Hi y’all! (she says in her best Tami Taylor voice) I hope it feels like fall where you are, and if it does, could you be so kind as to send a little bit of that weather down to Texas? (to be fair, this week actually does feel like the beginnings of fall, and for that I am exceedingly grateful). I was looking back over this month’s book list, and realized that despite the fact that all four of these books are quite different, there is a bit of a theme: perspective. Right now feels like a good time to practice considering others’ perspectives (really, it’s ALWAYS a good time to do that, but that might be the Enneagram 9 in me talking), and if I can put myself in another’s shoes by way of a good story...sign me up.
What I’m reading…
I talked about The Dearly Beloved on Instagram, but have to mention it again here, because this is easily one of my favorite books that I’ve read this year. I read a library copy, but I’m planning on buying myself a copy because I know I’ll want to either revisit this story, or hand it off to a friend. The story is about two couples who minister together at an Episcopal church in New York. It’s a bit of an origin story-- you learn in the prologue that these couples have worked together for 30 years, but the bulk of the story centers around the way they all met and their paths to faith and ministry, as well as their first 10 or so years working together. When I write out the description, it sounds kind of boring, but I think that’s because the story is less about big events (although there are a few of those), and more the characters, and about themes: faith, friendship, love, family, loneliness, passion, and purpose. It’s about the nature of working alongside another person (or persons) in ministry and service, and how that forms a unique bond. One of the really brilliant things about The Dearly Beloved, is how well the author wrote four very unique people with very unique and often conflicting world views and beliefs, and yet she wrote each one with such compassion and insight. Really, I could ramble on for a while about this book and how much I loved it. It made me want to be a better writer, and it made me want to call a friend to tell them I love and appreciate them.
And speaking of books I want to talk about with someone else…
I was riveted by Such a Fun Age, and could not put it down. It’s a story about a young Black who works as a part time nanny for a while family, and gets accused one night of kidnapping her young charge. The plot goes in some expected directions, but the complex characters, thoughtfulness, and a couple of twists and turns keep it from feeling stale. I enjoyed the book because it made me think about big issues, while not feeling like a BIG ISSUE book, and I was impressed by how the author crafted a layered and nuanced story in a relatively short book.
Part of the fun of having a critique partner is getting to gush about their book! Palmer Girl is the kind of book that’s perfect to read curled up under a blanket with a hot drink. It’s about a young woman torn between modern ideas and her sense of independence, and a duty to the expectations of her traditional upper class life. There is a sweet romance in the story with a relationship conflict that feels refreshingly realistic, and the setting is just so well done with little details that really bring it to life. (also, congrats to Raf Bradley who won the random drawing for a copy of her very own! Palmer Girl releases on September 29)
Just Mercy has been on my radar for a while, but it took me a long time to actually read it. For one thing, I’m not much of a non-fiction reader. I had also heard that it was a tough read, and I will admit that I am often very hesitant to read books with difficult subjects (not always the best course of action, but I’m working on that balance). However, I can now say that I am so, so glad I finally bought and read this book. In case you aren’t familiar with it (or recent film), in Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson tells the story of the beginnings of the Equal Justice Initiative and their work in criminal justice reform. Stevenson expertly uses stories and anecdotes to shine a light on pervasive problems in the criminal justice system, while weaving in statistics and facts to fill in the bigger picture. I realized that for me, the term “criminal justice reform” had become a political term with very little meaning, and Just Mercy helped me to understand a little better what it actually means (for example: not imprisoning people for mental illness, or not putting a 14 year old child into prison with adults). It’s sobering, powerful, and inspiring. And while there are definitely some very heartbreaking and painful stories to read in this book, I think it’s the kind of subject that’s important to not entirely turn away from. We can’t all do the kind of work that Bryan Stevenson does, but we can support organizations that do, and consider the subject when we vote. If nothing else, this book reminded me to have compassion, to be humble, and to not assume I know a person’s whole story.
What I’m watching…
Kim's Convenience on Netflix
This Canadian sit-com about a Korean family in Toronto is an absolute delight. The first handful of episodes are a little shaky, but once it hits its stride Kim’s Convenience is the best kind of comfort food TV, with funny and heartfelt stories about relationships, family, and regular, ordinary lives. Although the setting and set up are completely different, the tone and vibe remind me somewhat of The Middle.
What I’m listening to...
I’ve been wanting a record turntable for a while, and last month after encouragement from a friend, I got on Facebook marketplace and bought a used one. Needtobreathe’s new album Out of Body was my first new record purchase and it was a very solid choice because for whatever reason, part of the appeal of a record player is that it makes me want to savor whatever I’m playing on it, and this album is worth savoring. Current favorite tracks are: “Seasons”, “Survival”, and “Who Am I”.
Meet the Author…
In honor of her new release, here’s this month’s author interview with Dawn Klinge!
What is your favorite part of the writing process, and least favorite part of the writing process?
I write historical fiction so I need to do a lot of research. It’s definitely my favorite part, especially when I can visit the places I’m writing about. My least favorite is the final proofreading stage. Finding mistakes at the last minute, right before publishing can feel stressful--but of course, I know, perfection is impossible.
Where is someplace you feel most at home?
I love being in my own home just outside of Seattle. Canceled plans, an evening of cooking, dinner, and a movie in front of the t.v, or an afternoon puttering around in my garden are all things that make me happy.
Tell us about someone who has inspired you creatively?
Jaime Ford, the author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, inspires me in the way he uses real historical events, places, and people in his novels. When I began writing novels, I knew that I wanted my books to have a similar feel to them.
What kind of books do you gravitate towards in your own reading life?
I read a wide variety of genres: historical fiction, romantic suspense, contemporary romance, inspirational non-fiction...I love reading. Jan Karon’s Mitford series is my “comfort food.” I’ve read most of those more than once. Her characters feel like old friends.
What is your super power?
I’m a Jesus girl, so any superpower I have is Christ in me.
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatian 2:20
One of the best pieces of advice you've ever gotten?
I believe it was Emily P. Freeman who I heard this from first...a writer’s job is to pay attention. That really stuck with me, and I believe it goes straight to the core of what I believe is my calling. I do my best to pay attention to this beautiful gift of life, and then describe what I see.
Bio: A graduate of the University of Idaho with a degree in elementary education, Dawn Klinge began writing online in 2005. She’s a Pacific Northwest native who loves a rainy day, a hot cup of coffee, and a good book to get lost in. This wife and mom to two young adults is often inspired by true personal and historical accounts. Dawn is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association.