Book Review: The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More by Roald Dahl

Earlier this year I picked up The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More by Roald Dahl to read with my daughter (who is now 8), having been under the mistaken impression that it is a children’s book. Eek – it is NOT. It’s a good book, and I’m glad I read it, but I’m equally glad that she lost interest after a couple of stories.
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More

The book is an interesting mix of stories, including several fictional stories as well as an autobiographical story and one true narrative. Overall, though, my feeling about the book is that it’s pretty dark. One story in particular follows young boys as they strap another child to a train track and watch as the train passes over him (!) – this story prompted my daughter to ask, “Mom, why would someone write that story?” My response was something along the lines of how there are bad people in the world, like those mean characters, and sometimes writers will write those stories to help them understand the bad things in the world. I told her that all stories present some truth from the world and have something to teach us, but that we don’t have to read those stories if we don’t like them. That was the last story we read together in the book, but I went on to finish it myself.

I give the book three stars, because it was well-written, engaging, and interesting…but not amazing and slightly disturbing. The autobiographical story is illuminating as to the author’s life though repetitive if you’ve read part of his autobiography (as I have). I do think it should be clearly advertised as NOT A CHILDREN’S BOOK, though!

Book Review: The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

34111673I recently read another book I picked up via NetGalley last year/earlier this year, called The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse. When I opened it up I had no recollection of what it was about, or even whether it was fiction or nonfiction. Turns out it’s a novel, and a fairly heavy one at that. I briefly considered putting it down, because I sometimes struggle to read emotionally taxing stories, being prone to depression and anxiety, but I quickly found myself too engrossed in the story.

The protagonist, Nina McCarrick, is left to raise her two sons when her husband unexpectedly dies in a car wreck. Having married young and into wealth, Nina has never had to fend for herself as a mother and adult. The novel is Nina’s story at its heart: her journey to self-awareness, self-sufficiency, and self-respect, as a woman and as a mother. Though I started out identifying with Nina, as the story went on I sometimes found her incredibly frustrating — I found myself judging her and asking how on earth she let herself get into such a ridiculous situation! That said, I came to admire her perseverance and her ability to both provide for her sons AND pay attention to her own needs.

It’s an emotional story of loss, so the reader must be prepared for some weightiness. But it’s also a story of love and triumph, with many important life lessons taught (in a very unpreachy fashion) along the way. I’ve included below some of my favorite quotes from the book, those that resonate most with me (for varying reasons) and that I think show some of the depth of the story and insightful life lessons learned by the characters throughout the book:

“But here’s the thing, Nina. I think happiness lies in being content now – right now! Every day! That’s not to say you can’t plan and work for change, but if you are constantly waiting for happiness to start, waiting for the change that will make it happen, then you just might miss some really good days along the way.” (Kindle location 3253)

“Hardship eroded his sense of entitlement and in its place a nicer, humbler boy was emerging.” (Kindle location 3953)

“I’ve been reading a lot about people who are depressed. People who live with extreme stress and those who only see one way out… They often fall into two camps. Those who fall apart externally, seek help, battle it publicly, and then there are those won don’t, can’t. It’s this group of people who interest me most. They are skilled in the art of hiding. I think that my dad must have been like that.” (Kindle location 4105)

I’m sorry it took me so long to read this book and I definitely think it’s well worth reading (just not if you’re feeling in a fragile frame of mind). I’ll definitely be interested in reading more from Amanda Prowse!

4 stars!

Buy it now for only $0.99!

Book Review: Heaven Shining Through

39704566Heaven Shining Through is a short, novella-length book written by Joe Siccardi. It tells the story of Samantha’s life in the context of a journey home to visit with her mother, with whom she has always had a rocky relationship. It is fundamentally a Christian story — it is a story of Samantha and her faith journey throughout her life and, ultimately, her ability to see “heaven shining through.”

It’s a quick read but a powerful Christian witness to dealing with life, love, loss, and forgiveness. I liked how the author was able to integrate so many elements of real life – difficult family dynamics, the waning and then revival of faith, coping with tragic loss – into a story that makes life seem blessed despite (or maybe even because of!) the difficulties encountered throughout.

There was one little aspect that I didn’t love: I sensed a little anti-Catholic sentiment in Samantha’s journey. She is raised Catholic but joins a different church when she returns to faith as an adult, where she finds the community she’s been seeking. I’ll be the first to say that Catholic churches are typically not warm and fuzzy kinds of places, and I think, unfortunately, that Samantha’s experience is reflective of what so many fallen-away Catholics have experienced. It only made me a little sad because I felt, as a Catholic, that it missed the beauty of the Catholic faith. (I know – this sounds crazy to a lot of readers given what we are all bombarded with in the news right now re: the Catholic Church. Believe me – I’m struggling with it. But the presence of Evil does not negate the presence of Christ, and that’s what I’m holding on to.)

The book, as a Christian witness, serves its purpose well! As a stand-alone book I would’ve liked to see more – due to it’s short format, there’s a lot that feels glossed over; I think the book has the potential to be a full-length novel and engage the reader on a deeper level. Some of the most beautiful writing in the book is actually in the dedication, where we see Siccardi’s love for his late wife shine. I am so happy to have had the opportunity to read this book (thank you, Joe, for contacting me and offering a review copy!), and I wish Joe all the best in his ministry.

3 stars!