Monday, April 24, 2017


Befriend by Scott Sauls is a 200-page nonfiction book exploring different aspects of friendship in the modern world. Each chapter focuses on befriending various groups, such as "wrecked and restless," "the ones you can't control" and  "bullies and perpetrators." The chapters each conclude with a summary, Scripture references, and questions to ponder.
While I admire the author's purpose, I found myself disappointed in the practice. While the book defends the institution of friendship and supports connections across a wide spectrum of people, it serves as more of an overview and defense than a guide.  For example, chapter 11, "Befriend the Children" is only five pages long. It has an introduction, a section headed 'shifting our priorities,' a section headed 'showing ourselves, showing the Father,' and the summary. Other chapters are likewise brief. That does help reluctant readers by condensing the information, but it doesn't address deeper issues. I was hoping for more information about building and repairing friendships, not just 'oh, you should have some.'
I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale House in exchange for an honest review.

The time Mom met Hitler, Frost came to Dinner, and I heard the greatest story ever told: a memoir

The time Mom met Hitler, Frost came to dinner, and I heard the greatest story ever told: a memoir by Dikkon Eberhart, is a 300-page memoir telling the story of Dikkon Eberhart. His father, Richard Eberhart, was a Pultizer Prize-winning poet, who also was the United States Poet Laureate from 1959-1961. Growing up, Dikkon frequently met literary and society icons around the dinner table. But being surrounded by these icons left him uncertain how to lead his own life.

I requested this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review, but I really wasn't quite sure what I was requesting at the time: short stories? Historical fiction? Memoir isn't a genre I read much anyway, so I had no preconceived notions when I read it.

The author has a clean, professional style and keeps the pace moving well, with plenty of interesting incidents and a good sense of what details to include in a story and which ones to leave out.  As an English major, I recognized most of the people mentioned in the story, but none of them really jumped out at me.

If you like memoir or the late 20th century, this is a good book, but I have no plans to reread.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Call the Midwife and plots

There are  (at least) two ways to consider any story: on the emotional level or on the structural level. At any given time, I'm probably analyzing both.  And with last night's episode of Call the Midwife, I set out to determine just how many heartbreaking storylines they can fit in 1 hour. Starting with the overall season arc, it goes as follow (spoilers):
The primary arc of Sister Ursula taking over Nonnatus was brought to a conclusion after the near-fatal accident that befell Lucy and Lin. I am always impressed by how the show develops one-episode characters, including backstory and the ongoing effects of said backstory. The backstory for Lucy's mother-in-law was well-done and realistically portrayed. Likewise, Sister Ursula's history explained her actions, but didn't excuse that. Also, I loved Nurse Crane's interaction with Sister Ursula, explaining Barbara's actions and the results....just, Nurse Crane seems to have taken over Sister Evangeline's role as resident hardliner.
The Turner's storyline about the mother and baby home was also well done, historical but relevant for many people. The ever-present trend of cutting local services can be seen in rural Midwest clinics as well as 1960s London.
Then you get the smaller, individual storylines: Trixie's return, Sister Monica Joan and the television, and Sheila's pregnancy. The later will continue into the next episode, from what I've seen online, but it's nice to have some lighter moments too.  The moment when the man carries out the bench and pulls back the blinds for Sister Monica Joan....hilarious and heartwarming at the same time.