Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor by Melanie Dobson
Susan says: Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, by Melanie Dobson, was the book I chose to read this month. Becky gave it to me right after she read it last year, but I just hadn't picked it up yet. The story line moves through four generations of a family, jumping from one era to another and back again. It was not difficult to follow, and I loved how the author unveiled the plot slowly through the the words and actions of characters that I really cared about.
The book begins as a young woman accepts the proposal of marriage from a man who has long loved her but whom she has earlier rejected. She is pregnant with another man's child at the time of their marriage, but hides that fact from her new husband until the truth is discovered. Their marriage, based on a lie, is the shaky foundation for the generations to follow.
The book powerfully shows how lies and deceit impact their family. Some of the same behaviors repeat, and a tragedy occurs. But I LOVE how God is shown to redeem even the awful events to bring beauty from ashes!
I wholeheartedly recommend this book and will look forward to reading more of Melanie Dobson's writing. 4.5 stars.
The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
The Blue Castle is the story of Valancy Stirling, a woman who lives with her mother and a cousin. She has a very large extended family, and led by her uncle Benjamin, and the Stirlings are prone to grudges and snobbery--their Anne counterparts would be the Pringles. Actually, Valancy reminds me of Pauline Harris from Anne of Avonlea (the movie), who was based upon Pauline Gibson from Anne of Windy Poplars. Like Pauline, Valancy was a lesser member of a judgmental family, she was single to the point of being an old maid, and she cared for a very demanding mother.
Anne connections aside, The Blue Castle is a very intriguing novel. Valancy's story really begins after she visits a doctor on her 29th birthday (unbeknownst to anyone in her family) due to some disturbing health problems. The doctor is called away on an emergency immediately following her examination, but he writes her a letter telling her she has a fatal heart problem and will die within the year. At this point, Valancy decides she's had enough of being "Doss" (her family's condescending nickname for her) and wants to truly live. She takes a job caring for an ill school friend and gets to know Barney Snaith, the local recluse and subject of many rumors. As time goes on, romance blossoms ... sort of.
This really is an unusual romance, as it's more about Valancy finding herself than about her finding true love, and the interactions between Valancy and Barney are seldom romantic. I definitely wasn't dying for Valancy and Barney to declare their love, but I was very interested in where the story would take them. While there are a couple twists that I saw coming a mile away, one took me completely by surprise--and made me laugh out loud!
While I wouldn't say The Blue Castle is on the level of the Anne books, I am glad that I read it--and I would really enjoy seeing it made into a film. 4 stars.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
The book centers on the disappearance of Lydia Lee, a half-white, half-Chinese teenager in small-town Ohio in 1977. The reader knows from page 1 that Lydia is dead. It’s literally in the first sentence of the book. What the reader doesn’t know is what happened to her – was she murdered? Did she commit suicide? And what led to the circumstances surrounding her disappearance? But in order to get those answers, Ng uses flashbacks to take the reader through a fascinating history of the Lee family. It’s a heartbreaking look at why each member of the family felt so acutely “other” – in both the community at large, in which Asian Americans were still a rarity, and within the immediate family circle.
Ng does a wonderful job of developing each of her characters so well that I found my heart aching for each of them while simultaneously disagreeing with the choices that they made.
For me, the most beneficial aspect of this book (aside from being a completely compelling read) was that it allowed me to glimpse what life was like as a person in the racial minority. As a white, middle-class woman, it’s so valuable and necessary for me to read books that help me see what minorities deal with in terms of prejudice, injustice, and the daily challenges faced.
I would strongly recommend this book to certain readers. There is some objectionable content (some sexual), and some mature themes that I wouldn’t want a young teen tackling. But overall, I would give it 4.5 (out of 5) stars.
Everyday Grace by Jessica Thompson
Steph says: Everyday Grace by Jessica Thompson is a book that I purchased a few months ago and had been meaning to read. I officially found my new favorite way to read nonfiction books: over my lunch hour while eating Chik-fil-a. Why, you ask? I have three solid reasons for you: 1) they have booths and I love to sit in a booth 2) their chicken sandwiches are delicious and 3) they have fresh flowers on the table ALWAYS. I like reading by pretty things….or with coffee…but my lunch break is when I could find time to read this month.
Everyday Grace is about infusing all of your relationships with the love of Jesus. The main point of the book is that the more you understand the Love and Grace of God, the more you can extend love and grace to those around you. Jessica Thompson is very clear that there is no one-size-fits-all for relationships because every person has their own issues, struggles, and history. What works in one relationship won’t necessarily carry over to another. But what is universal for all relationships is that everyone is broken and everyone will fail. We have to reset our expectations because no one is perfect. The only person who will never let you down is Jesus. When we remember our own brokenness and the grace that God shows us despite our failings, we can show grace to others when they fail and grace to ourselves when we fail. The more you understand love the more you can show love. This book echoed something that I have been working through on my own—if you learn to love well, other things will fall in place. But learning to love well means understanding how you are loved by your Abba Father. I was so excited to see Jessica quote my favorite sections of verses for this season in my life.
Ephesians 3:14-21 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.Thompson makes the comment after this verse that “Paul doesn’t pray that the Ephesians would get their act together; he prays that they would somehow be able to comprehend the incomprehensible love of God in Christ.” While there are so many other nuggets of truth in this book, this one resounded the most with me because it has been occupying my thoughts for some time now. The more I have understood the height, depth, length, and width of my Abba’s love the more grace and love I can extend.
I really enjoyed this book and have been talking about it with a few of the kids that I work with at youth group. I would recommend it for any woman that wants to look at what they can do on their end to improve relationships. Guys could read it to, but it’s written to women in particular so not everything will translate. 4 stars.
If you've read any of these books, we'd love to know your thoughts! Be sure to join us again next month when we'll be talking about books we've previously abandoned.