Saturday, 19 July 2014

Good books/ Bad books- part 2

What is my 'version of the world'?
   "Life can be challenging".
   I appreciate books where people are able to survive and thrive in difficult situations.  Sometimes  the difficult situation is of their own making, as in the memoir "Wild".  Cheryl Strayed had made a mess of her life and needed to figure out who she was and how she wanted to live.
   Sometimes the difficult situation is random.  "Molokai" is about a child with leprosy who is taken from her home to the leprosy colony on the island of Molokai.  Now theres' a challenge!  But she is able to survive and thrive in spite of her isolation and disfigurement.

  In "The Wife Tree", Morgan Hazzard begins a journey of self-discovery at 74, when she is widowed. She had been controlled by her husband for so many years, that when he died, she was adrift in a strange world, trying to fend for herself with limited vision. Morgan finds little help in her friends, the church, or the medical profession, and her children try to control her, as her husband had always done.  But Morgan is able to not only survive, but also thrive.  "The Freedom to follow a path of my choosing, to set my own pace brings me deep satisfaction.  I'm being brought back to life.  Each day is now mine to create in all its fullness".  Love that book!

  Sometimes women find themselves in difficult situations because of their husbands' ambitions.  My all-time favourite book, "The Poisonwood Bible" shows Orleanna Price in the Congo with a husband who believes he is called to be a missionary, but he is arrogant, abusive and self-absorbed.  At the beginning of each chapter there is a retrospective discourse by Orleanna and it is heart-breaking.  She tried so hard to support her husband, while still protecting her four children.  But she was unsuccessful in the latter.  "I had washed up there on the riptide of my husband's confidence and the undertow of my children's needs".  I love to reread this book and always feel the remorse and regret that followed Orleanna for the remainder of her life.  It is a reminder of the complexity of a woman's life.

In "Mosquito Coast" by Paul Theroux, the wife does not have a name, but her husband, Allie Fox, an American inventor, decides that the 'civilized' world is morally bankrupt and takes his family to the jungles of Honduras.  There is a parallel to "The Poisonwood Bible".  There are four children and the husband is brilliant, charismatic, arrogant and controlling.  The children are in danger. Great story!  Fabulous climax!

  In "The Sea Captain's Wife" by Beth Powning, the husband wants his wife, Azuba, to join him at sea in order to keep the family together. But this puts the children in a dangerous situation. Fabulous descriptions of life at sea- terrifying passage around Cape Horn, near starvation, witnessing a mass suicide at the Chincha Islands.

This is another of my all-time favourite books- "The Secret River" by Kate Grenville.  In the early 1800's, Sal Thornhill followed her husband from England to Australia, where he was transported as a criminal. He had stolen because his family was starving.  I loved Sal's courage.  She was loving, supportive, but also strong-willed.  Even though she had followed Will to Australia, she was ready to leave him when it appeared that he may join some of the other white men in violence against the aborigines.     This was the story of the author's great-great-great grandfather.  Fabulous writing!

 Obviously, I favour women as the protagonist.  And these examples show women who really rise to the great challenges in their lives.  I think of a couple of books where the women were unable to rise to the challenge:
  "The Kitchen House" by Kathleen Grissom.  In 1791, Lavinia McCarter, an orphan, was taken to a plantation at age 7 to live with the slaves. She had mixed blood, and eventually married a man who became the owner of the plantation.  She married him in order to get back to the plantation, but she knew that he was cruel and violent.  She was unable to help those slaves that had raised her, as she sank into addiction to laudanum.   I was cheering for her all through the book, and was disappointed that she was unable to survive and thrive.  Sad ending!
  I loved "The Light Between Oceans" by M.L. Stedman, but I was disappointed that Isabel was unable to rise to the great challenge in her life.  After many miscarriages, she found a baby washed up on shore at their island lighthouse.  But when the  identity of the baby's mother came to light, she fought to keep the child and, although Isabel survives, she does not thrive after the child is placed with her biological mother.  In this book, it was the man who rose to the challenge.  He was always loving, kind and considerate of everyone.  Another great book!

The greatest book about rising to life's challenges,
 is "Man's Search For Meaning" by Viktor Frankl.

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