Amanda grew up in Eastern Oregon without electricity or running water and had an outhouse, too. She may look young, but she’s older than you think (but she’s a lady, so don’t ask her age). She’s fond of ancient languages and has studied Biblical Hebrew and Old English. She’s our resident reviewer of Christian literature and also reviews children and young adult books. Amanda enjoys hiking and camping and she and her husband have a big garden where they raise a lot of the food they eat.
Time passes in Mitford as it does in the rest of the world, and it's finally, finally time for Father Tim's adopted son, Dooley, to marry his soulmate and former rival, Lace Harper. If you read the earlier novels, you probably wondered if these two broken kids rescued from awful childhoods could ever work their way into a lasting relationship. Well, by work and by grace, they've done it, and are now planning their country wedding in Karon's newest Mitford novel. If you think a wedding and the preparations that go into it isn't enough to make a whole novel, you don't know Jan Karon. Yes, there's "wedding talk" in here as Lace searches for a dress and the family struggles with how to manage a wedding on a working farm, but there's also a whole sweep of relationships, secrets, surprises, and family tension and healing. Karon works well with a small tapestry; this book centered around one event is fully textured and kept me reading with great enjoyment. I have searched, but haven't been able to find any other fiction like Karon's, for although she imbues the lives of her characters with deep faith and obviously believes in the power of prayer, she is not generally idealistic. Her characters struggle with real, deep issues, and these are not always resolved. Some wounds do not get healed in this story, while others do in wonderful, unexpected ways. As a footnote of interest, I'll share that I have mixed feelings about Karon's portrayal of Lace's chronic pain, which is revealed for the first time in this story. I'm very glad Karon chose to write a character with a chronic pain issue, as this is rare in fiction, and to portray her so positively, with a full, beautiful life. But I think the portrayal of Lace as able to do anything and everything, having almost unlimited energy, and working her tail off with no apparent consequences, is unrealistic and disappointing. Those with chronic pain are often deeply distressed by how much we can't do, and I'd looked for Karon to address this and to illuminate it with her signature insight and comfort. Maybe in a future novel she will, though I'm not holding my breath. However, this is a great read and a boon to Karon's many fans!
George and Irene are two astronomers who meet when Irene comes to work at the university George is employed at. Irene has never been in love, in fact has avoided intimacy all her life, while George has been through a string of girlfriends looking for the soulmate he just can't find. George and Irene feel an instant connection when they meet, and begin a whirlwind romance. Little do they know that they were literally made for each other. More than two decades prior, their respective mothers were best friends who decided to have babies together and raise them to be soulmates. In order for the scheme to work, the babies had to be separated at age three, so George and Irene don't remember each other. Mystified by their connection, the pair decides to go for it anyway, until they begin to unearth the truth about their mothers' plan. Meanwhile, George has other issues, too. He sees and receives instructions from gods and other supernatural beings-not a great thing for a scientist to admit-and he has unbearable migraines which are worsening over time. Netzer's book is about what happens when worlds collide and when hidden things are revealed. It's an intelligent, thought-provoking piece of fiction. I've never read anything quite like it. Some sequences felt more real to me than others, but the story and its dilemmas have remained with me and reverberated long after reading it.
18-year-old Sammie is smart, gifted, and, to all appearances, bound for success. But she has Niemann-Pick Type C, a rare degenerative disorder that is slowly stealing her memory and other faculties. It's also fatal, but Sammie's immediate concern at the beginning of the story is the loss of memory. She begins to keep a journal where she addresses "future Sam" and tells herself things she most wants to remember. It's poignant and heartbreaking all at once to see Sam trying to hold her inevitable decline at bay and attempting to conceal it from others. While this is happening, surprising new things unfold in her life, like romances with two different boys. Although I found it quite implausible that a teenager would have the maturity to cope with dating someone with such a debilitating disorder, the love stories are presented in a way that makes them believable and very touching. Sam's relationship with her parents and siblings are also central in her life even as she falls apart, a great thing to see in teen fiction. Although Sam has a chronic, fatal disease, this book is anything but a pity party. It's a smart, sometimes funny, sharply observant piece on love, intelligence, memory, and vulnerability. Teens (and adults) who liked John Green's The Fault in Our Starswill enjoy this book, and much of it will ring true to anyone who has or has a child with a chronic condition or some other disability.
This book is about fall, but it's a great read-aloud for any time of year. The simple text and pleasing illustrations celebrate the time of year when wind whooshes, crows call, and leaves turn yellow and then fall from the trees. My three-month-old son loved the artwork. I read the book to him twice, and something about the pictures and the cadence of the text kept him very engaged and interested. It would also be great for kids up to 6 or 7.