Tuesday, July 22, 2014

ORDINARY GRACE by William Kent Krueger








William Kent Krueger’s Ordinary Grace is a remembered story. Remembered stories are different. The narrator, Frank Drum puts it this way--

“It seems to me that when you look back at a life, yours or another’s, what you see is a path that weaves into and out of deep shadow. So much is lost. What we use to construct the past is what has remained in the open., a hodgepodge of fleeting glimpses. Our histories, like my father’s current body, are structures built of toothpicks. So what I recall of that last summer in New Bremen is a construct both of what stands in the light and what I imagine in the dark where I cannot see.”

That summer in New Bremen saw several deaths including one life-changing death for Frank and his family.

I didn’t know it when I bought it, but Ordinary Grace is a New York Times best-selling book. It won a host of awards. More competent people than I have reviewed the book.

I need say little about it, except to give my impression that every character in the book was true-to-life (at least true-to-life as Frank remembers them).

Frank’s father always acts in love, even when he has heart-rending pain.

Frank’s younger brother is so sensitive it hurts.

Frank is a rebel, at least in a mild way. He is the one who intrudes and does the things one shouldn’t do.

Frank’s mother and sister are extraordinarily talented.

Frank’s mother has more character than first appears. She is stronger than she appears to be at first.

The family’s friends are strong and weak, brilliant and sometimes violent.

Krueger fills Ordinary Grace with disturbing small and large memories. We all have those memories. The time we saw and silently condoned cruelty to animals, or (in this book) the time we intentionally listened to a conversation we wish we hadn’t overheard.

Ordinary Grace is a religious story. The Ordinary Grace of the title is what religious people would call God's grace working in ordinary things, sometimes among people who don’t believe in God.

Some critics have compared this book to To Kill a Mockingbird. The two books are similar. From my memory of reading To Kill a Mockingbird several times years ago, Mockingbird was the better book.

But that doesn’t change anything. Ordinary Grace is a wonderful book. I won’t soon forget Ordinary Grace.

Monday, July 14, 2014

TO DARKNESS AND TO DEATH by Juilia Spencer Fleming






Reading Julia Spencer-Fleming's To Darkness and to Death (2005) is like watching a blockbuster action movie. The plot is frenetic.

Every major character in the book faces either a crisis or a life-changing decision. One person has been kidnapped. Another lost his job and is about to lose his home. A third, faces the forced sale of his long term family-owned business.

Another is about to lose the forest which embodies his family's history. And the two main characters Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne and Episcopalian priest the Reverend Clare Fergusson watch their love for one another grow as Russ' marriage dissolves.

And that's just the beginning. The book involves kidnapping, murder, terrorism, and a total change in the town of Millers Kill, N.Y.

The change in Millers Kill is at the heart of the story. Nature advocates and a foreign company are about to take over control of the old growth forest.

Anyone who reads about these issues knows control of New England's old growth forests is a real issue, not a fictional issue. Foreign companies and outside groups are taking over the woodlands.

I suspect most people read the Clare Fergusson books for their unrelenting action. I read them for their characters.

The most interesting character interaction in To Darkness and to Death was Clare's connection to a minor player, a stodgy old man, the bishop's assistant. That old man seems to be as conservative as you can get. He has come to chastise Clare for blessing a gay marriage, but after talking to Clare, he suspects something more ethically challenging is happening in her life and ministry.

Yet he is an old man filled with Christian love. He and Claire have what is the beginning of real compassion for one another based on their love of Jesus Christ. (The Clare Fergusson books do have a religious component!)

I'm reading through this series. I've read a few of them previously, but this time I am going in order. Sometimes I get frustrated with these books. Some of the action seems contrived to keep the plot driving along. But, oh!, the characters. They make these stories live.

-----
P.S. I tried to look up what denomination Clare serves. The Episcopal church we belonged to (until the bishop and his “man” closed it because it was a failing new church start) was open-and-affirming. We welcomed and had many active gay members. Our minister could have performed a gay marriage had that been legal in our state. The Episcopalian church I know has ordained gay clergy and bishops.

Monday, July 7, 2014

HELL WITH THE LID BLOWN OFF by Donis Casey

 




Donis Casey's Hell With The Lid Blown Off has two sections—Before and After. 

