The Monday Book: OUR LADY OF THE LOST AND FOUND by Diane Schoemperlen

virgin-mary_2085222bSo what would happen if Mary the mother of Jesus came to stay with you for a week, just for a break?

You would spend a lot of time re-examining your life and the life of women, and you would do a lot of research on her other appearances. Which pretty much sums up this novel. The novel is neither rude nor kind about Christianity; it kind of takes a sideways approach to Mary’s story, leaping back and forward between telling the narrator’s story – she never gives her name because she doesn’t want people to believe she’s crazy – and encyclopedia-esque entries about Mary’s other appearances.

I found it fascinating. Narrative arcs are overrated; this narrative ping-pong game is a lot of fun. The analytical nature of the first-person narrator (who is an author) as she examines her own life in light of Mary’s visit gives insight ito the lives of women overall. It’s aga saga light, latte lit, chick lit with bite. And the Mary visits chronicled through history are so interesting. Especially when she follows up on what happens to those so visited.

Perhaps the book meant more to me because I’ve actually visited Mary’s house near Ephesus – the one John took her to after the disciples left Jerusalem. It’s a tiny thing, not any bigger in its two rooms than our bookstore’s main one. But it was an amazing thing to see.

Oddly enough, Mary has never appeared at her own home. But this book does a good job with that famous “what if” approach to fiction: what if she appeared in mine?

The Monday Book: AGE OF MIRACLES by Karen Thompson Walker

miracles I got this out of the library as a recorded book, not really knowing any more than the back blurb. (Our library is wonderful, but recorded books run heavily to thrillers, so anything that wasn’t one, I was interested in.)

Happy occasion, that, because I might not have picked this book up had I realized its vague science fiction premise. Jack and I listened to it together down in our cabin away from civilization, as a break from cutting wood and working on some writing and generally chilling out for Christmas.

The book has two main threads tied together as its theme: what if the Earth simply slowed down in its rotations, what would happen to all the ordinary people living ordinary lives? And what’s it like to be a sixth grader with a crush on a boy while the Earth is dying?

Jack commented more than once that he thought this was two separate books pulled together on the advice of a writing teacher – not that he was complaining, because he loved it. But the odd juxtaposition of sixth grade angst and “well, crap, this is the Apocalypse” works well in the way someone occasionally pairs orange and purple on the catwalk, and that works. It’s a compelling read, perhaps reminiscent of How I Live Now, but more carefully constructed. It’s also not really a teen book, but an adult one using a child’s innocence to tone down horror and fear.

It rushes to an ending that you think isn’t going to work, and that is actually pulled back from disaster by a symbolism so lovely, Jack and I cried. If you like “what happens now” books that aren’t driven by heavy action, if you like thoughtful stories about the inner workings of teenagers, if you are interested in the science of disaster, you’ll like this book.

We loved it.