Imagine a happily married couple–no, a blissfully married couple–sharing and supporting each other through many years’ of challenges and joys.
Now freeze that frame.
A shocking revelation blindsides the man, a fallout from a difficult decision he made during his youth while under the severe pressures of combat duty. He knows how much his wife loves him, but he fears this could destroy his marriage. It almost certainly would ruin his public standing, just as he closes in on the triumph of his political career.
Return to the quiet, thoughtful, intelligent couple. Christopher Winters and his scientist wife, Laura, are best friends, open and honest, calmly discussing problems, genuinely caring for each other.
Although on the other side of the world two people’s lives are in the balance, he would be insane to reveal his secret. Will he?
I highly recommend The New Year, and what a great time to read it, in January!
Spending time with these characters made me want to be more like them. I am quite sure that reading this book changed me for the better. It showed me how a crisis can be handled with patience, good judgment, compassion, integrity and faithfulness. It is rare these days to find a fiction book with meaning, but this one is brimming over with it.
The New Year was published in 1968, over thirty years after Pearl S. Buck wrote her Pulitzer-prize winning novel, The Good Earth, about a family living in a Chinese village in the early 20th century. The author’s parents were missionaries in China and she grew up there.
The Good Earth appears on so many must-read lists that, about ten years ago, I put it on my own To Read list. The premise didn’t sound very interesting to me, but I forced myself to read the first few pages. After that, I couldn’t put it down, and it has stayed with me all these years.
In my imagination I can still see the main character, O-lan, struggling stoically through her life. This best-selling novel–only the second novel she’d written!–led to the author’s winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938. According to Amazon.ca, she is the most widely translated American author to this day.
And I recently discovered something lovely about the effect that Pearl S. Buck’s writing had on one reader.
Author Anchee Min grew up in Shanghai and wrote in her 1994 memoir, Red Azalea, about her youth and the chaos of China’s Cultural Revolution. In an NPR interview, she tells how in her teens students were asked to denounce Pearl Buck as an American cultural imperialist.
Min told her teacher she didn’t know about Pearl Buck, and asked if she could read the book, The Good Earth. Her teacher said that the book was so toxic that it was considered dangerous to even translate it. So she dutifully completed her assignment by copying lines from the newspaper: ‘Pearl Buck insulted Chinese peasants. She hates us, and therefore she is our enemy.’
Min didn’t think about the author again until 25 years later, when she was on a book tour. “I was in Chicago in a bookstore doing a reading, and a reader came to me. She says, ‘Do you know Pearl S. Buck?’ And before I could answer, she gave me a paperback. She says, ‘This is a gift. I just want you to know that Pearl Buck taught me to love Chinese people.’ ”
Min said that when she read the novel, she broke down and sobbed because she had never seen anyone, including her own Chinese authors, who wrote of the Chinese peasants the way Pearl Buck did, with such love, affection and humanity. And it was at that very moment her 2010 book Pearl of China was conceived. Pearl of China, about the life of Pearl S. Buck, offers a perspective of how Chinese people saw this brave American woman who was beloved by the people close to her but denounced by authorities.
You can read an excerpt from Anchee Min’s book at the NPR link, here.
Since reading Buck’s The New Year, I have set a goal to read as many of her books as possible, starting with one of hers that I found recently at a used book store, a hard cover published in 1945, Portrait of a Marriage. She wrote over 100 works of literature, including 46 novels and many children’s books. Many of her books are reviewed on Goodreads.
I hope you’ll treat yourself to a Pearl Buck novel and make it an even Happier New Year!
… or the early morning sky, in my case.
For almost a week I have noticed a extra-bright light in the still-dark southeast sky before I go to work. At first I thought it was an airplane; it’s not uncommon for me to stand out on my balcony and see a brilliant light in the sky heading toward me until it is almost overhead, and then turning north to the airport.
But this one just sat there, blazing. Was it a comet? I didn’t remember hearing about a comet, but was curious so I Googled it. I landed on Time and Date’s “Planets Visible in the Night Sky” . There on the The Interactive Night Sky Map you can see what the night sky looks like–at this very moment, at your exact location. And there was my bright light and the crescent moon exactly where I saw them.
The luminous orb turned out to be my old friend, Venus, “the morning star” whom I’ve long admired. But I still didn’t know why it seemed so much brighter than usual.
I got my answer on EarthSky.org:
Venus is brightest in our sky around the time it passes between us and the sun. Astronomers call this its “greatest illuminated extent”. In 2018, Venus will reach its greatest illuminated extent in the morning sky on December 1 or 2, 2018. You can read more about it here.
And also, by coincidence, it turns out that right now there is a comet we can see! Wirtanen, the last comet of 2018, will be visible throughout December. In my area, the best time to see it is from about 7:30 to 9:45 PM.
Ah, the sky!
Such joy to the eye!
In you we can see
Seek the one who fashions the Pleiades and Orion, who turns the deep darkness into morning, who darkens day into night, who calls out to the waters of the sea, pouring them out onto the surface of the earth: the LORD is his name. (Amos 5:8)
Image at CC0is licensed under
Ever since I learned about Canada’s ecosystems while researching my book Respect Our World-Sustainability, I have had the topic on my radar. I am very thrilled about Parks Canada’s announcement that after 140 years of absence, bison have been reintroduced to Banff National Park! Right in my backyard!
This is not only an ecological triumph, it is also a move to show respect and a spirit of reconciliation with our First Nations people throughout the country, who are very near and dear to my heart.
Treat yourselves to an inspiring story, and some gorgeous scenery in this video!
The simple act of receiving a Christmas card means someone remembered you,
that you are cared for, and that you are not invisible.
When my friend Barb initiated a wonderful tradition in sharing the joy of Christmas cards with homeless individuals, the initial goal was to collect 80 cards. As it turned out, 80 was “a drop in the merry bucket” as over 1200 cards came in from all across Canada, UK and the USA in a little over three weeks!
I’m joining in the merriment again this year, and hope you’ll been inspired to snail-mail a card! And you could have the children in your life send a card (here are Samples of Cards sent by children).
How to send a card:
- Purchase a Christmas card or hand-make one (see FAQs for suggestions) .
- Include a simple handwritten Christmas message, inspirational thought or note to let the receiver know they are cared for
- Signing the card with your first name is essential to provide a personal connection
- Mail your Christmas card by December 10th (or November 30th if you are outside Canada) to:
P.O. Box 96107 West Springs
If you pass this along, even more joy can be spread!
From as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by other cultures and eager to know about countries around the world.
This fascination has led to traveling, learning about global holidays, attending pow-wows…
…writing to overseas pen pals, learning Scottish Highland dancing, volunteering at a First Nations wilderness camp…
…AND writing about other cultures!
Immigration to Canada – Then and Now is a new series of educational books published by Beech Street books. I was thrilled last winter when Red Line Editorial invited me to write one of these books, and am celebrating receiving my author copy of Chinese Immigrants in Canada!
An Educational Experience
What an educational experience it was for me to learn about this strong, determined, resourceful, industrious ethnic group in Canada. I have enormous respect for the Chinese immigrants and Canadian-born Chinese people who battled hardships with dignity.
I didn’t know how much I didn’t know about Canada and immigration, until I began gathering information. What a valuable experience!
Let me encourage you to “go back to school” and have a look at some of the fascinating people groups in your country. I’m sure you will be as inspired as I am at their journey and accomplishments. Here are some links to whet your interest!
And here is a link showing another children’s educational book I wrote for Beech Street Books about sustainability.
Lonely Lily or The Shepherd’s Call, a tiny thin book published in the U.K. in 1893, gently tells a sweet but powerful story of faith. It is written for children, but nevertheless fascinated me with its suspenseful telling of the inner journey of hearts, from despair to comfort.