Before, things are peaceful. In the summer of 1916, the Shaw Tucker family gathers for a meal. When the Tuckers gather, that is a large gathering. Shaw and Alifair have ten children (if I remember correctly). Several are married. But they come together (most of them, at least) for a spontaneous evening meal. 

Things are going well. The Tuckers expect two more grandchildren. Seventeen-year-old Ruth Tucker has a new beau. (The stories often feature one of the children courting and finally—maybe a book or two down the road--marrying.)

Ruth now gives piano lessons in Miss Beckie's house. Miss Beckie is a wealthy woman of Scottish descent who especially loves her grandson.

But the Boynton, Oklahoma, worm in the apple, Jubal Beldon, stalks Ruth. He threatens to start terrible rumors about her as he has about many people in the county. He is universally-hated. Paradoxically, he treats his animals with care and kindness.

Then the tornado hits.

This is the best-told section of the story. It reminded me of a time back in the 1980s. We often went to Silver Dollar City about one hundred miles from where we lived. One of their small venues featured a hammered dulcimer player named John Corbin.

One afternoon, I returned to that venue at least three times to hear him sing a powerful song about a tornado.

Donis Casey's description of the tornado reminded me of that song.

The Before section makes up almost sixty percent of the book.

And then there's After.

One of the Tuckers finds the body of Jubal Beldon. Someone murdered him at least a day before the tornado hit. His body rested in the high grass where no one saw it. Then the tornado grabbed it up and blew it from who-knows-where.

Alafair Tucker, Ruth Tucker, Alafair's brother-in-law Scott, Scott's deputy and Ruth's beau Trenton Calder, and the others work to solve the crime.

It is hard to overstate how much I like the Alafair Tucker books. We lived in Oklahoma for three years. Donis Casey knows the history and the people of Oklahoma. She tells an honest story about a wonderful family.

Hell With The Lid Blown Off reflects the blessings and hatreds of Boynton, Oklahoma. At seventeen years old, Ruth has to be told what a sodomite is. But she knows, as do the rest of them, how many people hate out-of-their-place African Americans and gays (two terms they wouldn't have known.) You can be imprisoned or strung up for being gay.

I read this book over two days, fast for me. If you enjoy well-told, historically-accurate mysteries, you should like Hell With The Lid Blown Off.

QUOTATIONS FROM HELL WITH THE LID BLOWN OFF--

Don't your understand? If folks think a thing, it is so. It doesn't matter if it's true our not. Your reputation is ruined.
-----
...in a tight little town like Boynton, where everybody knew everybody else, rumor was as damaging as fact.
-----
She didn't take notice of my collapse. She never doubted that I'd see the rightness of her position.
--Trenton Calder describing his girlfriend Ruth Tucker's response to his caving-in, changing his mind and agreeing with her.
-----
Everybody lost something or somebody, but everybody helped their neighbors, too.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

HELL HOLE by Chris Grabenstein


 




Chris Grabenstein’s Hell Hole came out in 2009, but it has application today.

Sea Haven, New Jersey, police officers Danny Boyle and John Ceepak investigate an apparent suicide. The victim returned from multiple tours in Iraq.

Unbeknownst to Ceepak, he had connections to the victim. Boyle becomes involved too because, previously, the dispatcher sent him on a disturbing-the-peace call. He later learned the loud, drunken soldiers are part of the dead man’s unit.

To complicate things, local thieves ransack the dead man’s car and steal his CD player. The whole thing revolves around drug dealing in the little tourist town of Sea Haven. Ceepak and Boyle get on the wrong side of a prominent U.S. Senator, the father of one of the soldiers.

And as if that weren’t enough, straight-laced, Dudley Do Right John Ceepak’s nasty, drunken father shows up in Sea Haven. That’s when what had been up to now an ordinary book turns into something special.

In a sense, Iraq is a background setting for this story.

A lot happens in Hell Hole. Events are more humorous and more serious than any summary makes them sound.

The humorous part is the straight-laced Ceepak and those around him. They investigate murders named after carnival rides or amusement parks in Sea Haven.

The now-unused Hell Hole ride is what we used to call the Grape Press. Riders stand along the wall of a large round smooth-walled barrel. The operator spins the barrel and people stick to the wall as the floor drops out beneath them. This particular Grape Press resides in the Hell Hole, a small, boarded-up, out-of-business amusement park in Sea Haven.

But the book’s title has other meanings too.

Along the way, Hell Hole explicitly describes crimes against humanity.

