Thursday, October 21, 2010

REVIEW: An Amish Christmas: A Novel - by Cynthia Keller**

Posted by Carla B. at 8:31 PM
The beginning of this book is gives us a family like many of our own: self-absorbed teenagers, their younger brother, and parents that have a solid but distant marriage. Like many couples, as they built a career and family their own relationship slowly withered away to where both are not entirely happy. Instead, they focus on achieving the perfection of "the American Dream" - the often sought but rarely achieved nexus in today's society. The husband is so desperate to provide the Dream for his family, he resorts to risking their entire savings (stealthily without his wife's knowledge) - which he ultimately loses. He can't face telling his wife right away, so he compounds his mistake by lying to her outright. The fact he destroys his teens' social status angers them, and the youngest child become more anxious than usual with all the drama unfolding around him.

With no job, home or income, the family packs up to move in with the wife's parents. It's right before Christmas, and they head north from North Carolina through Pennsylvania Dutch country. On the way, they -literally- run into an Amish farmer. With his Amish grace and acceptance, he invites the family to stay at his home until their car is repaired. Thrust into an unusual situation, each family member is confronted by the simplicity of the Amish - which makes them question their own life. Not every member arrives to peace in the same way or at the same time, but each one discovers that sometimes simple is best. And that a happy family and productive life is the real American Dream - not all the material things that replace love, hope and loyalty of family and friends.

The end of the book ends on a positive note, but I would not exactly call is "happily ever after". In this book, you know that the family will survive intact and they will ultimately succeed and be happy. However, you are also aware there will be bumps along the way. The book does not tidily push aside resentment or suddenly establish trust between two partners, all because of one "a-ha" moment. Instead, the characters clearly state that this is only a start and they will do their best from that point forward. I liked that honest assessment at the end.

I found this book to be very uplifting and an easy read. It gave me new hope, and I found it perfect for Christmas. At a time when our economy has so many families downsizing and not able to afford the excesses of past Christmases, this is a comforting book to read. For my library, it is definitely a keeper.

**I received an advanced reading copy of this book from as part of their Early Reviewers program. Please see my  disclosure policy for further information.**

My Chaotic Life - or, Please Let Good Health Be Around the Corner

Posted by Carla B. at 7:21 PM
Wow - I kept telling myself  "Tomorrow I will blog!" and update the site. Then another round of chaos would begin, and before I knew it I was falling into bed practically sleepwalking my way there. And another day would slip by without a new post.

School started off with lots of enthusiasm and promises of straight A's - which lasted until the first major test. That brought all my little angels back to Earth (and reality). At that point the real studying (and accompanying heartache after the carefree days of summer) started in earnest. So, schoolwork took up a good bit of time.

Then in September I finally saw the doctor about my ongoing fatigue and lower back pain. After a thorough exam and blood tests, we discovered that I was low in Vitamin D. Very low. So low that I am now on mega-doses of a supplement and I am being checked again next month. I was down to "12", and most people my age and gender should be at "80". I am very fair-skinned, and skin cancer runs in the family, so getting more sun (without sunscreen) is not an option considering the deficit I currently have. So, better living through chemistry it is. I am slowly feeling better, but I was told it would take a year to be "normal" again. I found it not only causes the fatigue but also "bone pain" which was creating the issue with my lower back.

I got that behind me, then my stepdaughter got kidney stones on the same day my mother had a CT scan to investigate a suspicious growth. The kidney stone was passed, but my mother failed the CT scan: diagnosis stomach cancer, Stage 2 to Stage 3. We are keeping a positive frame of mind, as the surgeon has said that he will still operate to remove the tumor after her chemotherapy whether or not it has reduced in size. She is an excellent candidate for surgery, as she is a strong and positive 78 year old lady. Trust me, I hope to have half of her energy at that age!

She starts chemotherapy tomorrow, so all good thoughts and prayers are appreciated.  I will be staying with her on and off, so my posts will likely be sporadic. At least until after Thanksgiving. Don't give up on me, as I will continue posting reviews, thoughts, and musings just not daily. Once she is cured (after all, removing all of the tumor with no other cancer present is considered cured), I will be back to regular programming.

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