Tuesday, May 21, 2013

In the Shadow of the Banyan

by Ratner, Vaddey

In the Shadow of the Banyan tells to story of the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia in 1975. Ratner was a child when her family was uprooted and separated by the Khmer Organization, and this book is somewhat of a fictionalized account of their experiences. While I can see some value in the choice to narrate the story from the perspective of a child, I think the disadvantages outweigh that option. As a child, much of the atrocity of the situation was not realized or understood, therefore a lot of  the Khmer brutality goes untold, or told seemingly in passing. Particularly in the beginning, this telling avoids the horrors in lieu of poetry and fairy tales. When finally some of these details are told, the style is still so lyrical it doesn't make the required impact. Since the story is also very reflective and descriptive, the mature voice of the seven year old Raami doesn't always ring true. 

A very sobering tale told with too much sugary language to give credence to the gravity of the subject. While this book ultimately manages to give a glimpse into that brief period of Cambodian history, it is no Anne Frank story. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Bible reading:

In the Old Testament, I have read through I Samuel
In the New Testament I have read through Romans 
And I am part-way through both Psalms and Proverbs. 

My plan provides daily readings from the OT, NT and either Ps or Prov.  At the moment I am a bit ahead of schedule. So far so good!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Destiny of the Republic

by Candice Millard

You might wonder why someone would choose to write a book about James Garfield, considering he held the office of president less than 200 days, and you also might question reading such a book, but Destiny of the Republic is about much more than our nation's 20th president, it is about the people and the events surrounding him that helped shape the future of America. Candice Millard manages to reveal current inventions, controversies among the medical community, political rivalries and expose the deranged life and mind of Garfield's assassin that surrounded him during his lifetime.

I did not know that James Garfield never ran for the office of president; he was elected as candidate on a whim during a lengthy Republican National Convention in which there was a stalemate between Grant and Blaine. In fact, Garfield did not want the office, and once nominated, on more than one occasion expressed his feelings of disquiet in this election. The lesson here: trust your gut!

His assassin, Charles Guiteau truly was delusional. One of the examining physicians said of Guiteau that all of the links for intelligence were strong, they just didn't form a chain. Fortunately for America, there was no Jose Baez, F. Lee Bailey or Robert Shapiro at the time or Guiteau just may have walked for shooting the president since his defenses of insanity and medical incompetence were both true.

The incompetence of Garfield's attending physician is shocking! Dr. Doctor Bliss (yes, his given name was Doctor) was a pretentious boob who wanted to make a name for himself. In the end he did so, only not the name he had hoped for. He rejected the discoveries of both Pasteur, regarding germs and Lister regarding antisepsis, both of which would have saved Garfield.

At times, Millard gets a bit gross in her details of the suffering of President Garfield, but that can be overlooked in light of all of the interesting information she includes along the way. If you are a fan of obscure history you will like this book. It is a fast and engaging read. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Prayers for Sale

by Sandra Dallas

Imagine yourself on a cold winter night, snuggled up under your favorite blanket, sitting in front of a roaring fire with a cup of hot cocoa and a great book; that about sums up Prayers for Sale.  And that is really when you'd want to read this story, not on the beach, not on a plane, but snuggled under your blanket in front of the fireplace. Lucky for me, Oklahoma weather cooperated even in May!

Eighty-six year old Hennie Comfort relives her life through a series of stories shared with a new young neighbor in the mining town of Middle Swan, CO as she comes to terms with having to leave her home to move in with her daughter.  Life on the Swan during the Depression is hard and winters are harsh, even so it is hard for Hennie to imagine living anywhere else. Hennie's story is full of love, tragedy and trial, one (predicable) regret and one nagging bit of disquiet that she must settle before moving on. I don't think it's an accident that Hennie is a quilter and quilting references abound as she re-pieces her history and comes to terms with some of life's difficult lessons.

This is a nice story where everything is tied up with a neat (albeit unrealistic) little bow.