Posts Tagged ‘elegiac’

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich

November 28, 2012

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse book coverTitle: The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse

Author: Erdrich, Louise

Publication Date: 2001

Pages: 361

Geographical Setting: Ojibwe Reservation, North Dakota

Time Period: Present Day

Genre: Literary Fiction, Native American Fiction

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:  In the last days of his life, Father Damien Modeste sets out to make a final confession to the Holy Father, the Pope in Rome.  The least of these confessions is that Father Damien is actually Agnes DeWitt, a woman.  When a young priest comes to the remote Ojibwe reservation of Little No Horse to interview him about the possible sainthood of a nun from the reservation convent, Fr. Damien sees an opportunity to lay bare the truth about his past, the woman in question, and the people whom he has shepherded and loved for the better part of eighty years.  Told through multiple perspectives and dipping into different moments in time, the story unfolds slowly and poetically, the first pages building links to the later scenes of Fr. Damien’s life.  The people of Little No Horse may be familiar to readers of Erdrich’s other works, as this novel is one in a sequence of tales about the Kashpaws, Nanpushes, Pillagers, Morrisseys, and Lazarres who make up this Ojibwe tribe.  But the perspective of Agnes/Fr. Damien, the outsider who layers Catholic dogma with the old spirituality, pushes this story beyond the reservation and across cultural barriers.

Appeal Characteristics: Intricately plotted, moving, stylistically complex, lyrical, mystical, leisurely paced, haunting, spiritual, details of Catholicism, details of reservation life, elegantly written, poignant, reflective, reverent, elegiac, vivid characterization, poetic

Subject Headings: Ojibwe Indians, North Dakota, Indians of North America, Reservations, Priests, Male Impersonators, Miracles, Women Saints

Three Terms Best Describing this Book: Moving, lyrical, spiritual

Similar Non-fiction:

Rez Life by David Treuer

Written by a member of the Minnesota Ojibwe tribe, this book offers a part memoir, part cultural history look at life on a reservation.  Treuer explores the life of present-day Native Americans as it has been shaped by decisions made long ago.  Politics, alcoholism, casinos, and tragedy are balanced by lesser known facets of Native American culture—walleye fishing, wild rice harvesting, Ojibwe language lessons—creating a narrative of sadness and beauty that characterizes contemporary rez life.

The American Jesuits: A History by Raymond A. Schroth

Schroth offers a comprehensive historical account of the order of priests who, more than anyone else, have brought America to Christ.  Beginning with the first, unfortunately murdered, Jesuit to touch the New World, Schroth details a 450 year history of serving the disenfranchised and the poor, building schools and universities, and making very public stands for social justice.  They are not always perfect, but for those who admire Father Damien in spite of his flaws may find more of the same here.

Self-Made Man: One Woman’s Journey into Manhood and Back Again by Norah Vincent

Agnes’s transformation to Father Damien is an integral part of Erdrich’s novel.  The reservation’s remoteness and the acceptance of the Native people made this easier.  In this book Norah Vincent makes her transformation in the thick of society.  In the guise of Ned, a somewhat nerdy salesman complete with crewcut and ever-present five o’clock shadow, Vincent lived for more than a year as a man, infiltrating and living every aspect of male-ness from the sacred to the profane providing an in-depth look at what is expected of male behavior and how women and men are truly different.

Similar Fiction:

The House of Spirits by Isabelle Allende

Similar to Erdrich, Allende writes a generational saga of a family and a people who suffer from the decisions made far in the past.  The Trueba family live in an unnamed Latin American country crippled by political upheaval.  Though less overtly spiritual than Erdrich, readers will find mystical undercurrents and cultural conflicts that color the portrait of this family.

Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros

Another sweeping family portrait, this time of a Mexican American family, Caramelo is the story of Lala Reyes as she grows through the revelations of family stories and histories.  The interconnectedness of seemingly different narratives is reminiscent of Erdrich’s storytelling, as are the shared tragedies and raptures that have brought the family, and specifically Lala, to the place they are today.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie

A set of short stories told from the inhabitants of the Spokane Indian Reservation, this is a complex picture of contemporary Native American life that juxtaposes the trappings of modern culture with the traditions of a proud, ancient, and crumbling people.

