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~ Kathy M.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Recent Reads: "Firefly Lane" by Kristin Hannah; "A Map of the World" by Jane Hamilton and "When Joy Came to Stay" by Karen Kingsbury

Hi!  I'm playing catch up on here today about the last three books that I have read.  All three were good, but one I will be keeping on my bookshelf next to "The Help" and "The Secret Life of Bees", if my Mom doesn't make me give it back to her.  

I'll be telling you about each book in the order that I read them.

"Firefly Lane"
by Kristin Hannah
c. 2008

Firefly Lane was the name of the street in a small town in Washington where Kate lived, and Tully moved to, in the early 1970's.  The two became fast and best friends, and the story follows them throughout their lives.

This is the first Kristin Hannah book that I have read.  I thought that it was really good.  I enjoyed how she researched what was popular and important to us growing up in the 1970's, 1980's, 1990's and into the 2000's.  Music, toys, fashions and the rest; Firefly Lane was a fun culture review.  I also liked the fact that the book was set in the Pacific Northwest, mainly in the Seattle area.

Tully is a go-getter who has to fend for herself when she is stuck with her the alcoholic/pot-smoking mother.  When she isn't with her mom, she lives with her grandparents.  Circumstances occur where Tully ends up moving in with Kate and her family during the girls last year of high school.  The dominant person in the best friend dynamic, Tully plans out the lives of both her and Kate.  She often oversteps her bounds, is a bit self-centered, and doesn't like to apologize.

Kate is a good girl with a great family.  Over time she decides that instead of becoming a career woman who gets rich and famous, she would rather be a stay-at-home mother.  From the beginning,  Kate struggles with her high-strung oldest child, Marah.  Kate's husband is crazy about Kate, and the twin boys are much easier to deal with than Marah ever was.

This is a really good story, with a lot of details and character development.  There are a few small things that could have been edited out though. For instance, every time that Kate went into her living room, she had to pick up toy dinosaurs.  Never Lego's or Superman figurines, or anything else.  I don't know why minor stuff like that bugs me, but it does.  I'll be going along and thinking, geeze, don't those little boys have anything to play with besides dinosaurs?

The end of the book gets sad, and I did cry, but it gives us some important information and it was very well done.

So, is this the one that I am going to keep on my shelves forever?  No, not this one.  It is a good read though; and a great book to sit in your lawn chair by the lake to keep you company.  That is where I read most of it!

I give it two thumbs up, and will read more of Hannah's books when I see them.

"A Map of the World"
by Jane Hamilton
c. 1994

Oh, my, did I love this book.  It was meaty.  The language was a treat.  The story was so deep, and so good.  At first, I had to put it down, because I had just finished that other book, "The Haunted".  I was in the mood for something more uplifting and during the first chapter of "A Map of the World", disaster strikes so I chose to read "Firefly Lane" instead.  When I got back to this book though, it wasn't the sad story that I thought it going to be.

The people in "A Map of the World" are excellently developed and you don't even feel like you are reading a book about fictional characters.  It is more like watching a movie, come to think of it.  That is when you know that a book is soooo good!  I later learned that there was a  movie  made from this book in 1999, starring Sigourney Weaver.

The story features Alice, a farm wife to Howarad and school nurse with two children and a best friend, living in a small town who views them as the family of outsiders.  While Alice is babysitting her best friend Theresa's daguther, Lizzy, well, um, Lizzy drowns in the farm pond.

Oh, but things get even worse for Alice after that.  Besides the guilt and depression that follows Lizzy's death, Alice is accused of a horrendous crime from some children at school. She spends several months in jail because the bail is set so high that her husband can't afford to get her released.  

Though I have told you those two main themes that run throughout the book, don't worry, you find all of that stuff out right away on your own.  It is how everybody relates to each other, and how they work through their sorrow and problems that really makes this story work.

Yep, this one is the keeper!  It is older, 1994, and is written by the same person who wrote "The Story of Ruth", another book that I have kept for years and years.  Two plus thumbs up for sure on this book.  I considered it excellent.

I have learned that Jane Hamilton is still writing away, and here is her website, if you would like to learn more about her:  "Jane Hamilton"

 "When Joy Came To Stay"
by Karen Kingsbury
c. 2000

"When Joy Came To Stay" is a Christian novel about a columnist named Maggie Johnson Stovall and her struggles.  She suffers a nervous breakdown due to the fact that she has suppressed her anger and lied about the baby that she gave up for adoption prior to marrying her husband Ben.  After checking herself into a Christian psychiatric hospital, Maggie comes to terms with her issues.  Her husband Ben comes to terms with his own idealistic and sometimes judgmental view of what it means to be a Christian.

In the middle of everything, the little girl, Amanda Joy, who was adopted out at birth, loses her adoptive parents in a car accident.  This leads her through a string of foster homes, each one getting worse than the last.

Karen Kingsbury is a very good writer.  She patiently walks us through everything, and spells the story out from a believer's point of view.  I have a feeling that the editing in this book may have taken away parts of the story.  Because Kingsbury is so detailed in her writing I can't figure out why so many little pieces are missing.  I was left with many unanswered questions, but mostly on the minor stuff.

The themes in this book are depression, mental breakdowns, prayer, faith, the small quiet voice of God, the foster care system, caseworkers, counselors, judging others, grace and forgiveness.

I will read other books by Karen Kingsbury when I see them.  She actually has inspired me to consider writing a Christian book of my own someday.  I do think that Ms. Kingsbury could have expanded on her scripture choices however, as she kept using the same ones over and over again.  Still, it was a good book, easy to read, and it kept me engaged. 

Also, I happened to be very worried about a family member with mental illness and had put a call out for prayers as I was reading this book.  It seemed to be a case of perfect timing to have chosen this book to read when I did. 

~ Kathy M.  

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Kathy A. Johnson said...

You've been busy reading, Kathy. It's great that you found three authors you'd like to read more of. I always enjoy that.

Have a fun weekend!

Little Nell said...

How do you find the time to read Kathy with all the blogging and photography? I tend to only read novels in bed before I sleep, or I'd never get anything done!

Mama Zen said...

I'm adding A Map of the World to my reading list!

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