Neshama’s Choices for April 5th

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Beyond the Sky and the Earth

Subtitled, A Journey into Bhutan, this is a magnificent memoir that combines personal narrative, history, religion, and anthropology into a seamless, deeply affecting reading experience. Canadian Jamie signed up to teach in a small village for two years.  At first she felt despair—such deprivation, such incomprehension. Then she started to appreciate the stripped-down aspects of daily life, the beauty, the silence, and the warmth of the people. Then she learned more about the incredible political and cultural complexities (not exactly Shangri-La). Then she fell in love! So glad I found it through a list of books about journeys from a favorite online source, Book Riot.

Front Desk 

At age 10 you could find Mia manning said front desk at the Orange County motel her immigrant parents manage, and she performs her tasks with fierce dedication.  Along the way she encounters all sorts of injustices and takes action through carefully-composed letters that actually work. I discovered this juvenile book via Book Riot and found it vivid, down to earth, funny, and inspiring. Sometimes I reach for a  kid’s book for relaxation and this served very well.  Note: the author went to college at 13!

I Let You Go

A mother’s nightmare: her 5 year old dashes into the street and is run over. That’s the prologue, Then we follow a desperate woman fleeing from a tragedy who ends up in a small Welsh village. She’s a frightened, reclusive mess but finally connects with some locals and starts taking photos and selling them.  Bristol police are trying to locate the hit and run driver with no success. Two investigators keep pursuing the case; one is a veteran with domestic difficulties; the other a bright young woman—uh oh.  We finally discover who’s who (I was surprised, which seldom happens) and there’s an intense denouement. Suspenseful —I  read it in one sitting.

Les aventures de Rabbi Jacob

I never would have come across this wiggy French film if I hadn’t been doing a library task. It features the comic, Louis de Funes who is as brilliant as Peter Sellers or Robin Williams but died too young. The story is absurd:  a bigot on his way to his daughter’s wedding is hijacked by an Arab fleeing from just about everyone and they disguise themselves as Hassidic Jews. No political correctness here (a warning, I guess) but hilarity, and wild physical comedy and yes, understanding grow between the ill-matched pair. Very broad, very silly—just what the doctor ordered.

We Contain Multitudes

A pen pal assignment connects Jonathan, who’s gay and loves Walt Whitman, with Adam, a surly jock who’s repeating the class. Their letters, at first awkward and forced, start to express their truths and a friendship grows that morphs into love. Adam, whose father is a brutal alcoholic, is slated to join the family roofing business but with encouragement from Jonathan and their teacher, a new destiny awaits him. A teen book, beautifully written, with uplift for everyone.

Back next week.