Name: Jessica

The Shack

June 23, 2010

Author: Wm. Paul Young

Title: The Shack

Genre: Christian/Inspirational

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 252

Geographical Setting: Oregon, USA

Time Period: Present Day

Series (if applicable): N/A

Plot Summary:

Mack Philips and his children, along with some neighbors embark on a lovely camping trip that turns horrible when his son and one daughter nearly drown.  Despite not wanting to leave his youngest daughter alone, he forgoes his worry and dives into the water to disentangle his son and rescue him from the water.  Sadly in his absence, his youngest child was kidnapped and all that was ever found of her was her bloody sundress in an abandoned shack.  Mack never forgave himself, and after he knocks his head slipping on the ice he receives a note, supposedly from God.  Despite the harsh winter weather, he heads to the shack where his daughter’s dress was found to meet with God.  Over the next couple of days he has lengthy conversations with God the Father manifested as a large black woman, God the Son manifested as a Middle Eastern Jewish carpenter and God the Holy Spirit manifested as a shimmery light with a vague nature of an Asian woman.  Through his conversations he comes to understand forgiveness and that his daughter’s death was not his fault.

Subject Headings: Serial murder victims, Christian, forgiveness, supernatural, missing children, suffering

Appeal: Uplifting, leisurely paced, well-developed characters, elegiac, introspective, accessible, straightforward, thoughtful, complex, unpretentious

3 terms that best describe this book: Uplifting, spiritual, comforting

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The Laying on of Hands.  Brenda Rhodes Miller.  2004.

Miss Munchie has the power to heal others, but she was unable to heal several people she loved dearly.  In her old age she reflects on realizing her special gift in her youth as well as her shortcomings and other life experiences.  Introspective, complex.

A Lova’ Like No Otha’.  Stephanie Perry Moore.  2003.

After being left at the altar by a man who had a pregnant girlfriend unbeknownst to her, Zoe Clark blames God until Chase Farr comes along and reintroduces faith to her life.  Well-developed characters, thoughtful.

Red Leaves.  Thomas H. Cook.  2005.

When an eight-year-old girl goes missing, a teenager named Keith is among the accused.  His father is desperate to keep his son out of the limelight and looks for legal counsel as he contemplates the possibility his son is guilty.  Accessible.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Light Through the Crack: Life After Loss.  Sue Mosteller.  2006.

An autobiography of the woman in charge of Henri Nouwen’s literary estate.  She examines her journey of faith, her relationship with Nouwen, her childhood, working with the Sisters of St. Joseph and other Christian organizations.

Suffering and the Sovereignty of God.  John Piper, Justin Taylor, editors.  2006.

A Christian guide to choosing to turn to God in times of strife with Biblical evidence and strengthening faith in Christ.

Where is God?: Finding His Presence, Purpose and Power in Difficult Times.  Dr. John Townsend.  2009.

A doctor of psychology examines various life events that can cause people to wonder, “Where is God?” and offers Biblical support emphasizing that God is right there beside you through thick and thin.

Name: Kali Buseth

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

June 14, 2010

Housekeeping book cover

Author: Robinson, Marilynne

Title: Housekeeping

Genre: Literary Fiction, Women’s Lives and Relationships

Publication Date: 1980

Number of Pages: 219

Geographical Setting: Fingerbone Lake, Idaho

Time Period: Roughly the middle of 1900s

Series: No

Plot Summary:

Abandoned by their mother who has driven off a bridge to her death, Ruth and her sister Lucille are taken in by their maternal grandmother. After their grandmother’s demise, the girls are temporarily cared for by two spinster great aunts. The great aunts gratefully pass the responsibility of raising the sisters to Aunt Sylvie, one of their mother’s sisters. Aunt Sylvie is a drifter and her “housekeeping” is questionable, both in the eyes of Lucille and the townspeople. As Lucille asserts her independence and makes personal choices, Ruthie becomes attached to Sylvie and finds comfort in her odd ways.

Subject Headings: Loss (Psychology), Family relationships, Survivors of suicide victims, Eccentric aunts, Teenage girls, Sisters, Eccentrics and eccentricities, Mothers – Death, Suicide, Small town life, Grandmothers, Aunts, Loneliness in women, The West (United States), Literary fiction, Psychological fiction, Domestic fiction, First person narratives

Appeal: Densely written, measured, deliberate, detailed, eccentric, insightful, reflective, sympathetic, character-centered, domestic, family-centered, interior, thought-provoking, small-town, first-person, sympathetic, issue-oriented, contemplative, reflective, elegiac, literary, poetic, introspective, thoughtful, frank, detailed setting.

Three Terms that best describe this book: Family-Centered, Detailed, Thought provoking

Similar Authors and Works:

Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Bitterbrush Country: Living on the Edge of the Land by Diane Josephy Peavey. This is a collection of autobiographical essays about her adult life on Flat Top Sheep Ranch as the wife of Idaho Senator John Peavy. Each essay renders a narrative about the spirit of Western rural culture. This compilation is similar to Housekeeping in that it is reflective, insightful, poetic, written in the first-person, and about life in Idaho.

