A Song of Home: Book Review

This past October I met Susie Finkbeiner at the Breathe Conference for writers. I went to her session on dialogue and picked up helpful tips for my writing. I learned that Susie writes historical fiction. When given the opportunity to be on her launch team for A Song of Home, I signed up. It is the third book in the Pearl Spence series. Having finished this book, I will go back and read the first two.

A Song of Home

The book is set in 1935. Pearl’s family has moved from the dust bowl of Oklahoma to Michigan. Pearl is a thoughtful girl, eleven years old. Through her eyes we see the complex troubles in her home and town. Her relationship with her mother has painful wounds.

Will Bliss, Michigan ever feel like home? She attends school and church, but has deep distress over her mother’s choices. She is a reader and finds comfort in the local library. Stories linger in her mind; her musings about life are touching.

Opal Moon brings some order to the Spence household. She offers friendship to Pearl and gives her an outlet for her energy. With music streaming from the radio, Opal teaches Pearl the new dance steps. (I learned about the Swing Era.)

Other women provide guidance for Pearl.   Aunt  Carrie  is  a  rock  of  stability. Mrs. Trask, the librarian, has a gentle kindness. Meemaw isn’t physically present, but her words of wisdom come back to Pearl. Pearl makes a connection between lessons from the Bible and events taking place in her life.

A Song of Home is a well-crafted story of love, forgiveness and hope.

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Meeting Life’s Challenges

In the past few weeks I have read a couple of books about women overcoming difficulties in life. Sue Detweiler’s book is about the value of prayer. My review of Women Who Move Mountains is here.

Mountain View

Kristina Cowan wrote about birth trauma and post partum depression. She has included research as well as her experience as a woman of faith walking through this most difficult time. The number of women experiencing birth trauma seems to be rising. My review of When Post Partum Packs a Punch is here.

When Postpartum Packs a Punch

Currently I am reading Redeeming the Feminine Soul: God’s Surprising Vision for Womanhood. Our culture has so many mixed and confusing messages about sexuality. The author takes us through her own misconceptions and what she has learned. How do we recognize error? How do we guide the young women in our area of influence?

Julie Roys’ book is thought provoking and worthy of discussion. When I have finished the book I will write a review.

Every season of life has challenges. We can be victorious through prayer, study of God’s word and thoughtful discussion in the community of believers.

This post is linked to Five Minute Friday. Every Friday Kate Motaung gives a word prompt. And then we write for five minutes. Today’s prompt is OVERCOME.  Visit this writing community by clicking here.

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When Postpartum Packs a Punch: Book Review

As a former labor/delivery nurse and Lamaze instructor, I am an advocate for prepared childbirth. Women need information and guidance as they make choices about childbirth care. They need to know what to expect.

But in the preparation for childbirth, the postpartum time period may be given brief attention. Women benefit from knowing what to expect in the weeks following childbirth. According to research cited in the book, When Postpartum Packs a Punch, the range of women experiencing post partum depression is 12% to 25%.

When Postpartum Packs a Punch

 

As I read through the book I found the author’s observations consistent with my own as a nurse. Ms. Cowan tells her experience of postpartum depression, along with the stories of women that she has interviewed. She provides a discussion of treatment options. She explains the way her faith in God guided her.

Like the author I have experienced help and healing by trusting God when experiencing suffering. I believe that God helps us grow when we turn to him.

Inspirational quotes appear throughout the book. The tone of the book is hopeful, pointing to healing. Women experiencing depression and the people that support them can find help in this book. The book can also provide a greater awareness of the needs of women in the weeks following childbirth.

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Book Review: Women Who Move Mountains

The title of the book drew my attention. Women Who Move Mountains: praying with confidence, boldness and grace. Prayer has been a central part of my life. I was curious about Sue Detweiler’s perspective.

The first chapter is titled I Believe: Transforming Fear into Faith.  The  author tells her own story of a fearful event that became a foundation for faith. She expresses a theme of the book with these encouraging words: Coming toward the light of Jesus will bring peace to your heart and mind. You don’t have to have everything figured out. You just need to know the One who holds the world together–Jesus!

Several chapters give examples of the brokenness caused by sexual abuse and/or abortion.  Tragic relationships and the abuse of  women  occurred in Bible times. And still happens. Detweiler records the stories of women.

The Bible gives guidance for help and healing. Detweiler refers to the woman with the alabaster flask (Luke 7: 36-50) in chapter five. This woman, a known sinner, washes Jesus feet with her tears and anoints him with a valuable perfume. The men that are with Jesus are outraged because she touches Jesus. Jesus defends the woman. He proclaims that her sins are forgiven. He does not judge her; he heals her.