So how does this book apply to the present? In several ways. I’ve appended three quotes. Read them to find some examples of where I saw the parallel.

I always enjoy the John Ceepak-Danny Boyle books. If I were ranking this one among the Ceepak books I have read, I’d put Hell Hole at or near the top. 

QUOTATIONS FROM HELL HOLE

No wonder the guy made it all the way to senator. He lies better than anyone in Washington, and that’s saying something.
-----

“The Patriot Act clearly states that we can hold American citizens precisely because we do not have sufficient evidence to prove that said citizens have committed a crime meriting detention.”

            --The Senator’s justification for having his bodyguards kidnap Boyle and Ceepak.
 -----

CD number three is a gospel collection. A dozen songs entreating the Almighty to have mercy on the singer’s soul and not let him be forsaken in the Valley of The Shadow of Death, which could be another name for Iraq.

Monday, June 30, 2014

ANGELICA'S SMILE by Andrea Camilleri

 




Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano is an aging man with huge appetites for food and sex.

In Angelica's Smile, Montalbano falls for a beautiful suspect who reminds him of a character in the Italian epic poem “The Frenzy of Orlando.”

Apparently Orlando's frenzy was sexual, and the young Montalbano fantasized having intercourse with the woman in “The Frenzy.”

Montalbano, who is now over fifty, has a similar frenzy for a beautiful thirty-year-old woman. She is almost certainly involved in a series of well-planned burglaries. When he and his staff come up with a list of which places might be hit next, the search is on. Except that Montalbano is too busy pursuing Angelica.

Montalbano's lust for Angelica short-circuits his intuition, the quality that makes him a good investigator.

The Inspector's sexual frenzy ends in an unexpected way, or maybe not so unexpected when you think about human fantasies.

After a murder (in the last quarter of the story), Montalbano and his crew solve the case.

Montalbano is the same human Inspector Montalbano we have come to know. He is a habitual liar who spends much of his time eating gourmet food at Enzo's or enjoying the lovingly described meals fixed by his cook and housekeeper Adelina.

Along the way it occurs to Montalbano that he has no friends except the people he works with including the seemingly-almost-incompetent Catarella.

His come-and-go love interest Livia comes and goes in this book too.

I can't tell you how much I like these books. These people, especially the Inspector, are so much more human than most of the mystery story characters I encounter.

If you haven't already met Inspector Montalbano, someday you might want to take the time to do that.

-------------------

I can never write about these books without a tip of the hat to Stephen Sartarelli, the translator. I've read a Montalbano book translated by someone else. It was good, but it wasn't the same. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

THE OLD FOX DECEIV'D by Martha Grimes

 




Martha Grimes' The Old Fox Deceiv'd (1982) is a well-plotted book.

The victim could be someone pretending to be someone else. Then to complicate things more, she is wearing a borrowed costume on her way to a costume ball. Maybe the killer thought he or she was killing the person who owned the costume.

Scotland Yard's Detective Chief Inspector Richard Jury, his hypochondriac assistant Detective Sergeant Alfred Wiggins, and Jury's wealthy tag-along friend Melrose Plant investigate the murder.

The British seaside village of Rackmoor is a tourist town which seems to center on the family of Sir Titus Crael.

Crael's family has a strange history. His wife and youngest son died in an auto accident. Another household member committed suicide. And a third almost-adopted daughter ran away and then seemed to return.

Along the way, we meet interesting characters, especially an eccentric named Percy Blythe and an abandoned boy and his dog, Bertie and Arnold.

Melrose Plant adds humor. In the funniest scene in the book, Plant tries to interview Blythe.

The book opens in, and often returns to, a tavern named The Old Fox Deceiv'd.

The second obvious murder occurs on a fox hunt.

And the book ends with intense action and final explanations.

I bought this book on the Kindle bargain list. I treat that list in the way I used to treat the paperback rack in the bookstores years ago. Good books for less.

Martha Grimes' The Old Fox Deceiv'd was a good book, well worth reading.

Monday, June 23, 2014

THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD by Laura McHugh

 




Laura McHugh's The Weight of Blood is the story of two strong women in a brutally primitive setting.

McHugh sets her book in the Missouri Ozarks—Henbane, Missouri. (Henbane is a foul-smelling poisonous plant with prickly leaves.) 

The Weight of Blood begins when the people of Henbane find the scarred, dismembered body of a local intellectually-challenged 18-year-old woman.

