Book Review

O’Brien’s Latest Novel: The Lighthouse

Michael O’ Brien, Catholic Author Extraordinaire, has recently published a new novel, The Lighthouse, through Ignatius Press.

Here it is.

My copy came in the mail last Monday. I finished reading it Tuesday night. Yes, it was that good, and yes, it was rather short for him–only 199 pages. In truth, that was my one disappointment. I was hoping for a whale of an epic, something along the lines of Voyage to Alpha Centauri or A Father’s Tale. Alas, his last three novels have been on the shorter side–Elijah in Jerusalem, The Fool of New York City, and this one, The Lighthouse.

Length aside, The Lighthouse is a moving tale of the life of Ethan McQuarry, a young lighthouse keeper with a wounded past. Just like his other novels, we get a good dose of sin, evil, loneliness, holiness, and redemption. Unlike most of his other novels, the evil is not expressly tangible, as say in Sophia House or Island of the World. You Michael O’Brien readers out there will know what I’m talking about. One is not made to read through truly horrific evil acts. And because of that, The Lighthouse seems, well, lighter, even with its tragic but redemptive ending.

Those of you who have never picked up an O’Brien novel, this might be a good place to start. Those of you who can’t seem to put O’Brien novels down, this book won’t disappoint you.

Happy Reading!

Book Review

Book Review: Dorothy Sayers’s Strong Poison

First of all, a business note:  I’ll be on vacation for a few days.  Deo gratias.

Secondly, with sigh, the area around Paul’s spinal catheter is beginning to swell again.  If you think of it, remember him in your prayers.  It would appear to be only a matter of time before he’s in surgery once again.   Fiat mihi secundum verbum.

And now for delightful Summer Reads…

After finishing Dorothy Sayers’s Gaudy Night and loving it, of course I would immediately want to read Strong Poison (and Busman’s Honeymoon.)

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Gaudy Night could be my favorite book of the year.

Now, if you haven’t read Gaudy Night, quit reading this blog post right now and go read that.  Then come back to this post to see if Strong Poison is for you, because I have One Big Qualm with it.

Strong Poison

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This book is naturally going to be interesting to those who have read Gaudy Night, as it’s the backstory of Harriet Vane’s infamous trial, as she’s accused of poisoning and killing her then live-in boyfriend, Philip Boyes.  This trial and Vane’s immoral history are alluded to several times in Gaudy Night.  It was rather informative, therefore, to actually read about it.

Perhaps I should have mentioned that Sayers wrote Strong Poison first, then Gaudy Night?  But I’m not sure reading them in that order would be captivating, for I think Strong Poison isn’t as good.  Certainly I love Sayers’s wit, and the glimpses of immature Lord Peter Wimsey falling hard for Vane are so enduring, but as I mentioned above, I have One Big Qualm with this book.

My problem is that Miss Climpson, an undercover employee of Wimsey’s, decides to play the part of a soothsayer or a spiritualist in order to obtain information to free the innocent Vane from prison and the death sentence.  By doing this, Climpson leads multiple false seances, pretending to invoke the dead, while also manipulating an Ouija Board.

Now this is a Bad Idea; it’s downright dangerous.  This is the world of the demonic–just ask any exorcist.  In fact, these kinds of behaviors open one to demonic oppression or possession.  One would want to stay as far away from such things as possible.

To be fair, Miss Climpson does voice her concerns, and it would appear that her conscience does bother her, but in the end, she goes through with it.  One could maybe conclude that while Sayers doesn’t like the practice of deception to reach into this evil world of spirits, she too, however, would be willing to go through with it?  I don’t know.

But I do know that that chapter alone is the reason why I couldn’t recommend this book to anybody who does not understand the seriousness of the matter.  Let me repeat myself–only a mature reader ought to read this book.

Strong Poison otherwise was a delightful read.  One gets a clearer picture of Vane’s transformation from a girl willing to practice “free love” to a woman beginning to realize the foolishness and shallowness of such behavior.  In the end, Vane wants something more, but needs time to heal, which Lord Peter Wimsey just doesn’t understand until Gaudy Night.  

So, what am I bringing on vacation to read?

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Busman’s Honeymoon, naturally, as it follows Gaudy Night.  I’ve started it already and have had to force myself to put it down, or I won’t have anything worthy to read on the beach.  I hope to write a few words on it later next week or so.

Book Review

Books in Brief: Van Stockum, Speare, Undset, & de Trevino

You’d think that during this Communist Lock-Down, I’d have lots of time to write blog posts.  Alas, if it were only so!  As it is, I find it very difficult to actually sit down at the computer and remain undisturbed for even 2 minutes to write.

Just now, typing that above paragraph, I had three different girls wanting my attention.  “Mom, can we have crackers for our Dolly Picnic?”  And, “Mom, it’s wet outside.”  And finally, the third girl just came in and stared at me.

This is why, back in the good old days, I used to pack up my laptop, drive to a coffeeshop, and peck away with a hot cappuccino and no children in sight.  (Bless their souls; they are so cute.)