I am struck by how much more serious children’s lives were when this book was written, and how mature the themes in children’s books were, compared to today. It is heart-warming to see the traits of diligence, patience, duty and faith demonstrated in this story.
Grandmother Parfitt, an “old, silent woman” lives a reclusive life in an attic apartment with her granddaughter Lily, “a fair, pale flower, pale from the atmosphere of smoke and heaviness” in their city.
Life had dealt Grandmother much bitterness and regret through the deaths of her husband and children, neglect from those from whom she expected kindness, and the theft of her treasures. She has drawn away from others and wants Lily to do the same.
Lily loves to hear about her grandmother’s happy days living in the beautiful country of Switzerland, and one day wonders if heaven is like the countries where she’d been. Grandmother tells her she shouldn’t worry about such things at her young age and senses that Lily is lonely.
Soon Lily is allowed to spend time with Rose, a girl who lives in the same building, and through her family starts to get some answers to her questions about faith. Yet “the child felt alone and ‘outside’; and still she did not see the hand that would guide her [to heaven], nor hear the voice that was saying ‘Come unto me’.”
It wasn’t until Lily was invited to Annie Spencer’s to hear weekly Bible lessons that Lily finally understood God’s kind invitation. Annie, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is afflicted with a spine condition that causes her constant pain, yet she welcomes a group of girls to visit every Saturday. After her lesson, she senses that Lily has questions and takes her aside for a quiet talk. Then Lily understands that God forgives, and promises not to send anyone away who comes to Him. Finally, she loves Him for sending Jesus to die for her sins, and is comforted. Lily is no longer lonely.
After a torrential rain, Lily’s granny returns from work cold and drenched, and becomes seriously ill. Lily reads to her from her new Bible, which brings hope to Granny for her feelings of regret. She feels sorry for her hard heart and how she had done cruel wrongs in her life. Grandmother realizes that God can love and forgive even her, knows Jesus is her Savior, and forgives those who had done her wrong. After granny’s peaceful passing, Lily is taken in by Rose’s loving family.
About the book
I must admit that it was a sad book, even though good things happened at the end. Quite a serious book, especially for children, it is nevertheless a beautiful one.
My edition, published in 1893, is called the New Edition. The original was apparently published in the 1860’s. My copy has an interesting inscription: “To Lillian From Rudi”. Did Rudi give this to Lillian because her name was similar to Lily? No inscription date is written, which is unusual.
Judging from all of my online searches, this seems to be a rare book and relatively unknown author. I only found one copy of it at AbeBooks that seems to be an authentic copy of the original printed book.
I found only one of the author’s books, Left at Home , on Gutenberg.com. The OCAC/WorldCat lists several copies of all of her books in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.
I found no information on the author, which is surprising because my copy lists four other books she had written.
Do you have any similar gems to share?
Here are three of my previous posts about other vintage children’s books if you’d like to check them out:
Sam’s Mission , by Beatrice Marshall, published 1892
The Little Hunchback Zia , by Frances Hodgson Burnett (the author of the well-known The Secret Garden and A Little Princess), published 1915
Junior Instructor Encyclopedia , first published 1916
When I posted my thoughts about the classic novel, Don Quixote, I never dreamed that within one week I would see 17th and 18th century artistic renderings of the story on the walls of a palace!
On our summer trip to Germany, my friend and I decided to go to the Charlottenberg Palace in Berlin. This palace was built by Elector Friederich III in 1699 as a summer palace for his wife Sophie Charlotte.
In one of the first rooms we walked through, I noticed the scene in a tapestry–the tell-tale helmet on one tall slim character and the round character on a donkey–could this be Don Quixote and Sancho Panza? Yes!
Made in Paris, the tapestries were presented to Prince Henry, the brother of Friedrich the Great, as a gift from Louise the XVI of France. Imagine! This book, written by Don Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra in 1605, was so popular that 18th-century artists created huge paintings and tapestries to depict the scenes, and kings gave them to other kings as presents.