Lucy Dane sets out to find the murderer.

Lucy, a high school friend of the victim, also wants to know what happened to her mother Lila.

Lila came to Henbane to work, ended up marrying Carl Dane and having one child Lucy. Finally Lila apparently committed suicide by walking to into the Devil's Cave and shooting herself. 

The Weight of Blood moves back and forth in time. McHugh alternates the two women's stories. 

The book's title refers to family ties, Ozark loyalty to family even in the face of murder and corruption.

In that sort of patriarchal society, solving a murder (or several murders) sometimes reveals terrible things about your family. 

The Weight of Blood had wonderful descriptions of the Ozarks--

“Once we hit blacktop, the road—or its makers—had been humbled. Instead of blasting through the landscape to make its own way, it followed the rolling ridge, traveling along its spine, the world falling away from its flanks.”

I grew up at the edge of the Missouri Ozarks. My wife and I lived for ten years in Camdenton, Missouri, not far from Lebanon where the event which sparked the core idea for this fictional story took place.

Once, we lived a couple of years in Nebraska, on the edge of that desert called the Sand Hills. I never felt at home until we drove back into the Ozark Hills.

But this is not the Ozarks of Silver Dollar City near Branson nor the Lake of the Ozarks near Lebanon or Camdenton. It is the hill country, the kind of place where, even today, militia members shotgun the windows of houses they think are built too close to their Ozark enclaves.

In that respect, this book is true and clear. It shows a Missouri Ozarks tourists seldom see. The Weight of Blood is not The Shepherd of the Hills. (Another book I liked, by the way.)

McHugh fills her book with courageous people. Not just Lucy and Lila are survivors (of a sort). Several other women lived with love and courage. They built strong lives in hard situations. And The Weight of Blood had good men too, men who helped save and protect their women.

I recommend this book. It is a hard book to read, but it is true to its subject.

--- 

PS Laura McHugh lives in Columbia, Missouri, where I live. I have not met her and do not know her. I first read about this book in the Kansas City Star.

Friday, June 13, 2014

THE CASE OF THE BAITED HOOK by Erle Stanley Gardner

 




To me, one huge baited hook in Erle Stanley Gardner's The Case of the Baited Hook was the cover.

This was the least sexy book I've ever read to have such a sexy cover. Don't get me wrong. I didn't pick it up because of its cover. I read about it in one of Patti Abbott's pattinase “forgotten books" blog listings. Later, I found this picture of an early cover.

Perry Mason falls for a scam. An apparently wealthy architect comes into his office. He offers Mason the chance to represent a mysterious masked woman who is with him in the office. He gives Mason two thousand dollars to start and a part of a ten thousand dollar bill. The woman has the other part of the bill.

Mason is to represent the woman if she needs it. He is to agree to check all his incoming clients with the wealthy architect to be sure those clients don't have a conflict with this woman's legal needs. If she has a need, she will identify herself and give him the other part of the bill.

And Mason falls for this.

I thought he was supposed to be a smart lawyer.

The case involves the swindle of a not-for-profit corporation, a scheme to foist off high-priced penny stock on the not-for-profit. It also involves the death early on of one of the principals involved and several other plot lines.

Della Street and Paul Drake are major characters as always.

The book has esoteric lawyer talk, the kind of intricate parsing of complex clues Mason usually does, and a lot more. Mason ends up being framed. Instead of the usual court scene in the second half of the book, Mason takes on Hamilton Burger in Burger's office.

Years ago, I read a few Perry Mason books. I always liked them, but I prefer fewer esoteric clues and more character. I liked other books better.

When I saw the review of this book and found the book (along with all the other Mason books) on Kindle, I decided to try another Perry Mason.

I had the same response to Mason as before. The book was clever and interesting. I didn't stop reading it before the end. I might read other Perry Masons sometime, but not many. I prefer the old TV shows. When I get to my true dotage, I'll get my Perry Mason fix on ME TV.

Monday, June 9, 2014

A ROOM FULL OF BONES by Elly Griffiths

 




Elly Griffiths' A Room Full of Bones is about just that, a room full of Aboriginal bones.

The bones include three skulls. They are part of the collection now owned by a wealthy Lord, a racing horse stable owner.

The man hires forensic anthropologist Ruth Galloway to look at another set of bones, the bones of his medieval ancestor, a prominent bishop. The bishop pronounced a curse on anyone who disturbed his grave.