But I digress.  Today’s topic is books, and I intend to offer a few lovely ones that we’ve enjoyed lately.  My apologies if my descriptions and explanations are a bit brief–please refer back to the beginning of this essay.

The Bantry Bay Series by Hilda van Stockum

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Lately I’ve been reading Hilda van Stockum’s Bantry Bay Series as our afternoon read aloud.  These books are published through Bethlehem Books.

As I’m only halfway into the second book of three, I suppose I can only speak from what I’ve read, but they’re excellent.  They’re set in Ireland around the turn of the 20th century and follow the story of a rural family.

All of our children are enjoying this series.  Even our eldest, age 13, leaves her homework and slips into the living room to listen to my terrible Irish accent.  (If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly, right?)

I especially appreciate the glorious innocence of the time period.

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare

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We listened to this book via Audible during our lunchtime.  We also own it, however, so that once we began, the older children clamored for the hard copy.

This book is set around Jerusalem at the time of Christ and follows the life of Daniel bar Jamin.  He’s an eighteen-year-old boy caught up in revenge and plotting and spying and truth-seeking.  He’s full of anger and impetuous.  My boys love him.  I enjoy seeing the Gospels in a new light.

My little girls, however, are somewhat lost listening to it.  They could care less about a bunch of teenage boys ambushing Romans and all that.

Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

This book is a Masterpiece.  It’s my second time reading it, and I’m especially enjoying all those little things I missed before.  (And forgot about.)

That is the test of a good novel, by the way.  If you’re willing to reread a book, then it must be a good one, and you should own it.

I wish I had more time to write about this novel, but alas, I’ve already spent several minutes writing this, and the clock is ticking.  It’s only a matter of time before someone comes crying into this room.

My Heart Lies South: The Story of My Mexican Marriage by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino

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Now, if you need lighter fare, this is your book.  I’ve got the “Young People’s Edition,” whatever that means.  I’m actually reading it to see how suitable it would be for my 13-year-old.  I’m not finished with it yet, but I’m enjoying all the quaint references to a world now long gone.  It’s set in Monterrey and follows the life of a young journalist in the 1930s who finds herself married to Mexican.

It’s fun, so far.

And Lastly…

If you’re looking for a good homily, I can’t recommend my priest enough.  He’s a warrior for the faith.  Last Saturday he delivered yet another dynamite homily.  Click HERE for it and scroll ahead to 30:03.

I was very glad to be present at this private Mass with all the children.  (My husband was acting as MC and serving.)  It’s important for them to see clearly what’s happening in the Church.

In this particular homily our priest examines Ratzinger’s 1969 prophecy that the Church would become small.  I’ll post a couple paragraphs from Ratzinger–later Pope Benedict XVI–below.  The whole thing can be purchased in book form from Amazon or Ignatius Press.  It’s chilling, it’s true, and we’re living this now.

1969 Prophecy of Fr. Ratzinger

“What will remain is the Church of Jesus Christ, the Church that believes in the God who has become man and promises us life beyond death. The kind of priest who is no more than a social worker can be replaced by the psychotherapist and other specialists; but the priest who is no specialist, who does not stand on the [sidelines], watching the game, giving official advice, but in the name of God places himself at the disposal of man, who is beside them in their sorrows, in their joys, in their hope and in their fear, such a priest will certainly be needed in the future.
Let us go a step farther. From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge — a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so it will lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, it will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision. As a small society, it will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members. Undoubtedly it will discover new forms of ministry and will ordain to the priesthood approved Christians who pursue some profession. In many smaller congregations or in self-contained social groups, pastoral care will normally be provided in this fashion. Along-side this, the full-time ministry of the priesthood will be indispensable as formerly. But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world. In faith and prayer she will again recognize the sacraments as the worship of God and not as a subject for liturgical scholarship.
The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right. It will be hard going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek. The process will be all the more arduous, for sectarian narrow-mindedness as well as pompous self-will will have to be shed. One may predict that all of this will take time. The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution — when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain — to the renewal of the nineteenth century…”

 

Monthly Picks

March Picks

What have you found enjoyable this month?  Here are a few of my favorites:

  1.  Grandma sent the little girls dresses for Easter.  Who doesn’t love Easter dresses?  Of course they won’t be able to wear them to Mass for a few weeks, but here are two of them trying them on:

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Do I need to say that these two cried when I took the dresses off?

2.  Favorite March book?  Antonio Socci’s, The Fourth Secret of Fatima.  It’s been awhile since I haven’t been able to put a book down.  If you’re interested in the doings of the popes in the 20th century, as concerns Sr. Lucia and Fatima, then you won’t be disappointed.  Socci, an Italian journalist and author, gives a thorough and fascinating and horrifying account of that mysterious 3rd Secret.  Warning: he assumes you are already familiar with Fatima.  (This is not a book for those reading about Fatima for the first time.)

