Sunday, March 21, 2010

"Amish Grace" by Donald D. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, and David L. Weaver-Zercher



In October of 2006 a man entered an Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania and shot ten schoolgirls, killing five and injuring five, before turning the gun on himself. While this horrific act shocked and horrified people around the world, what happened in the days after truly stunned the outside world. The Amish people of Nickel Mines forgave the shooter and his family.

People were stunned at the compassionate response of the Amish community. Forgiveness is a difficult concept for many people, especially in the face of tragedy. Why were the Amish so quick to forgive and why did it come so naturally to them?

Amish Grace answers these questions by looking at forgiveness through the context of the Nickel Mines incident. The book provides a historical background, the way in which the Amish community functions and the Biblical basis for forgiveness. From the Amish perspective it looks at the roots, habit, spirituality and practice of forgiveness.

The book provides stunning insight into a people who at first glance seem backwards and countercultural. It looks beyond the stereotypes and into peoples daily lives to understand who they really are and how their faith influences every part of their lives. It takes time out of our busy and often self-centered world to show us an alternative way of life. And it shows us how we all can learn from the Amish way of life and extend grace and forgiveness in our own lives.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"The Bag Lady Papers" by Alexandra Penney


Alexandra Penney has always had a deep fear of becoming a bag lady and has lived her life accordingly. Working as a fish-monger, editor of Self Magazine and everything in between she has always worried that everything would come crashing down and she would lose all she had.

In December of 2008 that is exactly what happened. She had invested every penny she had ever saved with Bernie Madoff, and lost it all. The Bag Lady Papers is her story of losing it all and the road to recovery.

The book is based on a blog that Penney wrote for The Daily Beast and it definitely has a blog feeling to it. It is a quick read but is not light on material. Penney is honest about her fears, anger and determination both before and after the Madoff scandal. One great thing about her book is she honest about understanding that people may not feel sorry for her as she lived a life of luxury that many will never know. She also writes of knowing that she will always be able to find something to fall back on, unlike the seniors who lost of all their retirement money to Madoff.

The Bag Lady Papers is a great story of how a person can pick themselves up after experiencing the one thing they have feared most and make the most of their new normal.

Friday, March 12, 2010

"Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History" by David Aaronovitch


It seems as though wherever there is a major event in history there is a conspiracy theory. From assassinations to wars and even space exploration, there are many who will argue that the explanation we have been given is not the truth.

In Voodoo Histories, David Aaronovitch probes various conspiracy theories, their origins, why people believe them and where the truth actually lies. Among the theories covered in his book are the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the assassination of JFK, the deaths of Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana, 9/11 and the Birther movement.

This book is heavy reading. Aaronovitch takes an in depth look at the history, players and journalism behind the conspiracy theories that are pervasive in today's world. Whether you believe in them or cannot understand why others believe in them, you will be fascinated by how actual events can be manipulated to make people believe that things are never as they seem.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"Not My Daughter" by Barbara Delinsky


When three teenaged girls form a pregnancy pact they think the addition of babies will make their lives perfect. The actual results are completely different.

When the town finds out what has happened everyone begins to talk. How could this happen? How could their mothers let this happen? When it is found out that one of the girls is the daughter of the high school principal more talk occurs. How can she continue to be the principal of the high school when she can't even parent her own child?

The mothers of the girls are just as hard on themselves. Where did they go wrong? Was this their fault? Do they support the girls? The young girls begin to question how something that seemed so right can go so wrong.

Not My Daughter examines the emotional ties between mothers and daughters when their relationships are put through a heartbreaking test. Barbara Delinksy perfectly captures the mother-daughter bond, small town politics and the struggle to love and forgive. She will have every mother asking, what if it were my daughter?

Monday, March 8, 2010

"I'm Perfect, You're Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah's Witness Upbringing" by Kyria Abrahams


I'm Perfect, You're Doomed is a funny look at Kyria Abraham's childhood as a Jehovah's Witness and her adult life as a disfellowshipped Witness. It is an honest tale of how life can be controlled by an organization, using religion and the fear of the end as a means to keep people in line.

Abrahams childhood was comprised of meetings, doorbell-ringing, and abstaining from pretty much everything else her schoolmates were involved in. But in her mind was always the thought that when the apocalypse came she and her family would be saved, while everyone in the world would not.

Then at the age of 18, she found herself disfellowshipped from the Witnesses and for the first time, partaking in the world she was always warned away from. Though it was a struggle at first she came to find that what she had learned growing up wasn't quite the truth.

This book is an honest look at growing up as a Jehovah's Witness, and what it means to question everything you grew up believing. Abrahams recounts her childhood with humour and while she is not harsh towards the Witnesses, she sheds light on how a controlling religious organization can affect children, families and relationships.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

"Beautiful Things Happen When A Woman Trusts God" by Sheila Walsh


Drawing on her own experience of battling depression and dealing with life once it has come crashing down, Sheila Walsh aims to show women that when we trust in God, our circumstances can change in amazing ways. Using ten people from the Bible who have been transformed through trusting God, she shows that no matter what the situation, God is always asking us to just follow Him.

Sheila is very honest and transparent in recounting her struggles with putting her complete trust in God. The individual chapters looking at a different person are great character studies and can definitely be inspiring to those who are at a difficult point in their lives and need a reminder why it is important to trust God.

Unfortunately, I had difficulty reading through the book as a whole. When I began to treat it as character studies and focus on a different chapter/person each day, I had much more success in understanding how these stories were important for my own relationship with God.

I would recommend this book for people who are having difficulty trusting in God through the situation they are in. There is definite inspiration in this book and many reminders that when we trust God, He will take care of us.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program.