From Red Earth (Book Review)

I knew when I saw the cover of Denise Uwimana’s book From Red Earth: A Rwandan Story of Healing and Forgiveness that it would be a weighty read. Although I’ve heard missionaries talk about the Rwandan genocide, of the hateful, horrible violence and desolation the small East African country experience, it was only in general overviews. I’ve never read the first-hand account of someone who survived it, and even more incredible–someone who has been able to forgive the perpetrators of these horrific crimes.

Having read many Christian biographies and autobiographies to my kids during the years we homeschooled, I was pleasantly surprised to find this book is as well-written and captivating as a good novel.

The author does such a wonderful job describing her surroundings in the town of Bugarama, creating a sense of danger and foreboding, and she vividly recounted her childhood in such a way that I was transported through the story along with her. And even more importantly, I quickly felt a sense of connection with her.

Denise’s personal thoughts and feelings, that she generously shared with readers throughout the book, gave a beauty and individuality to the story, and invested me as a reader.

What she, and the Tutsi people of Rwanda experienced during the hundred days of genocide is unimaginable, horrible violence, pain, and grief. The fact that the international community did nothing to stop it is unthinkable and shameful. The descriptions of barbaric, hateful atrocities that humans committed against fellow humans are difficult to read, to take in, but necessary to remember in the hopes of preventing history repeating itself.

The second half of the book focuses on what happened after the violence. Denise wrote how she and the people who survived began to process what had been done to them and to their loved ones. So much grief, pain, anger, and hopelessness permeated their hearts and minds. Many had no home, no family, no land and seemingly, no future.

As time passed, Denise gradually found healing and was miraculously able to forgive her enemies. She began working to help other survivors to find healing. Eventually, this became her full-time work: to help widows of the genocide toward recovery and restoration.

I believe everyone should know what happened in Rwanda, even those of us who live far away and may never visit. We need to be reminded of the cruelty that is possible in humanity, and that we are not immune to it no matter how much we think we are.

Reading this book provides us with a first-hand account of the Rwandan genocide; more importantly, though, the message of hope, healing, and restoration that shines through this story is one that the world also needs to hear. I highly recommend this book!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Plough Publishing, but all opinions are completely my own!

What I’m Reading Lately

I have a stack of my own To-Be-Read books and an even taller stack waiting for me at the library, but I am only reading four at the moment. I just noticed that that three out of four authors are of Irish heritage…interesting!

Although I’ve been reading Colm Toibin’s The Master for several nights, I didn’t realize until last night that it’s about Henry James. It is beautiful: poetic and imaginative, and told by a true Irish storyteller. Have you had the opportunity to read anything by this author? Last year, I read his book Nora Webster and fell in love with the characters, the Irish landscape and style of speaking, the sad story, and her strong, surviving spirit.

David Whyte‘s The Heart Aroused has been on my unread bookshelf for a few years. Since it’s about corporate America, and I don’t have any experience in that arena, at first glance it seems a bit irrelevant to my life. But since I love all of David Whyte’s writing–poetry and prose–and once I dug into it, I realized the message is for all of us. The subtitle is “Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America”. David works with large companies, focusing on “the conversational nature of leadership. If you haven’t already, listen to his TED Talk “A Lyrical Bridge Between the Past, Present, and Future”.

John O Donahue left this world too soon. A friend of David Whyte’s, everything he wrote was pointing his readers toward beauty, imagination, curiosity, and wonder. His book Walking in Wonder was published posthumously and contains talks he gave. I don’t want to miss one word this man left for us! However, if you like his work, then read my favorite book of his Beauty: The Invisible Embrace .

This is Marketing is Seth Godin’s latest book and everything he writes is something every business owner, entrepreneur, and worker in today’s economy needs to read. Seth has always thought and spoken outside the box and his ideas might take a while too assimilate. He speaks much on generosity, doing good work, picking yourself, and shipping your work ( as opposed to perfectionistic procrastination.)

