Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Finding Sarah: a Duchess's Journey to Find Herself

by Sarah Ferguson
Atria, 2011

This is a woman who has struggled all her life to find self-worth. Challenging enough for anyone, but especially for someone who's lived much of her life in the public eye, and made so many public blunders.

It was such a seeming-blunder that set Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, on the path to self-discovery. She needed to know why she continually made poor choices and wound up in scandalous predicaments.

While I am not a fan Oprah or New Age philosophy, and can therefore not agree with the spiritual conclusions Sarah reaches, I do admire her for taking on the difficult task of "finding" herself. At the end of each chapter, she offers "nuggets" to help the reader who may be on a similar journey or be strugging with the same sorts of issues. Some of these "nuggets" would seem common sense to many of us; some, I would opine, are on the "flaky" side.

Sarah emerges from the latest scandal a stronger person for finally facing her past and gaining self-understanding. She is blessed to have many resources at her disposal that the ordinary person would not have. Not everyone can go to Thailand, Hawaii, or the Northwest Territories as part of their healing process. Not everyone has the circle of friends Sarah does.

The best conclusion Sarah comes to is that God loves her and God has forgiven her of all that she has done. With all due respect, her definition of God is suspect, but otherwise it's a statement that could potentially be true.

One of my favourite lines from the book: "Pouncing on your pride is a greater sign of strength than pounding on your chest." (p. 81)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

99 Ways to Get Your Kids to Do Their Homework (and Not Hate It)

by Mary Leonhardt
Three Rivers Press, 2000

This book covers schooling from elementary through high school grade levels. The author is a teacher with 25+ years of experience. I think this book would have been more helpful to me if I'd read it before my kids got to high school. A lot of it seemed like common sense advice to me. That being said, I think this book could be helpful to someone on the starting-out end of things. For me, the best parts of the book were the "case studies" (ie student profiles, written by the students themselves). And the point about putting your child above whatever grades s/he may receive.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


by Nicolas Dickner; translated by Lazer Lederhendler
Trumpeter, 2009

The book's opening line, "My name is UNIMPORTANT", is a great hook. Why is the narrator's name unimportant? Who is he or she? Why does s/he have such a self-effacing view? etc.

A bit confusing for the first while as the story alternates between points of view (the "unimportant" narrator and two other protagonists - Noah and Joyce). Once they are clear in your head, though, the story is quite compelling. All three characters have come from different places to settle in Montreal. All three are on a psychological journey of sorts. And all three are connected, but don't know it.

Reminds me a bit of Melville's classic, Moby Dick, in the sense that you learn an awful lot about subjects you may not have much interest in (in this case cartography, fish, and archaeology). But a lot less boring than Moby.

While it's not a book I would ordinarily have plucked from the bookshelves, I thought I'd give it a shot since it's on the list of a book club I'm thinking of attending this month. I'm not sorry.

Winner of the Prix des libraires du Quebec, the Prix litteraire des collegiens, the Prix Anne-hebert (Quebec), and the Prix Printemps des lecteurs-Lavinal (France). Shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award, the Grand Prix litteraire Archambault; the Prix du public du Salon du livre de Montreal/La Presse, and longlisted for the Prix France-Quebec Jean-Hamelin.        

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Madeleine: Our daughter's disappearance and the continuing search for her

by Kate McCann
Bantam Press, 2011

When the McCann family of five left England with friends for a holiday in the Algarves, little did they dream that only four of them would be returning. Just shy of her fourth birthday, their daughter Madeleine would be snatched from her bed by a stranger. This book is their story.

While the subject matter is difficult, the story is important to read. For one thing, it accomplishes its objective, which is to keep Madeleine's name, face, and the event of her abduction, in the public memory, with the hope that someone, somewhere, sometime, will see her, recognize her, and aid in returning her to her family.

No matter what you've read or heard about the case before, here you get the whole story, no private thing hidden, in great detail. And it will astonish you, make you angry, grieve you, and cause you to pray not only for Madeleine and her family, but for all stolen and missing children and their families. It will also make you hold your own children a little closer and to think about how you can let them experience life while providing for their safety to the best of your ability.

Please read this. Then take action - for the sake of the world's most precious resource - its children.