods. New York: Penguin Poets, 2001, 16.
The tone of this poem is didactic and more than a little condescending. It’s as if the speaker is the all-knowing on how to be a prophet and cannot keep from sharing his knowledge. “You’ll never be much…” are the first four words of the poem. There is a sense of prophesy, “you’ll land…” and “you’ll have to…” and “you’ll be…” It’s almost as if the speaker wants the wanna-be prophet to think like Jonah in the whale, making comparisons of journeys by whale and donkey. There is no kindness in this poem, only stern words of how it’s going to be. And yet…yet, I liked it.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter, “Poetry Pleasers” (p 188).
Bernstein, Richard, and the staff of the New York Times. Out of the Blue: the Story of September 11, 2001 From Jihad to Ground Zero. New York: Times Books, 2002.
Today was a day just like September 11, 2001. Crystal bright blue skies. Not too warm, not too cold. Almost perfect weather. Weather like that makes me suspicious – on edge. Every since 9/11/01. You probably feel the same way. Not a cloud in the sky makes me nervous. I stare up expecting it to fall down. I still can’t watch CNN reports from that day. It’s still too fresh in my mind, still too soon. Eight years later and I’m thinking it’s almost too soon to be reading Out of the Blue. Still.
Out of the Blue takes us chapter by chapter through what on September 11, 2001 – from the transformation of Osama bin Laden and the emergence of Al Qaeda to the trainings of the terrorists and finally, to the day we will never forget. A day that some are calling the end of innocence. Intermingled in this “explanation” for what happened and how it all began are the personal biographies of some of the victims. It is not clear how Bernstein chose these Americans to be included in Out of the Blue, but the inclusion of their stories illustrates just how unexpected these attacks really were. Normal, everyday routines carried out by normal everyday people were shattered in the blink of an eye. Bernstein documents the terrible reality of when the planes hit; the choking smoke, the inferno flames, the lethal leaking fuel, the rescue workers rushing into the buildings while terrified victims either rushed out or jumped to their deaths. The entire New York Times staff is to be applauded for their thoroughness for facts and details that make Out of the Blue more of a matter-of-fact (and less of a sensationalized) account of a mind numbing tragedy.
Aside from the typo on page 246 I enjoyed Out of the Blue as much as I could…considering the subject matter.
Tragic lines: “Whole families, traveling together on the hijacked planes, were obliterated together” (p 7), and “After denying for months that there would have been any way for American law enforcement or intelligence to have detected the terrorist plot beforehand, he [Director of the FBI, Robert S. Mueller] admitted that important clues to the coming disaster were ignored or neglected by the FBI” (p 157).
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter, “9/11″ (p 171).
For the sake of sanity I have to recap the entire summer. Summer as we think of it in terms of the calendar, not the temperature. June. July. August.
June can only be thought of as a dark and hellish tunnel. In that case, July was the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. As a result, August was not only getting out of the dark and hellish tunnel but moving as far, far away from it as possible. August was an amazing month!
August was music (loved the Avett Brothers and had a great time at Phish). August was homehome with my best boys. August was also a group of good, good books:
- The Moviegoer by Percy Walker ~ interesting story about a man watching life go by rather than living it.
- Turbulent Souls: a Catholic Son’s Return to his Jewish Family by Stephen J. Dubner ~ this was fascinating.
- The Professor and the Madman: a Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester ~ another fascinating nonfiction with great illustrations.
- The Mutual Friend by Frederick Busch ~ a novel about Charles Dickens that I couldn’t really get into.
- Those Tremendous Mountains: the Story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition by David Freeman Hawke ~ another nonfiction, this time about the Lewis and Clark Expedition (like the title says).
- Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Expery ~ all about war-time aviation.
For the Early Review Program:
- Sandman Slim: a Novel by Richard Kadrey ~ absolutely crazy good book.
- Off the Tourist Trail: 1,000 Unexpected Travel Alternatives ~ an amazing travel book! Really beautiful!
