I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom on An Open Book. Here’s what I’ve been reading over the past month.
Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul by Sr. Maria Faustina Kowalska
Synopsis: This amazing narrative will stir your heart and soul while it chronicles the experience of a simple Polish nun.
My review: These past few weeks, I’ve been helping a fellow Catholic author edit a book about Divine Mercy and St. Faustina. After editing this book, I felt compelled to read the Diary again. I’ve read this book before, but out of order. I’m reading it again, this time, in order. It’s beautiful and inspiring.
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Synopsis: Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?
Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.
With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.
My review: With everything that’s going on since George Floyd’s death, and the racism that some have to endure, this was a compelling story, but a frustrating one. You know how the story will end, but it’s still frustrating getting to that point. There’s a surprise plot twist during the climax of the story, as there is in most of Picoult’s books. All in all, a good read. Four out of five.
Love’s Healing Power by Margaret Daley
Synopsis: Tess Morgan loves being a pediatric nurse and helping the children under her care. She’d always wanted a large family, but that dream was shattered when her fiancé was murdered while volunteering in South America.
Peter “Mac” MacPherson, a former football superstar, had dealt with his own tragedies—the deaths of his father followed by his wife while she was giving birth to their daughter. His faith sustained him through his grief, but can he help Tess believe again in God and finally find a family—with him?
My review: On my “To Read” Shelf.
Cherish by A.J. Avila
Synopsis: About to give the closing argument on the most important case of her career, District Attorney Candice Boulanger is struck down by a heart attack. When she comes to, however, she discovers she is not in a hospital but in an odd courtroom with no windows and no doors.
A judge explains she has been momentarily taken out of her life to prosecute a different case: the relationship she had with her former “best friend forever” Milly Winters. He promises Candice that, although she is allowed to return to her life at any time, if she sees the trial all the way through, she will receive supernatural aid to help her attain her greatest desire.
Candice and Milly had been best friends since kindergarten and had vowed their friendship would last “no matter what.” Even in their teens, when Candice started drifting from her Christian faith, they managed to set aside their differences—until one day an incident blew their friendship apart.
During the trial, the two women are allowed to call as witnesses scenes from their past. Milly, as defense counsel, presents reasons the two of them should once again become friends, while Candice, still angry at Milly, argues why they shouldn’t.
Can their friendship survive . . . even if one of them has already died?
My review: Interesting idea for a book. A.J. Avila can write well and the story overall is a good one. The only thing detracting from this book is the cover, which is too simplistic and screams “self-published.”
Throne of Grace by Cecily K. Wolfe
Synopsis: Arthur Davenport has it all: looks, money, and a successful future planned by his parents. He knows that something is missing, but when he and Josie, his mother’s maid, develop a friendship that can only be based on Christian values, he realizes that his love for her is the key to his happiness. Can he convince her that he would gladly give up his life of luxury for a life of service with her?
Newport, Rhode Island in the last decades of the nineteenth century was a stunningly beautiful and glamorous playground for the rich during the summer months, and a perfect setting for a romance between a rich young man from New York City and a local girl who works for his family. The two couldn’t possibly expect to have anything in common, as he is expected to follow his father in a financial career and she is merely a maid with a mother who takes care of local children while their parents work. Arthur Davenport, spoiled and bored, unsure of his place in his family and in the eyes of God, truly meets his match in Josie Warren, who is often just a bit hard on herself for not being the perfect Christian in thought as well as deed. The two meet on the famous Cliff Walk, and neither of them can imagine where or how their instant attraction will take them as he struggles to make his parents understand that his calling is the same as hers, to help those less fortunate. He has no money of his own, and if they disinherit him out of disapproval, how can he help Josie, who has spent her life working hard to help support herself and her mother? More importantly, how can he convince her that he would gladly give up his life of luxury just to be with her?
My review: On my “To Read” Shelf.
Our Lady of Kibeho by Immaculee
Synopsis: Thirteen years before the bloody 1994 genocide that swept across Rwanda and left more than a million people dead, the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ appeared to eight young people in the remote village of Kibeho. Through these visionaries, Mary and Jesus warned of the looming holocaust, which (they assured) could be averted if Rwandans opened their hearts to God and embraced His love. Mary also sent messages to government and church leaders to instruct them how to end the ethnic hatred simmering in their country. She warned them that Rwanda would become “a river of blood”—a land of unspeakable carnage—if the hatred of the people was not quickly quelled by love. Some leaders listened, but very few believed. The prophetic and apocalyptic warnings tragically came true during 100 horrifying days of savage bloodletting and mass murder. Much like what happened at similar sites such as Fátima and Lourdes, the messengers of Kibeho were at first mocked and disbelieved. But as miracle after miracle occurred in the tiny village, tens of thousands of Rwandans journeyed to Kibeho to behold the apparitions. After the genocide, and two decades of rigorous investigation, Our Lady of Kibeho became the first and only Vatican-approved Marian (related to the Virgin Mary) site in all of Africa. But the story still remained largely unknown. Now, however, Immaculée Ilibagiza has changed all that. She has made many pilgrimages to Kibeho, both before and after the holocaust, has personally witnessed true miracles, and has spoken with a number of the visionaries themselves. What she has discovered will deeply touch your heart!
My review: Beautiful, compelling book about the Apparitions of Our Lady of Kibeho. Highly recommend!