The Boy on the Green Bicycle: a Memoir by Margaret Diehl. At the tender age of ten, the author lost both her brother (in a bicycle accident) and her father (to suicide). Thirty years later, Diehl looks back on this difficult time as part of her grieving process. This book is similar to Housekeeping in that it is family-centered, deals with death and suicide, is about families and relationships, and is thought-provoking.

Written on Water: Essays on Idaho Rivers edited by Mary Clearman Blew. This book is a compilation of essays about “any river” in Idaho. All written by Idaho writers, some of the essays are personal and others are matter-of-fact reports. This book is similar to Housekeeping in that all the writings are set on rivers in Idaho.

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Runaway: Stories by Alice Munro. This collection of short stories focuses on the distinction between societal expectations and the contrasting yearnings and desires of women. This compilation portrays women of all ages dealing with and confronting an array of life’s challenges. This collection is similar to Housekeeping in that it is introspective, insightful, thought-provoking, issue-oriented, and about women’s lives and relationships and small town life.

Amy and Isabelle, by Beth Strout. This story follows a mother/daughter relationship, while Housekeeping is the story of an aunt/niece relationship. This story is similar to Housekeeping in that it is character- and family-centered, issue-oriented, thought-provoking, and contains a family secret.

The Homesman, by Glendon Swarthout. Set in the American West, Mary Bee Cuddy is a self-sufficient unmarried woman. Cuddy’s neighbor, Theoline, becomes mentally unstable and is in immediate need of help. Cuddy volunteers to act as “homesman” for Theoline and three other mentally ill women by accompanying them to Iowa where help is waiting. This story is similar to Housekeeping in that it has sympathetic characters, is character-centered, thought-provoking and issue-oriented, takes place in the West, and mentally ill and suicidal women play prominent roles.

Name: Laona Fleischer

The Shack

April 14, 2009

Author: William P. Young
Title: The Shack
Genre: Literary Fiction; Inspirational
Publication Date: 2007
Number of Pages: 256
Geographical Setting: American Northwest; Multnomah Falls and Wallowa Lake, Oregon
Time Period: c.2003-2007
Plot Summary: While on a family vacation, Mack Philips youngest daughter is abducted by a serial killer. Her body is never found, but investigators find a shack where they are certain her murder took place. Three and a half years later, still grieving and unable to move past his daughter’s death, Mack receives a note from God in his mailbox asking him to return to the shack. Uncertain about who the note is from, but still drawn to the crime scene, Mack goes to the shack alone where he meets God as the three manifestations of the Trinity.
Subject Headings: Life change events – Fiction; Missing children – Fiction; Oregon – Fiction; Religious fiction; Suspense fiction; God (Christianity); Loss (Psychology); Suffering – Religious Aspects – Christianity; Family relationships; Theodicy; Belief and doubt; Murder – Religious aspects
Appeal: deliberate, measured, steady, unhurried, detailed, distant, engaging, evocative, familiar, insightful, inspiring, interior, intriguing, introspective, lifelike, sympathetic, vivid, well-developed, well-drawn, character-centered, complex, inspirational, mystical, open-ended, thought-provoking, tragic, contemporary, detailed setting, evocative, intimate, lush, rural, timeless, atmospheric, bittersweet, candid, comtemplative, dramatic, earnest, elegiac, heartwarming, hopeful, melancholy, philosophical, theological, psychological, thoughtful, accessible, conversational, fervent, natural, passionate, unaffected, didactic.
Similar Authors and Works (Fiction):
Dinner with a Perfect Stranger by David Gregory. Conversations with God, belief, doubt, faith, Christianity, didactic, inspirational, theological.
Room of Marvels by James Bryan Smith. Loss, grief, Christianity, psychological, belief, doubt, faith, spirituality.
Maybe a Miracle by Brian Strause. Family relationships, grief, belief, doubt, faith, religion, loss, psychological, poignant.
Similar Authors and Works (Non-Fiction):
Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope by Joan D. Chittister. Chittister, a Catholic nun, describes how she learns from a major disappointment in her life. Spirituality, religion, suffering, hope, life change events.
The Doors of the Sea: where was God in the Tsunami? by David Bentley Hart. A Theologian reconciles the problem of evil through the focus of the 2004 Christmas Tsunami. Theodicy, faith, belief, doubt, loss, grief.
The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis. Lewis’ classic treatise on why God allows suffering. Pain, suffering, theodicy, spirituality.
Name: Tori