Other areas of brokenness that are addressed in the book include perfectionism, anxiety, pride, shame and sadness. Jesus knows the situations that we as women face. Our Savior offers forgiveness and healing. We are all broken in different ways.   We may try to fix the problem  with   limited success. Detweiler provides scripture to show that healing and fulfillment comes through a relationship with the Savior.

Like Rhonda in chapter 19, I have lost a son. My story is similar because I continued to pray, to talk with God.    Through prayer I received  God’s  answer to my pain and loss. I have found peace. Our family has been blessed with a growing faith in God’s love for us.

The chapters of the book alternate between the stories of women and a study outline for overcoming difficult issues. The odd number include lessons from biblical women. The even number chapters provide a study sheet that can be worked through individually or with a group.

In addition to praying for healing the book provides guidance for praying with grace, humility and boldness. The Bible verses for guidance are well chosen. Like Sue Detweiler I believe that prayer is vitally important.

Part two of the book is organized into 21 days of reflection and prayer. If you are seeking a a deeper relationship with God, if you want to improve your prayer life, you will appreciate the guidance in this book.

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Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule: Book Review

History provides lessons that we can learn from. The Civil War years in our country were a time of great division. Jennifer Chiaverini has written several historical novels set in this time period. I found the book about Julia and Ulysses Grant to be especially interesting.

My knowledge of our eighteenth president was limited. I knew that Grant had been a general in the Union army during the Civil War. I didn’t know that he was a devoted family man.

Chiaverini’s novel, Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule, paints a picture of the Grant family throughout the Civil War and a brief summary of the years at the Whitehouse. It was fascinating to learn more about the southern belle married to a northern abolitionist.

Mrs. Grant actually kept a slave through the beginning of the Civil War, even though her husband was against it. That their marriage survived and their devotion to each other continued to grow, I found inspiring.

Chiaverini did extensive research for this book. The list of resources is long and includes the memoirs written by Julia Dent Grant and her husband Ulysses S. Grant. Julia and Ulysses had a strong and loving marriage. They endured family disapproval when they married. Julia learned to adjust to military life during the Civil War, and then thrived as First Lady through Grant’s two terms as president.

Following the years at the White House, the Grants had financial challenges. It was interesting to learn that Mark Twain was a family friend and had a significant role in the publication of Grant’s memoirs.

As I read through this novel I was reminded that our country has been through many tumultuous times. Our leaders are human, subject to error.

In the book two former slaves (fictional characters) comment about Julia and Ulysses Grant: “He wasn’t a perfect man or a perfect president, but he was a loving father and a devoted husband . . . We’re all sinners in need of the Lord’s redemptive grace and forgiveness . . . General Grant and his wife too.” *

We have a great need to pray for our leaders.

I’m sharing this post with Literacy Musing Monday .

* Jennifer Chiaverini, Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule, New York: Penguin Random House Company, 2015, p. 357.

Three Courageous Nurses

Several nurses have made their mark on history. It is inspiring to read about their lives. Florence Nightingale felt called to a life of service and pursued nursing against the wishes of her family. When Britain entered the Crimean War, she went to Crimea. She passionately worked for the proper care of wounded soldiers, recognizing the need for sanitary conditions, basic nursing care and adequate nutrition. Cecil Woodham Smith is the author of a detailed biography of Florence Nightingale*.

Florence Nightingale
Portrait of Florence Nightingale by Evert Duyckinick

Sixty years later another nurse would have an impact during wartime. Edith Cavell   was directing a rapidly expanding nursing school  and  clinic in Brussels when WWI broke out. Edith was a woman of deep faith. She was dedicated to treating soldiers on both sides of the conflict. She was also a part of a network that allowed French and English soldiers to escape from German capture.

Courtesy of Wellcome-Library, London

The Story of Edith Cavell** is part of a series of Signature Books written about famous men and women. The author, Iris Winton, begins the book with a description of Edith’s childhood. She was the daughter of a vicar in Swardeston, England. Following her education in boarding schools, she became a governess. She returned home to be the caregiver for her father’s illness, and then chose to pursue nursing. The story is told gently but honestly, following the actual events in Edith’s life.   It concludes with the  trial  and  execution of Edith. The book is meant for school age children, but would benefit from parental guidance.

Previously I reviewed a book about an Israeli nurse-midwife, Raquela Levy.   Raquela provided midwife care to Jewish  refugees  arriving  in  Israel following WWII. You can read my review here.

I have also been reading mystery books about a fictional nurse, Bess Crawford. The novels are set in England and France during WWI. Bess provides surgical assistance and nursing care at the front. She is strong, determined to follow through difficulties for the sake of her patients. She heroically enters complex situations and brings resolution to mysterious events. The next book in the series, and on my list to read, is An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd.***

Bess is a fictional heroine.   Florence Nightingale,  Edith Cavell  and Raquela are real heroines. I recommend the biographies for girls and young women.  It is inspiring to learn about courageous women with an influence for good.

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*Cecil Woodham-Smith, Florence Nightingale, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1951.

**Iris Winton, The Story of Edith Cavell, New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1959.

*** Charles Todd, An Impartial Witness, New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2010.

Thankful for Good Books During a Hospital Stay

There is a kind of comradery on the hospital elevator. I recognize the tension on the faces of men and women. We make a little conversation about the weather. Then we smile and wish each other a good day as we exit the elevator.

For almost two weeks I have made the daily trip to sit at the bedside of my brother. My role is simple. I answer questions and advocate for him. My brother doesn’t talk much, so I have had lots of time to read.

The Best of A. W. Tozer, a collection of excerpts from his books, is inspiring. The book was compiled by Warren Wiersbe. The first chapter, Following Hard After God, is from The Pursuit of God. I have been reading a chapter each day.

A dear friend loaned me some books by Sandra Dallas.   I thoroughly   enjoyed Prayers for Sale.   It is a novel about two women—one in her   eighties and the other in her late teens. The story is set in a mining town in Colorado, in the 1930s. The importance of women’s friendship is the underlying theme. Forgiveness and redemption are also a part of the story.

I borrowed Night by Elie Wiesel from my sister.  The book is the true    story of Elie’s survival in a Nazi concentration camp. His father died in the camp a few months before liberation took place. It is a heart wrenching story, but so instructive.

In his book Wiesel documents the warning that was given to his town by a man that had escaped from the death camps. No one believed the man. They couldn’t fathom it. They discarded the plea that he made for them to flee.

I wonder if there are warning signs today that are considered beyond belief. Independent researchers, some doctors and parents are raising the alarm over vaccine injury. The number of vaccines given to a young child has steadily increased with more being planned.

No one wants to believe that vaccines could have a negative impact on health. Yet, the pharmaceuticals have no liability for vaccine injury. The National Vaccine Information Center is a good resource for parents that want to be well informed.

My sister has some books by Dorothy Sayers. I love a good mystery so in the evenings I read Strong Poison. The main character, Lord Peter Wimsey, is quite taken by a young author, Harriet Vane. She is accused of murder, and Lord Peter is determined to prove her innocence.

Do you have a favorite mystery writer? I’d love to read your comment.

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Raquela: Book Review

Flag of Israel

Raquela Levy’s family had lived in Palestine for nine generations. Did you know that Palestine, referring to Israel, is a name derived from Philistine? Historically the Philistines were enemies of Israel. Raquela was a nurse midwife during the final years of British rule in Palestine.

Ruth Gruber spent nine months with Raquela, gathering information and insights into the life of this remarkable woman. The resulting biography is a story of the babies born to holocaust survivors—and the birth of the nation of Israel. Raquela was sent to refugee camps as a midwife to minister to women that were refused entry into Palestine.

The vivid detail describes life in Israel during the war years: Israel’s War of Independence (1948), Six-Day War (1967) and Arab-Israeli War (1973). The book describes events through the experiences of Raquela and her family.

I could picture Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus,  the scene of       Raquela’s developing romance with Dr. Brzezinski. The description of the delivery room at the Hadassah Hospital reminded me my first        experiences as a labor & delivery nurse.

I could feel the sadness when Mount Scopus was lost to the Arabs of     Jordan. The hospital was lost, and Israel had to build a new medical     center.

Perhaps the most moving was the description of the ships filled with Jewish immigrants fleeing Europe. They were refused entry to Palestine by the British. One of the refugee camps that Raquela served at was on the Island of Cyprus.

I have a much better understanding of Israel’s modern history from reading this book. The book engaged me—it was hard to put it down.

* Ruth Gruber, Raquela: A Woman of Israel, New York; Open Road Integrated Media. 1978.

