My Summer Reads

My Summer Reads July 17, 2011

Some people go to antique stores. Others drop in the random bike shop. When I’m on the road, I visit bookstores, in search of some unexpected treasure. I found just that at Grassroots Bookstore in Corvallis, when I came across this book by southern soulmate, Mark Richard. I’m shamed to admit I’d never heard of Richard. He’s kind of a big deal and I usually am aware of the big name people in the business. I can’t tell you how much I love, love, love this book. HOUSE OF PRAYER NO. 2 s a memoir, told in second-person point of view. I can’t recall any other book I’ve ever read told totally from this perspective. Some of you might find that disconcerting — like having an author point a finger in your face — but as a writer, I loved the rhythm of it, and the all-out commitment & skill it took to write it. And that’s just about the writing part of it. The story itself is remarkable — how a southern boy, neglected and abused, grows up to garner the attentions of people like Jackie O. And in a realm where people of faith are often dismissed as naive or backwards, Richard makes a compelling argument that you can be a person of faith in the hi-brow literary world. He’s the female Flannery.

While we are on the topic of Louisiana writers, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson has a new book out that will throw you into a fit of laughter & keep you there.  Shellie is what we call  Straight Running Crazy. True confession here — she is also one of my prayer pals. The person I turn to for wisdom. She has plenty of it, tho, she was no help when I got that speeding ticket when I was heading into Lake Providence to pay her a visit. (Another tip — best cajun spices are made right there in Lake Providence.) Of course, I’ve helped Shellie out a time or two, myself, like when we sent Jeff Foxworthy a box of Shellie’s goodies — an apron much like the one you see above, some of those cajun spices, some Louisiana cotton, and sundry other items, including the galley copy of this book. Jeff’s wife is from Louisiana so he was glad to get those spices.  Jeff sent me this note after he got the gift box: I had a chance to read some of the new book and laughed so much I am going to read the old book when I am finished.

Jeff liked SUE ELLEN AIN’T FAT, SHE JUST WEIGHS HEAVY so much he gave Miz Shellie this blurb: “There is nothing much funnier than someone that doesn’t take themselves too seriously and just “tells it all.” I know. I’ve made a pretty good living doing just that. As a Yard Bubba ( You’ll have to read the book for an explanation ) living in a house full of Southern Belles I am here to tell you that Shellie Rushing Tomlinson is laugh out loud funny. For anyone that has an ounce of Southern blood flowing through their veins or those that wish they did, this book is going to be a treasure!” — Jeff Foxworthy

Jeff and Shellie have become such fast friends, I hardly hear from either of them anymore.

But if it’s intrigue and encouragement you are seeking this summer, I recommend Jeanne Damoff’s PARTING THE WATERS. I met Jeanne through blogger pal Katdish. Jeanne is one of our featured writers at All The Church Ladies site. Jeanne and I discovered we had one more thing in common besides writing — she lives in Marshall, Texas, where the doctor who performed surgery on my father in the battlefield lives and practices. Doc Baldwin keeps copies of my books on his office shelf to give to his clients as he’s led. That really is a blessing to me. I met Doc at a military reunion some years back and had the opportunity to thank him for trying to save Daddy’s life. His son Brent and I became fast friends and when my youngest daughter married two summers ago, Brent’s kids served as her ring bearer and flower girls. We just love the Baldwin family. But the way I learned about all this connection was by reading Jeanne’s haunting memoir of her son’s drowning. This is a book that speaks to the power of prayer and community. It was the one book I gave to my son-in-law, Zack, for his recent birthday. Zack is in his last year of school for his doctorate of physical therapy. He said there are some pretty amazing physical therapists in this book. In fact, there are just some pretty amazing people period in the community of Marshall, Texas.

Y’all already saw the Q & A I did with John Hart on his latest release, IRON HOUSE. For all your thrill seekers and mystery lovers, this is the book for you. John is the sort of writer who makes people like me wonder why I’m wasting my time, or yours. The boy can flat-out weave a good tale. John’s the fellow you want at your dinner table because you know you are going to be entertained all night long.

COMING UP FOR AIR isn’t yet released but you can place your pre-order now. And you should order your copy because it’s been named an INDIE Best, so you want to make sure you get it before they sell out.  COMING U FOR AIR is written by one of my favorite writers, Patti Callahan Henry. Yes. She also happens to be one of my dear friends. You’d love Patti, too, if you knew her, everybody does. This former Auburn Tigerette is a preacher’s kid turned nurse turned author. Her attention to detail combined with the old Irish gift for storytelling is what sets her writing above the fray.  When I read Patti, I limit myself to reading only one chapter a day so that I can savor them like the finest chocolates. I don’t want to hurry through the story. I want to notice what Patti notices. I want to see what Patti sees. I want to eavesdrop on every conversation of every character and marvel over how Patti pulls the reader along. I was particularly delighted by this story and those of you who read this blog regularly will immediately know why when you come across it in the book. You will be saying AH-HA! just as I did. And you might even remember a blog post or two I wrote about the incident. But that’s all the hints I’m giving you for now. Just trust me on this one — Patti’s book  is going to be a big deal and you heard it here first!!

The first time I met Brennan Manning was in Nashville. I stumbled across him the way I did Mark Richard — in the aisle of a bookstore. A long-time fan of Rich Mullins and his music, I was drawn to the book’s title — The Ragamuffin Gospel . I didn’ t know when I picked up the book the connection between the two. I read the book in one reading, then passed it along to a dear friend from New Zealand. I became a Brennan Manning devotee from that point onward, in that way that my husband is a C.S. Lewis devotee. Not that I don’t love C.S., I do. It’ s just from a practical, everyday standpoint, I relate far more to the messy grace that Brennan speaks about. Maybe it’s because when my people sat around drinking beer, things inevitably turned ugly. There was none of this polite debate stuff at the local pub over a brew. Nope. When my people got to drinking and debating, firearms were the way they settled the matter. I’m not surprised that Brennan has battled a life-long addiction to alcoholism (yes, I realize that’s redundant, sorry). Anyone who has spent any length of time in that stretch between Point Clear, Alabama to New Orleans, Louisiana, as Brennan did,  has undoubtedly dealt with this very same issue  or has a loved one who has. There’s just something about all that bright sunshine, sparkling water, fried shrimp and great music that lends itself to enjoying oneself a little too much.

All is Grace may very well be Brennan Manning’s last word to us. It’s a powerful message written with the deft assistance of Burnside Writer Friend John Blase, whose own tag says it best: Everything’s sweeter closer to the bone.This is the book written for all who stumble. Order your copy here.

p.s. Dear IRS: Some of my friends gave me copies of their books to read. I bet all your friends give you is a hard time, heh?

p.s.s. Edited under the influence of drugs. Dealing with a Kidney Stone. Yes. Remarkable, I know but I have to have something to distract me from the pain. Thanks for the prayers.

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