BOOK REVIEWS

BOOK REVIEW FOR SEPTEMBER, 2013

listening-for-madeleine

LISTENING for MADELEINE
A Portrait of Madeleine L’Engle in Many Voices
AUTHOR: LEONARD S. MARCUS

Some likened her to an ostrich and being somewhat ungainly because she stood tall on giraffe-like legs. Nevertheless, her accomplishments as an author were anything but awkward and she was rewarded time and again for a literary acumen that has captivated and beguiled readers for decades. Thus was the genius of author, Madeleine L’Engle! Born in New York in 1918, Madeleine was exposed to people in the arts at an early age due to the fact that her father was a writer, her mother a pianist. Apparently her parents placed social interactions in a prominent position in their lives, leaving Madeleine in the care of nannies and private schools. As a result, she found comfort and solace through the books she read and the stories she would eventually create. Her friends were few in number and she was considered to be socially inept. It seems so ironic that she would later become sought after, revered and accomplished due to her ability to communicate with people of all ages.

Leonard S. Marcus chose an innovative method to furnish a portrait of this amazing woman. Many of the people who played an important role in her life were interviewed and asked to bring her into focus through their eyes. You will learn of a woman who spent an enormous amount of time communicating with many of the youth she encountered, using letters she labeled “Dear Ones”, mentoring them and instilling a desire to persevere in their craft. For a time, Madeleine worked in the theatre but writing soon became her passion and she was visibly crafting themes during every waking moment. She was incredibly gracious and a rare friend. Her faith was an important part of her life, allowing her to become known as one who could deliver a sermon almost as well as an ordained minister. However, she also appeared to be enigmatic. She was generous to a fault with those outside her family and a stellar grandmother yet, seemingly, distant and unnecessarily critical as a mother. It has been theorized that she often would not relate to reality but chose to see things as she wanted them to be, thereby not acknowledging problems from within her family circle.

A Wrinkle in Time was Madeleine’s masterpiece and she traveled extensively all over the country promoting this fictional fantasy as well as her other extraordinary works. Imagine, if you would, watching this extremely tall creature glide across a stage, position herself then begin to take items out of a bag that appear to have no relevance to each other. As each one is removed, a story begins to evolve, and before long, her subjects are captivated by one of the greatest storytellers of that era. She enveloped audiences, mesmerizing all with her uncanny ability to create a rapturous daze while ‘listening for Madeleine’.

BOOK REVIEW FOR OCTOBER, 2013

not-quite-nirvana

NOT QUITE NIRVANA
A Skeptic’s Journey to Mindfulness
INTRODUCTION BY: Thich Nhat Hanh
AUTHOR: RACHEL NEUMANN

What happened to the twenty years between the time I was eighteen and twenty-five and the one year between thirty and sixty?” Geoff Hoyle, Actor

Once in a while a literary jewel crosses your path that, although not earth-shaking, contains material that is thought-provoking. So much so, it stirs turmoil from within, causing reflections that question the scope of the completeness of your life. Not Quite Nirvana is such a book. You may wonder about the rapidity of the years gone by and pose a challenge by asking yourself what you have accomplished and what has been ignored. Many of us have been very successful in our lives: extraordinary professions; lovely homes; endearing families. But, can it earnestly be said that we have found the peace and spiritual nourishment that changes life from being comfortable to remarkable?

The Buddhist concept of mindfulness is the prevailing focus in this book. Ms. Neumann says, “Mindfulness is a deep awareness of both the singularity and transience of the present moment.” She professes the importance of being involved with what surrounds us in a solitary state. It is reiterated that meditation, peacefulness and a deep connection with spaciousness can provide a powerful, joyous transformation that soothes and calms one’s soul. She delves into suffering, death, depression, anger and shares insights that will cause the reader to reevaluate priorities. The importance of listening is underscored because so often we pay no attention to what is being said, due to the fact that we become desperately impatient to inject our own thoughts. These revelations may inspire a search for paths that have not, heretofore, been explored. It could force you to make more conscious choices, thereby enabling one to forgo regrettable decisions in the future. The possibilities are, seemingly, endless.

In a recent television commercial, Shaquille O’Neal quotes his mother (at the moment of his birth), as having said, “WOW!” We can assume the reference, but you may be saying wow for an entirely different reason after completing this book. Putting one’s life in perspective is, and should be, a never-ending process. This book encourages an exploration for nirvana that will challenge us to make time to stop and smell those roses.

Book reviews by Sheila Lamonzs

The entire list of donated books can be picked up at Royal Oak Bookshop, Samuels Public Library, or FRWRC.org

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