Linking with Christian Blogger link-upSeasons, Literacy Musing Monday,  Booknificent Thursday and Thought Provoking Thursday

The Passionate Work of Lilias Trotter and Margaret Sanger

Recently I completed reading books about two women that demonstrated different kinds of passion. I have read the Autobiography of Margaret Sanger, followed by A Passion for the Impossible: The Life of Lilias Trotter. The lives of these two women had some similarities and some great contrasts.

Lilias Trotter & Margaret Sanger

Both women came from large families, though Lilias Trotter (1853–1928) had more nurture and resources as a child,  growing up in      England. Margaret Sanger was born in New York and lived her later years in Arizona (1879–1966). Each eventually became involved with social causes.

Lilias attended Christian conferences, taught a Bible Class at the Welbeck Street Institue (which offered a hostel for young women), and opened her own home to provide social hours for working women.

Margaret Sanger was one of eleven children and when her mother died at the age of 48 she had to take on many responsibilities. Eventually she left home, went through nurses’ training and did home visits for maternity care. She saw difficult situations that poor women faced.

As Lilia continued her outreach to young women she was also developing her skill as an artist. She was invited to spend time polishing her gift under the guidance of John Ruskin.

Margaret left nursing, married Bill Sanger, an architect and artist. The couple faced challenges—Margaret’s treatment for tuberculosis, the loss of a home to fire. They had three children. When they settled in an apartment they became involved with radical groups. Margaret writes  “Our living room became a gathering place where liberals,    anarchists, Socialists and I.W.W.’s could meet.”*

Lilias’ passion was to bring the message of the gospel to people by      living with them and loving them. Although she was a gifted artist, encouraged by John Ruskin to devote herself to art, she chose to establish a mission in Algiers.

Margaret’s passion was to relieve the suffering of poor women by making birth control available. She left her husband and young children to travel the world, researching the topic of overpopulation. As she pursued contraception she joined forces with people promoting eugenics.

The difference that I see in these two women is this. One was devoted to prayer and loving service; the other was out to solve human problems through her own intellect and effort.

As I consider the initial goal that Margaret Sanger had, I am saddened. Did she improve the status of poor women? Our culture has become dependent on contraceptives. Are marriages more stable? Are women better off?

Forty per cent of births in the U.S. are to single mothers. (See statistics from the CDC).

What was the impact of Lilias Trotter’s work? She  wrote about legacy in a book, Parables of the Cross. “The results need not end with our earthly days. Should Jesus tarry our works will follow us . . . God may use, by reason of the wonderful solidarity of His Church, the things that He has wrought in us, for the blessing of souls unknown to us.”**

Here is the link to an interesting article about the focus in Lilias’ life (written by the author of the biography).

*The Autobiography of Margaret Sanger,  Dover Publications, Inc. :     Mineola, New York. 1971. p. 70

**Miriam Huffman Rockness, A Passion for the Impossible: The Life of Lilias Trotter, Discovery House Publishers: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2003. p. 325.

Linking with Literacy Musing Monday,  Grace & Truth, Friendship Friday and Booknificent Thursday

Review of Latest Mitford Book

Clouds over Farm

As we drove across the plains of northern Texas we were listening to a book on CDs. John McDough was bringing the characters in Come Rain or Come Shine to life. The book, written by Jan Karon, is the latest in the Mitford series.

I have read all the books in the Mitford series, but I don’t think it is necessary in order to enjoy this one. My husband followed the story with as much enjoyment  he can acknowledge in a fiction book. (He is an engineer! lol) Of course I have gotten to know the characters and know their histories.

As puffy white clouds rolled across the blue sky, my husband and I listened to the wedding plans of Lace Harper and Dooley Cavanaugh. We passed scenes of cattle grazing, and listened to the description of Meadowgate Farm. Dooley was setting up his veterinary practice there. We could envision the heifers that Dooley was purchasing.     Husband took note of the bull, Choo Choo.

Covenant of marriage

As wedding plans move forward the event is definitely a community project. Dooley and Lace have loving friends. I enjoyed the give and take, between people with varied backgrounds and  experiences. Each character is unique and brings color to the story.

Father Tim, a retired Episcopal priest,  has memorable words throughout. I was pleased to hear the term, covenant of marriage, in dialogue.

The perspective on marriage is thoughtful, holy and realistic.

The simple wedding turns out to have a variety of complications–like most weddings.  It is a celebration of marriage and family and a child. It is a great read—or if you are going to travel, a great story on CD.

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Linking with Cozy Reading SpotLiteracy Musing Monday, The Art of Homemaking,  Booknificent Thursday and Friendship Friday