Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Who Will You Meet in 2017?

The snow has turned to freezing rain, or at least to the threat of freezing rain. We're trapped in the house again. My mother, over here from England, can't get out to see the wonderful place she's visiting. But welcome visitors spent their morning here, drank coffee and chatted with her. So now Mum's world has expanded just a little again, despite the contractions of ice. And now her nose is back in a book as she meets imaginary characters in their imagined worlds. Should I bring her back to reality with more coffee, or post some book reviews?

Some of my recent reads have brought deeply real characters into my life--characters who teach, who learn, or who just ask me to walk beside them awhile. Writing these reviews reminded me to wonder, who might I meet in 2017? How will I know who I've met (or will I just walk blindly by)? How will I make the year's strangers welcome, whether they're real or imagined, as we walk side by side. Perhaps I'll offer coffee, or I'll read, or I'll write.

As for you, please find a cup or a mug, fill it up with your favorite brew, and see if you might like to meet the characters from these books:

First is Peter Joseph Swanson's Group Home, a fairly short novel that brings to life the world behind the doors of a home for people with developmental challenges. The truth is that carers have challenges too, that plans to ease problems create their own challenges, and that all these characters are vividly real, whether they live behind or in front of the walls. The truth is, we all live parts of our lives behind walls. Enjoy this short, intriguing, beautifully conversational book with some well-balanced, smooth, full-flavored three-star coffee.

Games of Make-Believe by Julie Ann Wambach asks readers to walk beside a woman, from grim past to struggling present, as she works her way through betrayals familial and religious, and finds her fairytale endings firmly grounded in feet of clay. The story feels very personal, as if it's told this way because this is how it happened. The characters feel very real and struggle to find meaning in miseries. And spiritual hints devolve into quotes and affirmations without offering help. It's a long intense read, best enjoyed with some intense five-star coffee.

Shylock is My Name by Howard Jacobson allows readers to listen in on conversations between an art collector and a modern Shylock as they ponder being Jewish in a Gentile north of England, being fathers of errant daughters, being spouses of absent wives (one dead, one dying) and, perhaps, being victims of poor communication. Artistically, it's written as a modern take on the Merchant of Venice. Emotionally it's amusing, embarrassing, and deeply thought-provoking. And intellectually, it's a cool invitation to discuss many topics, see many points of view, and take a different angle on seeing ourselves. Enjoy some seriously complex four-star coffee with this one.

Finally there's Making The Elephant Man, a producer’s memoir by Jonathan Sanger, which invites readers to come alongside the producer in a wild exciting ride that culminates in a wonderful film. For anyone who wants to learn how films are made, what producers and directors do, who designs the costumes and masks, or even who chooses what colors a film should be made in, this is the perfect book. For anyone looking at how creativity results in a wonderful creation, or for anyone wondering if they'll ever succeed creatively, the book is filled with honest inspiration, enjoyable colleagues, and a sense of overcoming odds as well as having odds in your favor. Enjoy this book, preferably just after watching the movie, with a well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee.

So, which of these people will you walk alongside this year? Who will you meet, in real life or in fiction? And will the weather improve?

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