Archive for September, 2018

bookmark: a separate peace

A Separate Peace – by John Knowles

This is a book about the friendship between two young men in a fictional boys’ prep school called Devon located in New Hampshire during the war years of 1942 and 1943. It has been called a “coming of age” story and has been compared to Catcher in the Rye as a book in that genre.

It’s been many, many years since I have read Catcher in the Rye, but I think I enjoyed it more than this book. Not that this book is terrible, but I found it hard to relate to the characters who appear to be involved in an emotionally co-dependent relationship. Perhaps I just never had a best friend like either of the two main characters, or perhaps I just have never been in a school atmosphere such as they experience.

The only real chance I had to experience that would have been in college, but going to a college close to home allowed me to save money by commuting to school rather than living in a dorm. While this may have saved money it did keep me from having that living-away-from-home experience that may have facilitated closer and deeper friendships. And, of course, not being able to stay in college for more than a year and a semester didn’t help either.

The book has a sad ending, but like the main character, I didn’t have any emotional response to the denouement of the story. He should have. I didn’t. I suppose there are people who can sympathize with the characters and appreciate the story and it’s ending.

It was well-written enough to keep me reading to the end, and it was an exposure to life in a boys’ school during the years of World War II, which was interesting. If I hadn’t read this book, though, it would not leave a big hole in my life.

Finished 9/29/18

bookmark: the shack

The Shack – by William Paul Young

If you are a Christian, it is possible that you will find this book relevant to your religioius beliefs.If you are an atheist, you can either take this book as a fairy tale with a moral, or not take it at all. If you follow some other religious tradition, you may come away with something from this book or not. Couched in a shell of a story, this book is really a discussion of what it is to be a Christian and to put your faith in God.

In some ways the structure of this book reminds me of Atlas Shrugged, in that at its core is an expression of philosophy – Galt’s speech in Atlas Shrugged, and the dialogue between the main character of this book and the father, son and holy ghost (though by other names). I think Atlas Shrugged supports its philosophy with much more story, but the central philosophy is what really counts in both books.

On an intellectual level I believe that I could understand what this book was saying, and appreciate that for Christians the book could have deep meaning. For me, it was a decent story and an interesting window into the beliefs of others. I was not swayed to reconsider my personal beliefs, but then again, if I experienced what the main character experiences, I might be persuaded otherwise. Somehow, I don’t see that happening.

Bottom line, if you have no interest in being exposed to or undetstanding Chritsian beliefs, don’t bother with the book. If you are a Christian, you could get something out of this.

Finished 9/23/18

You’ve Been So Lucky Already: A Memoir – by Althea Black

I guess I must like to read autobiographies by borderline (and not so borderline) dysfunctional women, and this was one more such book. Granted, the author at the end of the book seems to have found a path to a life she would like to live, but given the sturm und drang she went through in the first part of her life, I might lay odds that she won’t be in a good place for long. Still, I can’t help but hope that she finds her happiness and it sticks with her.

I’m skeptical of fringe medical practices, and part of the author’s story is dealing with an illness that no regular medical doctor is able to diagnose. Resorting to the always reliable medical information on the internet, she finds several possibilities for her symptoms and even treats herself on that basis. She gets frustrated when medical doctors don’t take her self-diagnosis seriously and so caroms from one self-diagnosis to another. Finally, she finds her “cure” through a “functional medicine” doctor. This is the renaming of “holistic” medicine to make it sound more technical and less hippy-dippy.

Now, I will not say that regular medical practice has all the answers, but I do believe that many of those practicing “functional” medicine rely on disproved theories and unsupported treatments. But this world is full of people looking for answers for what they believe ails them, and if the standard medical profession doesn’t work for them and they find their answers in somewhat questionable practices, more power to them. This author seems to have finally found an answer that she is happy with and that appears to be helping her, and good for her.

This is a relatively short book and is well written. Even when I was skeptical of her pursuit of a diagnosis, I still wanted her to find something that would give her relief and a happy place to be. And her illness wasn’t the total content of the book. You could read about her deep depression early in her life, too. Like I said, I must like reading about dysfunctional women. This book fulfilled that need, I guess.

And I truly do hope that she is well and happy and stays that way.

Finished 9/15/18