Thursday, March 16, 2006

reading...with some spoilers, I guess, if you haven't read these already

i've been reading a lot...too fast to even update my little side-bar-space for books. That's what happens with me, often...I like books.

Anyway, for some reason I seem to have come upon quite a few books lately full of relationships where one person is so insensitive and selfish and ambitious or whatever that they are literally incapable of feeling anything for the other person. The Secret Life of Bees. The Mermaid Chair. Even Babette's Feast went like that a bit. And the latest: The Sunday Wife. This one particularly hit because it's about a pastor and his wife. An ambitious pastor and his wife who he insists on "changing" and "bringing up" and who does everything he asks even when it's completely unreasonable. It's also about lots of other opressive and abusive relationships, both personal and corporate. But when the wife makes a friend and begins to think for herself, her whole life changes--for the better, for her. I was so irritated with how the husband/"pastor" behaved throughout the book that I wanted to scream and be violent against an obnoxious man somewhere--look out, nasty Egyptian men!--but of course i couldn't because today is one of the days I normally don't leave RCG (and there's something about not leaving the walls that's really nice sometimes). Anyway....the pastor was so ambitious and so selfish that I doubt he could even care for a parishioner, let alone his wife. (something to watch out for if one is a pastor, I suppose.) I definitely questioned whether he was called to the ministry or if he did it because it was a noble profession in which he could advance and be adored and have a lot of power. There's another pastor in the book who "fell in love" with a 14 year old girl who was his babysitter, and then decades later they meet again and she plans to leave her husband and ends up getting herself killed. At which point the current pastor is completely heartless and can't understand that his wife is grieving for her friend (of whom he disapproved anyway). He even makes her go to counseling alone--though the majority of the problem stems from his indifference to her feelings and thoughts and personhood--refusing to go because "there's nothing wrong with me" and because it would hurt his advancement in the church!! OY.

While each of these books ends up relatively well--with realizations or with love or with freedom (or all of these!), and in particular the Mermaid Chair ends pretty realistically, not mindlessly idealistcally (and it's a really wonderful book, really), I was so frustrated after this spate of books that I was just wishing for a book with a story of a healthy relationship, a healthy marriage, people who actually care for others and who have good friends, etc.

So I decided to read The Blue Castle this afternoon. it's not long and it moves quickly. It was recommended to me by a good friend and discerning reader, so I read it (as an e-book). At first I thought I was reading another oppress-the-woman book, because it begins with a 29 year old unmarried woman being really really oppressed by her puritanical family. but it definitely looked up and ultimately became a really wonderful love story, complete with a happy healthy relationship! The man she marries (after asking him!) says things like "well, I couldn't say for you because I didn't know what you thought." He treats her well, they talk and they don't, they walk and they have fun and they act serious and all the while he treats her like an equal. At last! I was so happy. (but, whatever the amazon reviews say, there is at least one aspect of the "ending" that becomes obvious several chapters before it's revealed. But the big thing--definitely not!) I got what I needed from this book, ilhamdulillah!!

And that's what I've done the past two days--I've read two books (for a total of probably more than 500 pages, I guess) during the time I haven't been teaching. I love Thursdays.

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