Yes, yes, I’ve been writing, but today I’m posting brief reviews of two books I’ve read lately. I learned something from each one of them, about writing and about the world and the fascinating people who inhabit it.
Into the Land of Snows, Ellis Nelson
This book met two of my major criteria for a book to pass the so-called litmus test. It was both entertaining and educational. Blake and Ang, the primary characters, held my interest throughout the novel, and their experiences and encounters were captivating, dangerous, and sometimes magical.
Blake is a teenager whose parents have divorced, and he’s feeling lost and a bit sorry for himself. He’s now in Base Camp at Mt. Everest with his father, a busy, busy, busy doctor who doesn’t seem to have any time for Blake. Soon after Blake’s arrival in the Himalayas, there’s a dangerous avalanche, and because of his fear for Blake’s safety, his father sends him away with Ang, an experienced and trustworthy Sherpa.
Ang and Blake have several interesting and sometimes harrowing experiences. In fact, I wondered whether it was realistic for a 16-year-old American teen to be tested and tried in such dangerous situations. After weeks of exploration, the two travelers return to Base Camp where Blake and his father reunite. Blake has matured during the interim, and the reader senses that his attitude towards his father has softened.
Never having traveled to the Himalayas, I learned quite a bit about the land and its people. Truthfully, I didn’t even know what a Sherpa was before reading this book, much less a Rinpoche, tumo, yidams, or stupas.
I liked Into the Land of Snows so much that I was sorry to see it end. My only issue with was the believability factor. Could this have really happened to an American teen? Still, it’s a book I enjoyed and would recommend to anyone with an interest in mysticism, Himalayan culture, and adventure.
The Orphan Train, Christina Cline
This was one of the most thought provoking and heart wrenching books I’ve read in months. Thought provoking because I never knew about the orphan trains that took approximately 250,000 abandoned and neglected children from Eastern cities to new homes in the Midwest from 1854-1929 and heart wrenching because of the absolute cruelty that many experienced.
There are two “girls” in this saga, Molly and Vivian, whose lives intersect at a crucial time for each. Their relationship proves beneficial to both. Molly is a young teen at a crossroads in her life, and Vivian is an elderly woman who supposedly needs help in organizing her many possessions.
After she loses her family in a tragic fire, Vivian is alone in the world at the beginning of the book. Soon, however she and Dutchy and dozens of other unfortunate children are placed on a train bound for homes with people who are looking for slave labor. Their train stops in various towns, and the children are cleaned up and marched on stage for interested townspeople to inspect both visually and physically.
The Orphan Train is a well-written, fascinating, informative, and interesting book. Christina Kline successfully managed to inform this reader of a huge social phenomenon AND weave a story (several actually) from it.
I have two chapters to read before finishing Jessamyn West’s The Friendly Persuasion, and I find myself procrastinating…not sure why. Maybe I just don’t want to say good-bye to the Birdwells. At night, I’ve been enjoying State by State a compilation of essays about each of the 50 states. I’m loving it!! Naturally, I started with South Carolina, and last night I read Arizona’s entry and loved it. Here’s the last sentence.
“This valley tells me that when it’s time for me to die I don’t need to be afraid. I can die happy , because the world is stunning and the sky will go on forever.”
What about you? What’s on your bookshelf? Have you read any of the above, and if so, what did you think? Please share.