After listening to Leslie Leyland Fields share with the audience her own dysfunctional childhood at the 2014 Hearts at Home conference, I ordered her book, Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers. Reading this book in a twenty-four hour span, I ended up highlighting ninety-nine passages in this 213 page work.
Fields relays her own childhood traumas as well as others she has encountered in life and through research. In addition the Gold Medallion-nominated co-author, Dr. Jill Hubbard, a clinical psychologist, provides further professional analysis at the end of each chapter. Thus, not merely a “this is my story, and here’s what works for me,” but a credible exploration of forgiveness using both the Bible and the discipline of psychology as references.
Furthermore, an expansive list of references provides not only trustworthy support of the reading, but also a ready-made list of must reads and must views such as Patricia Hampl’s I Could Tell You Stories and Ed Dobson’s Ed’s Story.
For the purposes of book club, a group of trustworthy friends gathered together to speak honestly about Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers while eating endless bowls of ice cream in acknowledgment of Fields’ father would be ideal.
After a few starts and stops, I finally gave my full attention to Anna Quindlen’s Blessings and was determined to finish. Although the beginning failed to hook me, once I reached the meat of the story, there was no turning back. A story of an elderly woman, a convicted felon, and an aspiring young doctor whose lives all come together as a result of the unexpected appearance of a child.
The setting of the novel, Blessings, a rural family retreat, is not only idyllic in location, but also a domicile of familial dysfunction, both past and present. Through careful unveiling, Quindlen highlights the tragedy associated with truths withheld over generations.
What was refreshing was the life, revitalization, and perspective of the female protagonist, Lydia. While philosophizing about life itself, she explains the tragedy of young death, the shock of middle-age death, and the inevitability of elderly death, how herstory, in essence, revolves around the loss of others. In addition, kudos to Quindlen for allowing the younger male and female in the novel to have meaningful interaction without the presence of romance.
For the purposes of book club, a picnic lunch near a creek much like Lydia shared with Benny and Sunny as adolescents complete with bacon sandwiches, peanut butter cookies, and a big Ball jar of lemonade may be the perfect conversation starter.
Having recently inhaled Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, I was then eager to read her first novel, Torch. With similar life experiences as the female protagonist Claire- a parent who suffers a gruesome death at the hands of cancer, various familial dysfunction, and a previous longing for the consummate romantic relationship- I bookmarked passage after passage which seemed to have come from my own thought processes during my near-identical life experiences:
Years passed. . . Slowly, stingingly, she forgave them [her parents] without their knowing about it. She accepted the way things were- the way they were- and found that acceptance was not what she’d imagined it would be. It wasn’t a room she could lounge in, a field she could run through. It was small and scroungy, in constant need of repair. (52)
Strayed does not romanticize life, but, instead reveals it in all its awkwardness, ugliness, and blessedness.
In addition, Strayed is not only author, but also neologist with the creation of parentified– “‘ . . . where a child who is still a child doesn’t get to be a child entirely because he or she has to take on things that children shouldn’t have to take on . . . common in single-parent families- where the child has to look after younger siblings, cook meals, and stuff like that'” (56). Recalling my own childhood, I can easily see how my older sister was definitely parentified, and certainly not of her own volition at the tender age of fourteen.
For the purposes of book club, an assortment of vegetarian dishes in honor of Teresa Rae Wood would be appropriate. Perhaps a scalloped potato casserole with peas along with herbal tea would be ideal items offered at your book club discussion.