The bishop's bones include a huge surprise. Maybe as a result of the bishop's curse, the curator of the rich man's museum dies in suspicious circumstances. Later the rich man himself dies.

This book, like the other Ruth Galloway stories, has all kinds of threads. DCI Harry Nelson and his crew investigate a massive drug smuggling operation. Nelson is the already-married father of Ruth's one-year-old daughter. Ruth's new neighbor heads an Aboriginal group fighting to get his ancestors' bones returned to Australia. He puts curses on two of the people hording the bones. At least one other person also appears to have been sickened by the curse.

This story has familiar characters—Cathbad (Ruth's special friend) with his druid ways, Nelson's team including Judy Johnson and Clough, and many more.

Ruth herself finds a different love interest.

I like the Ruth Galloway books. Reading one is like watching a good action-every-minute forensic show on television.

Griffiths' stories are complex. She fills them with anthropological information. She always has an exciting ending.

I find the Ruth Galloway books to be quick, interesting reading.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

OUT THE WINDOW by Lawrence Block

 




I'd forgotten how much I like Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder stories.

In “Out the Window,” (1977) a young waitress at one of Matt's favorite bars commits suicide. At least, that's the way it appears.

The young woman locked her apartment door, put on the safety chain, undressed, and then jumped out the window. The police have already written off the case as suicide.

But the woman's sister is not convinced. She hires the still-practicing-alcoholic ex-cop Matthew Scudder to investigate.

Scudder does what he was trained as a policeman to do. He surveys the scene, the young woman's apartment. He interviews people in the building and elsewhere, he looks at photos of the scene, and he talks to the young woman's almost-ex-boyfriend.

Only after a week of investigation, a night at the bar, and during a walk home with a waitress who invites him in does it occur to Scudder what must have happened.

Some bloggers have the habit of telling you a story's first line. The first line of this story is, “There was nothing special about her last day.”

I quote the line because it illustrates what I like about Lawrence Block's writing. His writing is simple, straightforward, and filled with implication. It is the kind of writing I enjoy reading.

“Out the Window” is a short story packaged for electronic readers. I assume other Scudder stories are similarly available. I think this story is also available in audio form.

I bought this story for a couple reasons: (1) I wanted to become reacquainted with an excellent writer; and (2) I like good short stories or novels I can read in one or two sittings. Those kinds of stories remind me of the old days.

If you've not checked in with Matthew Scudder lately, you might enjoy “Out the Window.”

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

not a mystery--MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN by Ransom Riggs






Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children is a young adult fantasy.

Soulless spirits kill sixteen-year-old Jacob's grandfather. Only Jacob can see the murderers. When Jacob talks about them, Jacob's parents put him in psychiatric care.

Jacob's grandfather faced two threats. He was a Jewish child spirited out of Germany alone to avoid the gas chambers. Then he came to be a part of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children on a remote island near Wales. He gathered with Miss Peregrine and other homeless children to survive WWII and fight off the soulless Peculiars.

Jacob's grandfather spent Jacob's growing years telling Jacob stories about peculiar children. They had strange gifts. One could levitate (see the cover). Another could cup fire in her hands. A third was super strong. And there were many more.

A few became corrupted. These were the soulless ones.

The non-corrupted children lived in groups gathered in time warps and led by bird-women like Miss Peregrine. She could change back and forth from being a woman to being a Peregrine.

As he became a teenager, Jacob disbelieved his grandfather's stories. He saw them as fantasy. Then he saw the spirits kill his grandfather.

In his search for the truth, Jacob finds Miss Peregrine's Home. He gets caught up in a time loop. The same day, the day the Germans bombed Miss Peregrine's home and killed the children, plays over and over again.

And Jacob falls in love. His girlfriend is the young lady who loved his grandfather. In the time loop, she is still a teenager, though she is 80+.

My summary doesn't do the book justice. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children has interesting characters and a compelling plot. The story ends with a massive battle that leads into the next book.

Ransom Riggs built his book around old photographs. He collects old photographs, especially strange trick-photographs like the picture of the girl levitating from the ground. In this sense, the book is a picture book. He wrote the book to narrate photographs he borrowed from himself and other collectors.

I ran on to the book because a teacher friend was reading it. She offered to loan it to me.

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children is just the kind of strange, well-written book that sometimes pulls me in.