- Finished reading Honeymoon in Tehran by Azadeh Moaveni ~ part political, part personal, this was great.
- My First 100 Marathons: 2,620 Miles with an Obsessed Runner by Jeff Horowitz ~ funny and informative, too!
- Running and Being by George Sheehan ~ funny and sarcastic and informative all at once!
I wish I knew what happened with this review. I knew I started writing it last winter…or at least I think I did! We were right in the middle of buying a house and suddenly the pages of purchase and sales agreements became more important than the pages of Honeymoon in Tehran. Nevertheless, here I am now…months and months later, long after publication writing the review. What’s what saying? Better late than never!
Moaveni, Azadeh. Honeymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran. New York: Random House, 2009.
Three words pop out at me when thinking of ways to describe Honeymoon in Tehran: political, cultural and fashionable. I thoroughly enjoyed Moaveni’s blend of sly personal commentary mixed with sharp political reporting. She tells it like it is without sparing the reader her own controversial viewpoints – quite the daring feat considering the scrutiny and censorship her topics are subjected to. Sprinkled amid pages of Iranian politics are tidbits of Moaveni’s personal life (pilates, friends and underground music scenes - to name a few). In the beginning it is a carefully balanced portrayal of life in Iran for a young female journalist, but then Moaveni meets and falls in love with Arash. An unplanned pregnancy speeds up already considered wedding plans. Suddenly, Moaveni’s portrayal of life in Tehran involves more than just herself as she is faced with raising a son and nurturing a marriage. Her decision to move to England is not surprising.
Critics have called Honeymoon in Tehran a sequel to her first book Lipstick Jihad but readers shouldn’t feel it necessary to read Lipstick Jihad before Honeymoon in Tehran. Honeymoon in Tehran is a completely readable book on its own. Moaveni makes enough references to Lipstick Jihad to fill the reader in.
Dubner, Stephen J. Turbulent Souls: a Catholic Son’s Return to His Jewish Family. New York: William Morrow & Co., 1998.
In the beginning, Turbulent Souls started out slow for me. I’m not exactly sure why. I think, true to form, the background of any story is the least exciting. It’s the opening act, the warming up so to speak. This setting of the stage is vital to the story, though. Dubner needed to explain his Jewish parents conversion to Catholicism in order for the rest of his story to make sense.
Stephen Dubner was born into a large, upstate New York, Catholic family. Only, Stephen never really felt at home with his parents’ view on religion. Something just didn’t seem comfortable to him. As a young man in his 20′s he meets a Jewish actress who guides him to discover his family’s orginal faith. The more he learns of Jewish customs the easier it is for him to shed everything he memorized about Catholic customs. The more he practices Jewish customs the more it feels like a rediscovery, a return to a religion he left behind before birth. As a journalist Dubner begins to see his family has a story, an amazing one. He cannot ignore the fact that both his parents converted right around the time Jews were being murdered by the Nazis. He discovers Ethel Rosenberg was his mother’s first cousin. As he uncovers the secrets of his family he finds himself.
There were many, many great lines in this book. Here are a couple describing Dubner’s religious childhood: “The aberrant memory is of my father loading us all into the pink-and-gray Rambler for Sunday Mass…my father slamming his pinkie in the back door and yelling, “Shit!” I knew the word; I just didn’t know that my father did” (p 108). “The fires of Hell kept me from letting Dale Schaeffer cheat off my math test even though he offered me first a dollar and then a skull-bashing” (p 114).
Here’s one from Dubner’s college years that I particularly liked (reminded me of my house): “…but even the three of us were no match for the memories of the house. They overpowered us, sent us to bed early, made our supper conversation timid” (p 151).
And one from adulthood: “When I was an alter boy I would get nervous being alone with Father DiPace. He represented God; I represented human shortcoming” (p 201). There are many more fantastic lines, but I’ll stop there.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called, “Me, Me, Me: Autobiographies and Memoirs” (p 162).