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Drop me a line if you decide to read this book.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

3.  Kids’ favorite book?  Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family.  My children–all of them–greatly enjoyed listening to this book on Audible.  I, too, not only enjoyed it, but learned a bit about Jewish families living in New York City in the early 1900s.  Very sweet.

4.  Favorite fruit?  While my children will eat any fruit, I’ve been finding those cheap pineapples very convenient.  I’ve been buying them for $2.98.  I’ve been restricting myself to one pineapple a week, because I don’t want the children to get sick of them.  But really, I should up it to at least 2, as we eat the whole thing in one sitting.

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Another reason why I love pineapples (and bananas)?  They don’t take up any room in the refrigerator.

5.  Favorite Bread?  Hands down, Renaissance Bread from Galesville, WI.  Fortunately for us, this little bakery, owned and operated by 2 sisters, is not only organic, but delivers once a week to a grocery store in La Crosse.  As I was buying them out every week, I decided to call them and ask if they’d put together a standing, weekly order of 6 loaves for me?  Oh yes, of course!  God bless those sisters!

6.  And…what about wine?  We’ve been enjoying J. Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was on sale this month at Sam’s Club for $9.71, so I bought 6 bottles.

7.  Lastly, Favorite YouTube Video?  Aw, you knew it was going to be Dr. Taylor Marshall.  He’s got some great ones this month.  My kids really enjoyed watching this one on communion rails.  Me?  I found his interview with Timothy Flanders on Corona Virus very interesting.

8.  My Husband’s Favorite Thing About March?  His birthday.  He turns 38 on the 16th.

Book Review

“Nope” to Sarah’s Latest

I recently started reading Cardinal Sarah’s latest book The Day is Now Spent, but I had to quit, for I’m spent.  Why, oh why will he insist on everlastingly quoting Pope Francis?  I got to page 97 and was about to swallow another Francis quotation, but I couldn’t.  I chucked the book across the room instead.*

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Here is a helpful guide for you.

It’s not that what Sarah is quoting is controversial or bad.  In fact, it’s just the opposite.  Sarah goes out of his way to find decent quotations out of Francis’s mouth.  (That had to take some time.)  Then Sarah will go on pretending that he and Francis are on the same page, which just isn’t true.

For example, Sarah is arguing and calling for the reform of corrupt clergy.  Just what has that to do with Francis?  Nothing.  In fact, Francis has only intentionally surrounded himself with very controversial and corrupt clergy.  Let’s remember that Francis knew about Pope Benedict’s censure on Ex-Cardinal McCarrick, but that didn’t stop Francis from hobnobbing with McCarrick and sending him on a public mission to China.

Let me repeat, it’s misleading to quote a conspicuously subversive man and pretend your minds are one.  I don’t think these two men could be more different from each other.  I’ll grant that Sarah probably has the sincerest of intentions, perhaps hoping that Francis is only naive or stupid or something, but I’m weary and done with it all.  Why not quote someone with a clear track record of ousting corrupt clergy?  Why not quote the Council of Trent on that?

Apparently I’m not the only one thinking these things either.  If you want more, check out this article from Dr. Jeff Mirus at the CatholicCulture.org.  I especially appreciate the second half of his article.

Parting Note on Sarah

Please note that I still would recommend Sarah’s God or Nothing and The Power of Silence.  He’s got some pertinent and profound things to say, especially about the primacy of prayer and silence.  (Not silence in the face of corruption, but rather silence as regards to the interior life.)  Sarah also has a miraculous and astounding personal story of growing up in Africa.

Truly, you should read his first two books.  I’ll warn you, though, he does quote Francis in both books, but it’s more forgivable, if you will, because these books were written earlier in Francis’s pontificate.

As it is, my book club is currently reading The Day Is Now Spent for November.  I can’t wait to hear what these other ladies are going to say.

What Else Am I Reading?

Books in Brief

Recently I finished Gertrud Von Le Fort’s The Song of the Scaffold.  This fictional novella is based on the real-life tragedy of the death of 16 Carmelites during the French Revolution.    If you want a short, but moving read, I strongly recommend it.

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The end, wherein the Carmelites are brought before the guillotine singing Veni Creator Spiritus, is very dramatic to say the least and inspired me to teach our children that ancient chant.

I also just finished a biography of J.R.R. Tolkien written by Humphrey Carpenter.  This was a very enjoyable read, and I also recommend it, especially for you Lord of the Rings fans.

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I picked this old paperback copy up at a local, used bookshop.

And lastly, I’m currently reading The Catholic Guide to Depression by Dr. Aaron Kheriaty.  (No, I’m not suffering from depression.)  I’m only a half of the way through, and I appreciate Dr. Kheriaty’s insights thus far.  Perhaps I’ll post more on this book later.

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Really, though, I can’t wait to read some more James Herriot.  He’s light; he’s funny; he’s pre-Amazon Synod…

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This is lovely reading.

*Ok, fine.  I didn’t actually chuck it across the room.  If I would have, the children would have looked askance at me, for we have a rule about throwing books: No Throwing Books.  It obviously damages them and anything else they might happen to hit, like their sisters.