And a glorious painting filled the ceiling, showing the windmills Don Quixote imagined to be giants…
To the best of my ability (typing in the correct letters into Google Translate), the French text curving under the ceiling mural translates in English to “Don Quixote led by madness to be a wandering knight.”
What a strange and thrilling experience to see that the author (1605), the artists (tapestries 1763-1784) and all of us today were all reading the same book!
One note about the palace, and something that made me proud to be German. The palace — like so many cities and churches and palaces all over Germany — was severely damaged in World War II, and rebuilt starting in the 1950’s. Thank you, Germany, for that determination and devotion to restoring the breathtaking beauty in art, music, architecture and gardens throughout your land!
I regularly recommend this novel as one of the most hilarious books I’ve ever read. Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to the pleasure of this story!
Actually, the full title of the novel is El Ingenioso Hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha (The Ingenious Low-Born Noble Don Quixote of La Mancha). And, apparently, this was William Faulkner’s favorite book; he read it once a year, and Don Quixote was his favorite character.
I didn’t know all this, however, when I sat down unenthusiastically to read it. Because the description made it seem so dry, irrelevant and archaic, I had to “make” myself read Don Quixote, because I wanted to read more of the classics of English literature, and this one makes it to the top of many lists.
Don Quixote did not start out with a bang, as many novels do today. In fact, I felt that throughout the book there was no clear main plot or building suspense. Rather, there were little vignettes of humorous adventures as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza travel, believing they are knights, trying each others’ patience, and trying the patience of those they meet, giving and receiving blows in some cases!
Once I got used to the pace of the story, I sat back and enjoyed every minute of it. What is so endearing is how their ridiculous antics are taken very seriously, and our pair are given respect and honor, even by the royal family who ultimately has the power to bring them success or leave them a failure. I found myself rooting for them, hoping beyond hope for their success, although their quest seemed destined for defeat. By the end, I was sad to leave these two “companions” of mine, Don Quixote, knight errant, and Sancho Pansa, most loyal friend, for whom I’d grown so much affection!
Don Quixote is one of the books you can find in most any library or bookseller, and I hope you give it a try!
Would some of my previous reviews of classic novels interest you? Here are The Bridge of San Luis Rey, My Antonia, The Inheritance and Pride and Prejudice. And here are more books to entice you in my post last month. I trust one of these will catch your eye!
Happy summer reading!
[Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons: “Don Quixote and Sancho Panza” by Jules David]
If you’re looking for some summer reads, may I recommend this list?
If you haven’t already discovered some of these, you don’t want to miss out on some excellent literature.
Many years ago I found a similar list. With a goal of reading one or two from the list each year, I started with some books that I thought I could stomach: romances by Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte, My Antonia by Willa Cather, The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (only because it was very thin).
All of them were fascinating. Who knew?
Then I got brave and read some that looked endlessly boring and painfully long–The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes–only to be pleasantly surprised at how easy they were to read and how hard to put down (Don Quixote made me laugh out loud!).
It gave me a feeling of satisfaction to check them off the list one-by-one. I also noticed that a sense of camaraderie with other readers of classics as I started to understand cultural references to these stories.
Soon I discovered an online classic book club through my public library. One of them sent the first three chapters of a classic novel by email at the beginning of each month. That was do-able, and I found more authors I liked.
That was the beginning.
These led me to lesser-known old books, and the best books I’ve ever read (hence, my posts!). This is how I began collecting old books at book sales, and my experience has shown that I can trust most books written more than fifty years ago to be a quality read.
I no longer carry that list in my purse because my “list” is now on my shelves, each awaiting its turn–as time allows!
And here is a list for classic children’s books.
What are your favorites on the list? Or if you aren’t yet into the classics, how about taking the challenge? One or two from the list each year?
Happy reading this summer!
My appreciation to the following for open source images: