Tobit’s Dog – A Book Review

NadineYear of the Pilgrim

 Have you ever reached the end of a book to find yourself feeling a little sad that it was finished; as if you were saying goodbye to good friends? That is how I felt as I closed Tobit’s Dog, by Michael Nicholas Richard. Tobit’s Dog is a novel based on the beautiful Old Testament book of Tobit. I had never read Tobit in its entirety, and decided to do so before reading the novel. As I moved on to Tobit’s Dog, I quickly discovered how creatively and thoughtfully the author brought the Biblical book into the Twentieth Century. The story is about the Messager family (a black family living in North Carolina during the Great Depression) and their many trials, sufferings, and joys. I immediately connected with Tobit Messager, his wife Anna, his son Tobias and of course his faithful companion Okra. Tobit was a hard working man of faith. He was respected by those who knew him well; however being a black, Catholic man in the south didn’t make life easy for him. After losing a good job Tobit made his living by finding things at the dump to fix up and sell. Anna cleaned houses to help. Hardships continued to find … Read More

How Reading Frankenstein Changed the Way I Work and Study

NadineYear of the Pilgrim

By Margaret Stokman When I glanced at my literature syllabus and saw the title Frankenstein, I thought “Oh, cool, the horror story.” When I started reading the novel, however, two things surprised me: First of all, the name Frankenstein doesn’t refer to the monster; Victor Frankenstein is the scientist who created the monster. Second, the horror of the novel for me didn’t have to do at all with the monster, but with Victor Frankenstein’s loss of freedom – this is the unexpected horror that I encountered within the story. Although the title that is most common to us is Frankenstein, the book is also called, The Modern Prometheus. Prometheus is a character from Greek mythology who steals fire from the gods and ends up chained to a rock and tortured for the rest of his life. Shelley claimed that the book was a “warning about the effects of letting oneself be controlled by ambition and losing control over its own possibilities.” Therefore, what is fire for Prometheus is finding the spark of life for Frankenstein. The novel is fascinating and fun to read, but I wondered what this science fiction story could have to do with my life as a high-schooler, studying and … Read More

How to Read a Book – Part 2

NadineYear of the Pilgrim

By Alison Solove Visit Part 1 to learn about the first two types of reading. Mortimer Adler provides almost 150 pages of suggestions for analytical reading in How to Read a Book. We’re going to focus on the one I find the most useful for analytically reading novels, marking up a book: Whenever possible, buy your own copy of a book you intend to read analytically. You can always make use of book sales or used copies online. If you can’t buy the book, find a notebook or pad of paper where you can make observations and ask questions about what you read. As you read, underline or box any passages you find especially compelling. Pause and ask yourself why. Record your thoughts in the margins. If you have questions while you’re reading—and you almost certainly will—write them down in the margins. Why did the character act in a certain way? Why did the author decide to have a particular thing happen to a character? Recall what the blurbs had to say about why this book is worth reading. Make note of any observations you have about the meaning of the book in the margins or the end papers. If … Read More

How to Read a Book – Part 1

NadineYear of the Pilgrim

By Alison Solove There is a tenth-century Anglo-Saxon riddle about a moth that ate words. Like a thief, he stole a man’s words and swallowed them. He wasn’t any wiser because of what he had taken. The answer to the riddle is pretty obvious. A moth that ate words is a bookworm. But that riddle also has something to teach all of us about the way we read. No one wants to be a mindless insect. There is no sense in merely “consuming” the words on the page. We have to read intelligently, really engaging with a book’s content and ideas. Medieval monks were even encouraged to ruminate when they read—digesting the material over and over again like a cow chewing its cud. That’s all well and good. But intelligent reading can be a tall order. For many of us, it’s hard enough to sit down and read a book, let alone ruminate on one. We might be discouraged by how difficult it is just to understand one of the great books. We might be startled by how easily distracted we are. Or we might have bad memories of an English teacher that tried to get us to see things … Read More

Reading Giants in the Earth in Laura Ingalls Wilder Country: Some Parallels and Personal Reflections

NadineYear of the Pilgrim

By Ana Braga-Henebry This piece was originally published in the ‘Year of the Worker’ Newsletter. One of the most delightful things about reading is that no matter how many different genres we may read, we never know what awaits us when we open a new book. This past winter we read Giants in the Earth for Well-Read Mom. The book tells the story of a Norwegian immigrant family that settle in the Northern Plains. Before we moved to the university town where we now live, we owned acreage about an hour away, somewhere in the southeast direction. The 1880’s farmhouse sat on the prettiest 18 acres this side of the Minnesota border with a creek running through it and a robust, imposing shelterbelt. The property was so old that it predated even the county country roads, forcing a rare curve on the road. During the eight years I lived there, for the first time a resident of a country property, and astounded by the brutality of the winter each year, I wondered how the first settlers ever made it. How did they get there? Why did they come? And most intriguing: What on earth made them stay after surviving their first … Read More

A Greater Awareness

NadineYear of the Pilgrim

By Marcie Stokman “Do you ever miss your prayer when you’re traveling or have company? Does it ever feel like you just don’t have enough time in the day to pray?” I posed these questions to the priest sitting next to me at a luncheon a few months ago. He seemed perplexed by my question, so I stumbled to clarify. “I’m sure it’s rare but don’t you ever – every now and then – miss saying your prayers?” After an awkward pause he slowly responded, “For me it’s just the opposite. I miss other things but I don’t miss prayer.” I was surprised. His faithfulness to prayer seemed to spring from a deep well of self-knowledge and an acute awareness of his dependence on God. Through this brief exchange, I understood something new that might help us in our effort to read more and read well. When it comes to forming the habit of reading great and worthy books, many women lament, “I just don’t have time to read!” But is lack of time really the problem? Perhaps, if we delve deeper, we will discover that the problem is neither a lack of time nor a lack of willpower, but … Read More

This Ordinary Life

NadineYear of the Pilgrim

By Beth Hautala I sat in the quiet early morning darkness with my infant daughter. It was the third time I’d been up with her since I’d fallen into bed the night before, and I was tired. Quite frankly, I’m not sure I’ve actually slept in the last nine years – not since my son, the oldest of four, was born. But my baby’s long eyelashes against her firm little cheek made me catch my breath. As they always do. And it was at that very moment a robin chose to burst into song outside the nursery window. It was early spring, and he was its harbinger. He sang for the sun alone. He sang because he was created to do so. Without applause. And I marveled at his courage. It takes courage to do the ordinary. This has been a slowly-dawning realization for me. Our culture praises the risk-takers. The adventurers. The ones who leave it all behind and risk life and limb for great causes and glorious endeavors. I praise them myself – I admire them. Sometimes I wish I could be them. But we are brave. It takes courage to rise in the wee hours of the … Read More

Embracing Silence

NadineYear of the Pilgrim

The Well-Read Mom book for March 2015 was Robert Waldron’s The Hound of Heaven at My Heels: The Secret Diary of Francis Thompson. At the Third Annual Conference for Women which took place in January at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN, we shared a portion of Teresa Vargo’s recorded talk on Francis Thompson’s great poem, The Hound of Heaven. Beth Nelson had the chance to sit down with Teresa and ask her some questions. In this article we bring you some highlights from that interview. Beth Nelson: Teresa, in your talk you spoke about a journey you have been on. Could you explain it to us briefly? Teresa Vargo: On November 21, 2014, I’ll be in training at a Monastery of cloistered Dominican nuns. Their whole life is one of contemplation, but also of prayer and sacrifice for the salvation of all souls. It’s scary, but also really exciting. BN: You have given talks at two Well-Read Mom conferences. Does Well-Read Mom have something to do with this journey you are making?  TV: Definitely! Several of the readings from Well-Read Mom over the past two to three years have paralleled my own spiritual life. The first year I was asked to … Read More

One does not simply walk into a book club… A note from the Iowa City Well-Read Mom group

NadineYear of the Pilgrim

The ‘Year of the Friend’ book list concluded with J R R Tolkien’s  The Fellowship of the Ring, a wonderful example of friendship.  Kim Nuxoll from Iowa City, IA and her Well-Read Mom group made the most of it with their special Lord of the Rings family get-together. We’re grateful to Kim for sharing her reflections on this great event!   When it was announced that Well-Read Mom would be reading The Fellowship of the Ring as our ultimate book for the Year of the Friend, I found that my husband and boys (age 8-13) were more enthused than I was.  A shout rang out, “Mom, is finally going to read Tolkien!” During the first month, as I reluctantly trudged into Middle Earth, there was often a set of eyes glancing over my shoulder and an attempt to act casual as they asked, “What part are you at?”  Even though my husband was reading it out loud, for the third time, to my three boys I found myself retreating to my room to try to tackle the text on my own.  Finally, I gave in. I contacted the others in my group to see if I was the only one experiencing this level of enthusiasm at … Read More

Is Reading Selfish?

NadineYear of the Pilgrim

By Rachel Digman As an avid reader since childhood, I was the type who was never without a book and felt a little bit lost whenever I finished a great book. Even after having kids and encountering sleep deprivation, busier schedules, and more people demanding things from me, reading was one habit in my life that was unalterable, until this spring. When our family said yes to a new job for my husband in a town four hours away, putting our house on the market and looking for a new home ate up most of my spare moments. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t reading regularly. There was so much to do that I felt as if stealing moments away just to read a book was not helping my family in any way. In this new set of circumstances, I wondered whether my reading habit was a bit selfish. Particularly now that I have children who watch my every move and ask everything of me, this hobby of mine has become more and more costly. Just today as I settled down to power through Frankenstein, encouraging my 5-year-old to find something quiet to do while I read, … Read More