The Heart’s Necessities (Book Review)

I recently finished reading The Heart’s Necessities: Life in Poetry by Jane Tyson Clement and Becca Stevens. It shares the story of Jane Tyson Clement’s life, which was woven throughout with poetry.

She began writing poems as a teenager, and that is the way she seemed to best express herself. As a young woman, she married, had children, and, for a season, moved from the States to a Bruderhof community in South America. Jane was a lively teacher and a loving wife and mother, who always had poems singing through her head and heart. Her poetry was wound up in Nature and in the intricacies of her daily life.

Becca Stevens is a songwriter who has been influenced by Jane’s poems and wanted to share these quiet and beautiful gems with the world. She wrote the book with a chapter on Jane’s life, interspersed with snippets of poetry, lovely photos of nature, several poems at the end of each chapter, followed by Becca’s reflections on Jane’s life and poetry.

Like many other offerings from Plough Publishing, this book would make a wonderful gift for a poetry lover or songwriter, or for anyone longing for a glimpse at how the ordinary life is transformed through poetry. It will be released on April 22 and you can preorder it here.

Engineering A Life (Book Reviews)

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As you head off to work or to your home office this Monday morning, you may feel the need of some motivation. The following is a short book review of a highly inspirational true story. 

Krishan Bedi is someone I admire. He came, as a young man, to the Southern U.S. during the early 1960s with the purpose of obtaining a degree in engineering. He had little money, didn’t speak English very well, and had no experience with American culture or the American educational system.

In short, he took a huge risk to leave everything and everyone familiar behind and live an adventure. Because that’s what it was. He had a very courageous, impulsive and fun-loving spirit, which, I’m sure, helped him to face and overcome the numerous challenges that presented themselves. Sudden disaster, foolish decisions, and working menial jobs to earn enough to survive kept his life quite interesting in the early years.

But even finding a measure of success doesn’t mean that circumstances stay at an even keel the rest of one’s life. He faced hardship and unanticipated difficulties, but he kept going, kept trying, kept looking for the next step, for a better path. You will laugh at some of the hilarious situations he finds himself in, you will gasp at some of the unwise decisions he makes, you will share in his grief as he goes through loss and disaster, and you will cheer when he comes through it.

The book is called Engineering a Life: A Memoir by Krishan K. Bedi. I highly recommend this one. First, as a book to motivate and inspire you. Second, to see life through the eyes of another.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion and review.

Everything Happens For A Reason (Book Review)

I just finished reading Kate Bowler’s Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved, a memoir of her life before and with incurable Stage IV colon cancer. If you’re like me and tend to shy away from books about terminal illness, you might think it will be a dark, depressing, hopeless tale that will leave you in tears and in a blue mood for a week.

This book isn’t like that. Kate is smart, funny, and endearingly honest with how she faces this illness day by day. She has a young son and a husband whom she loves and doesn’t want to leave. There is no way to ignore her sense of grief as she lives with the fact she is dying, but she is no Debbie Downer. Her narrative goes along with her emotions and thoughts in a way that is tender and raw and completely relatable. She feels sadness, anger, and despair, but also joy, gratitude and hope.

Throughout, she expresses her thoughts on Christianity, particularly the prosperity message and how it does not serve people who face terminal illness or catastrophic events of any kind. By relating not only her experience, but those of many others who have gone through the loss of loved ones or who are ill themselves, she shows how this message does a lot more harm than good. Although she remains a believer, how she thinks about God and Divine interaction does go through an evolution as she attempts to make sense of her circumstances.

What stands out to me, aside from the fact that the book is interlaced with references to the Christian prosperity gospel, which I am very familiar with, is how well she brings the reader so close to herself and her story. You will feel like a trusted friend who is allowed to hear her unedited version of what it’s really like to be her as she makes this journey. Kate Bowler has given the world a gift with this book. I walked away thankful for even the tough things in my life and with a determination to not waste a moment of it. I highly recommend that you read this book for yourself.

* I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.