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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Filtering by Tag: Abraham Verghese

Books I've read this year (and my top recommendation)

jenmichel@me.com

I began the year with an ambitious reading list. You can find it here and laugh at the foolish notions January can put into a woman's head. So far, I've read:

The Fruitful Life by Gerald Bridges (My most recent issue for Today in the Word was about the fruit of the Spirit. This book was a good resource for that particular topic. I'd recommend it as a resource for newer believers.)

Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller (This book is especially appropriate for me since the book I'm writing is on the subject of desire. Keller has terrific insights to help us explore what motivates some of our chronic sin patterns.)

Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith (I am now an official Smith groupie. This book is a more academic and theologically profound treatment of desire than mine will be, but you'll probably see lots of Smith in my book. And Jamie, if you're reading, will you write my foreword??)

Death of Adam by Marilynne Robinson (Ok, confession. I've only finished the introduction and half of the essay on Darwinism. She's brilliant. And I am not.)

Still by Lauren Winner (I blogged about this book here.)

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (I felt good for having read it, but this, unfortunately, was the biggest pleasure of the experience.)

Saint Maybe by Anne Tyler (I blogged about it here.)

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (I started out LOVING this book. I was listening to it on audio, but I got tired of it and didn't finish.)

House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (I am reading this now. Can you believe I have a Master's in Literature and this is my first Wharton?)

And finally, the BEST book I've read so far and one that I suggest you IMMEDIATELY reserve at the library or buy on your Kindle:

Lit by Mary Karr

I love spiritual memoir, and I suppose this book fits into that genre, although it certainly wouldn't figure as "typical."

First prayer that Mary Karr ever prays?

"Higher power: where the f--- have you been?"

This is a book that is jarring and raw. Mary Karr has bled this book from her veins, and I cannot believe how stunningly powerful it is without the least hint of having been overwrought. I am in LOVE with this book. I want everyone to read this book. And if it didn't break every rule about writing, I would now end this sentence with a thousand and one exclamation points.

!

Later, I'll tell you more about the writing wisdom I took away from Karr's book. But for now, get the book and READ IT.

!

Find grace in unexpected places: Tell your story

jenmichel@me.com

In less than two weeks, we move. And as I’ve willed myself to finally admit this, I’ve begun to organize the house. Thankfully, we will have a crew of movers to pack and load our stuff, so there isn’t much else I need to do – at least for now. And because the house we are currently renting will be torn down in a matter of months, it’s not as if I actually need to clean it before we go. Nonetheless, even if it’s only the tedious task of sorting through closets and drawers, I figured an audiobook would make the work easier. Yesterday, I downloaded, Cutting For Stone. If you remember, I’ve set some ambitious reading goals for the year. And you’re wondering how I’m getting along? Um, let’s just say that I’m making slower progress than projected.

So far, I am loving this book. I am a sucker for great prose and great stories. And this book is both.

The narrator is an identical twin, born to a nun who died in childbirth. No one had even known she was pregnant, and certainly no one had ever suspected it.

In the prologue, the narrator declares why he is in search of his story, the one that died with his mom in operating theater 3.

“What I owe Shiva [my twin brother] most is this: to tell the story. It is one my mother, Sister Mary Joseph Praise, did not reveal and my fearless father, Thomas Stone, ran from, and which I had to piece together. Only the telling can heal the rift that separates my brother and me. Yes, I have infinite faith in the craft of surgery, but no surgeon can heal the kind of wound that divides two brothers. Where silk and steel fail, story must succeed. To begin at the beginning. . . . “

Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese

Stories heal.

To begin at the beginning. . . .

In the beginning. . .

I have to remind myself of the redemptive weave that a story spins. It takes so much courage to live wide-eyed in the midst of our own stories. There are things from which we would rather run and hide. There is pain and hurt that we’d rather bury.

Stories heal – but often, not before they wound.

I’ve told you this already. It’s been as a result of blogging that I’ve reconnected to my stories of profound loss. Those stories have been hard to tell, but in the process of telling them, of re-opening wounds I thought had long ago healed, a greater healing has come.

But there are other stories to tell. Some of them stories are of personal failure and profound regret. Tomorrow, I will be telling one of those stories more publicly than I ever have before.

Why?

Why tell stories that wound, that confess, that spill our guts and leave others standing over the mess?

Why not pretend and playact?

Because that is never possible, least of all from God. “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” Psalm 51:6

What's more, the world needs our stories. That may be the only way that they begin to connect to Jesus; maybe it’s through our stories that they start making sense of some of the abstractions we call faith.

Tell your story. To a friend or neighbor. To someone you bump into at school drop-off. To an acquaintance you’ve met at church.

Tell it, even to yourself.

Let yourself sit with your narrative, the novel of your life. Find God there, even in the chapters where you might have thought yourself alone and desolate. Find God in the scenes of your own sin, when you worked hard to reject His good for you.

Because that’s where we are always meant to find it:

Grace.