The book was a #1 New York Times bestseller. I'd never heard of it until my friend told me about it.

Friday, May 30, 2014

COLD COMFORT by Quentin Bates






Quentin Bates' Cold Comfort has at least four story lines.

--Newly-promoted Sergeant Gunnhilder (Gunna) Gisladottir and her crew search for an escaped killer. He escaped his low-security prison a year before he was to be paroled. Gunna wonders why.

--Someone kills a washed up TV personality who is now a high-priced prostitute. She caters to a consortium of four rich, influential men who share her services.

--The investigation of the prostitute's murder leads to a back story, a murder ten years ago.

--And finally another murder (tied to Iceland's collapsing economy) occurs.

Iceland's economy collapsed. People lost jobs and houses. Businesses went bankrupt. Families broke apart because of financial and other kinds of stress.

Gunna's salary remains the same despite her promotion. Her department, the whole police establishment, is understaffed. The police are using rented cars. Someone attacks Gunna.

All this makes for a complex story. I read this book on the Kindle. The Kindle has a feature called x-ray which makes it possible to identify any character on a page. Some books use this feature, some don't.

Unfortunately, this book didn't use the feature. Keeping track of all the characters and of the complex plot became a chore.

Two characters fascinated me—Gunna and a sad character who committed murder because of his financial distress.

Cold Comfort was a traditional police procedural set in a stressful time. The book reflected much of what people in other stressed countries went through too. That's what interested me the most.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

not a mystery--WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD by Frank Schaffer






The beauty of Frank Schaeffer's Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in GOD is that Schaffer speaks only for himself. He doesn't do what so many religious writers do, try to impose their beliefs on others.

Schaeffer's major point seems to be that his individual human nature causes him to need to worship God. And that is true although his powers of reason often tell him God does not exist.

Schaeffer writes: “Embracing paradox helped me discover that religion is a neurological disorder for which faith is the only cure.”

And then, after a pause, he writes--“These days I hold two ideas about God simultaneously: he, she or it exists and he, she or it doesn't exist.” (Author's italics.)

This quote doesn't do Schaeffer's book justice. The first third was among the most beautiful pieces of writing I've read in the last few years.

The book opens with the moving story of a woman Schaeffer met on an airplane. He was coming home from his mother's funeral. And the story goes from there.

For Schaeffer, God is most expressed in family and friends, in loving one another, and in art—writing, painting, other visual arts, and music. He is both a writer and a painter.

Schaeffer came from a family of well-known fundamentalist missionaries. But his family accepted people of different religions and persuasions. They might have thought they needed to convert those people, but when push came to shove, they accepted and loved all kinds people without requiring them to change.

Schaeffer's view of Jesus is that Jesus accepts and loves outcasts, the poor, those left out. Jesus, like Schaffer's family, accepts all kinds of people.

Schaeffer also acknowledges the non-historical and (often) story nature of the Bible, the way Bible writers distort even the mission and words of Jesus.

You don't have to read very far to realize that Frank Schaeffer is an intelligent and educated man. His intelligence and his wide range of reading, his wide knowledge of art, have led him to his faith today. Often he sees God expressed in art most of all. 

The author worships in the Greek Orthodox church. He says he needs the liturgy. The book elevates the beauty and importance of family and friendship.

I learned about this book from the Sojourners website.

–---
A FEW QUOTATIONS FROM THIS BOOK--

“I realize now that my parents were often right for the wrong reasons.”
–---
“Guilt is underrated.”
–---
“My dogmatic declarations of faith once provided status, ego-stroking power over others and a much better income than I've ever earned since fleeing the evangelical machine. Certainty made things simple, gave me an answer to every question and paid the bills.

“With the acceptance of paradox came a new and blessed uncertainty that began to heal the mental illness called certainty, the kind of certainty that told me that my job was to be head of the home and to order around my wife and children because 'the Bible says so.' Embracing paradox helped me discover that religion is a neurological disorder for which faith is the only cure.”
–---
“The good thing about praying for the dead ('Plan B') is that there's no way to test if my prayers are being answered.”
–---
“I go to my local Greek Orthodox church with Lucy and Jack [his grandchildren] because I feel guilty if I don't. I no longer fool myself into thinking this is about belief. I know my religious expression is about need.”


Note: I had a bunch of other excellent quotations marked. Read the book to find them for yourself.