The last 30 days have been jam-packed for us. We moved, including packing and all that entails. I started an affordable print shop on Etsy. And my son began an FDA nutritional supplement study for autistic children with digestive trouble.
All that doesn’t leave much time for serious reading. This month’s list includes a NYT bestseller, 2 Christian new releases, and a sci-fi thriller. Here are short reviews of books I read in May.
All The Light We Cannot See ★★★★
I got on the library wait list for this bestseller ages ago. Normally I don’t read WWII fiction. A degree in German means I can’t willfully suspend my disbelief and read about Nazis for “fun.” But I’m glad I made an exception for this one.
The story doesn’t follow the typical characters in a WWII novel. Instead, it focuses tightly on a young German orphan and a blind French girl in the years before and during the war. Werner is lifted out of his impoverished orphanage into a school for the Reich’s elite boys, where he finds poverty of a different kind. Marie-Laure and her father flee Paris with a mystical treasure, which starts a cascade of problems for their tiny family. The plot is interesting, but the prose makes the book.
Doerr’s writing is like an antique curio, packed with many, tiny, jeweled objets d’art. He describes the tubes and wires in a shortwave radio with the same exacting splendor as he describes the 40,000 neatly-packed drawers of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.
The Devil Hates Latin ★★★★
From new author Katherine Galgano comes a faith-based action novel, which was a novel idea for me. An American mogul moves his family to Rome following a legal scandal. A young Italian woman faces an unwanted pregnancy with her hedonistic married lover. A corrupt order of priests initiates a bidding war against a benevolent society of young nuns. A war that ends in death.
Galgano’s love of beauty and goodness shines. I’ve never been to Italy, but I could feel myself in the bustle of dying Rome, and the ancient pastoral grandeur of the Tuscan countryside. The deeply charming Italian family setting embraces and draws you in. You feel allied to the kindly nuns, the silently reliable fathers who have forgotten their own strength, and the courageous youth willing to follow God’s call.
There are flaws in this debut novel. The book starts slow, with lectures on societal ills. Characters are a little too neatly divided into good and bad. But on the whole, it’s a book I’d recommend to Catholic friends and family.
The Benedict Option ★★★★★
The book is worth reading for the history of Western thought alone. Our anthropology, our understanding of who man is and what he then ought to do, has been totally removed from the early Church’s understanding. The Benedict Option is about rediscovering our purpose, living a life committed to Christ, and engaging the community of believers.
Almost every negative review I read –It’s about shutting your family in a cave, it’s fear-based hysterical rhetoric- was completely refuted by actually reading the book. As a young woman quoted in the book so aptly puts it: “It’s just the church being what the church is supposed to be, but if you give it a name, that makes people care.”
Pandemic (The Extinction Files Book 1) ★★★
Last year I read, and mostly enjoyed, AG Riddle’s massive Atlantis trilogy. This book, the start of a new series, is much better. It’s less needlessly long in parts. The plot is tighter. But the most appreciable improvement is the character development. He’s matured as an author.
My one caveat, and it’s a big ‘un, is that I didn’t believe in self-plagiarism until I read this book. Until perhaps 70% through, I thought the book was a parallel novel to his Atlantis series. I don’t know that I’ll read the later books as they come out. But if you’re wondering whether to read Riddle’s Atlantis series or the new Extinction Files series, I’d recommend the latter every time.
Linking up to Quick Lit with Modern Mrs. Darcy. What have you been reading lately?
Loved All the Light We Cannot See. “Doerr’s writing is like an antique curio” – exactly!! You nailed it. The richness of his descriptions is such a delight.
I’m reading The Benedict Option now, and I can’t say I’m loving the tone, but I do agree with many of his points. As part of a vibrant church community that’s actively influencing the culture of our city, it’s hard for me to feel that things are quite as bleak as he makes them out to be. But I also don’t spend a lot of time watching the news these days… At any rate I love the details about Benedict and his time period.
I just finished Wired for Love by Stan Tatkin which is my new favorite book on relationships.
It sounds like you’re blessed to be part of a vibrant faith community already, Aimee!
Reading the news makes my heart hurt. ? I’m on an info fast right now, because it’s just too much.
I’ve heard that about the Benedict Option, too – people make a big fuss about what they *think* it is without actually reading it!
I loved All the Light…one of my favorites of 2017. I hope the study goes well. I have two young adult sons on the spectrum. Pam
I loved your explanation of Doerr’s writing!! I LOVED that book!!