Category Archives: VA

Wagons Ho – –

Jack actually makes it on time for the Wednesday guest post –

Well Covid hasn’t gone away yet, but since we are fully vaccinated and continue to wear masks, we feel able to make some excursions now.

We will be heading shortly to visit friends for a weekend in South Carolina, and then for a week in New Mexico. Then at the end of June we’ll be off for three weeks in Scotland after a break in the small group tours since 2019. This one will be a sentimental last one with many old friends we’ve made over the years.

Because we will be away so much during the growing season we won’t be planting so much this year, but we’ll still have a go at some basic veggies – corn, peas, onions, peppers. We do have arrangements in hand for our dog, cats and chickens – –

It will be strange getting back to traveling again although I doubt it will be exactly ‘normal’. Flights are subject to cancelation because of crew shortages and in Scotland some of our hotels can’t offer dinner because of staff from Europe falling foul of Brexit! I am hoping that the current requirement to have a negative test ahead of flying back to the US will have stopped by then. Nevertheless – adventures await!

I’m not suggesting that Covid is over – I don’t believe it will ever be over. Wendy has been very careful of my contacts and outings for the last three years and taking serious precautions herself. Far too many countries seem to be just shrugging their shoulders now and condemning old and infirm people to an earlier death than would be expected. Maybe they think it will ease pressure on their health systems?

Despite the restrictions it will be good to feel semi-normal again, though!

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Filed under between books, humor, Life reflections, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book: THE EXILE by Pearl Buck

I picked up a set of Buck novels at a yard sale some time before the pandemic. And there they sat, until last month when I took The Exile to a conference with me.

The Exile is what I would call a character study. It is about Carie, a missionary in China who was a child during the American Civil War, and lives through both the Boxer Rebellion and the Chinese famine of the early 1900s. The story is told from someone observing Carie, occasionally slipping into first person and saying “I remember,” but usually a distant third person kind of narration. Not much dialogue appears in the book.

In fact, some 30 pages in I was tempted to set it aside, but something about the well-drawn Carie, mother to many babies only half of whom survive, a practical Christian less interested in prayer than feeding people, married to a man whose passion is for Christ—but then there are all those babies….

The story is told so subtly, how she winds up in predicament after predicament, some intense, some silly, a couple potentially lethal. As the young narrator describes how Carie faces down some threats, and flees from others, she continually builds up the practical wisdom and the sense of helplessness a woman of limited means and large heart would feel as she watched those around her starve.

Carie’s life with her husband Andrew is often glossed over, except that Andrew is the praying partner, and Carie feels a sense of ineptitude in her own relationship with God, when she sees the surety of Andrew’s. That said, it’s not a small part of Buck’s narrator’s voice that Carie is an amazing example of real compassion. At first I thought this was a story that told us about Carie rather than showed her character through dialogue and situations. But the more I read, the more I realized the subtle power of how Buck gets inside a female mind, displaying the power and prudence found there in understated ways.

The title is also a subtle pun, referring both to Carie’s life outside her beloved America, and her disquiet with traditional ways of expressing Christian devotion. She is an exile in many ways.

I’m not sure this novel would make a hit parade in modern times, but in 1936 it won the Nobel Prize. Modern readers will find flinch-worthy moments in relationships and assumptions between cultures.

In her day Buck was one of West Virginia’s most celebrated writers, and what is perhaps her best known work This Good Earth continues to be read in Classics classes. The Exile is quieter, more subtle, and yet somehow even more compelling. I never could resist a novel where character drives plot, and Carie is one of the most finely drawn, pencil-and-charcoal, light-and-shade characters Buck ever created. Highly recommended.

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Filed under book reviews, out of things to read, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch