Thursday, April 29, 2010

Reading Challenge of 2010: April

10:54 PM
Renting Lacy by Linda Smith

I read this book in a matter of hours. Not simply because it was short, but because the story moved me. Renting Lacy is a fictional account of non-fictional events. It’s the story of America’s prostituted children. Linda Smith is the founder of Shared Hope International, an organization committed to rescuing, restoring, and rehabilitating those victimized by human trafficking. She uses fictional girls and situations to tell the story of how America’s own children are being swept up into prostitution. It’s often tough to read. Girls as young as 11 and 12 are being brought to Vegas by the pimp, Bobby Bad. And Lacy is his “bottom bitch”, the girl responsible for scheduling the other girls in his “stable” each night, and training the new girls. Renting Lacy does a fantastic job of breaking down what human trafficking actually is, how it works, and how to recognize it. Each chapter is told from the point of view of different characters…from Lacy to Star, a 12 year old runaway, to a judge who is working to pass laws to protect these girls, to a cop who has a soft spot for the children he sees on the street, to the families of the victims back home praying for their babies to be found, to the “johns”, the men who use these girls for the night, the ones who create the demand. Each chapter includes Linda’s own commentary on the topic, covering topics from how the girls are recruited to why don’t they just leave. It’s a powerful read and a great book to pick up if you or someone you know has little knowledge of this topic.

The Shack by William Paul Young

I’m not one for fads or hype. So when something is crazy popular, I usually don’t jump on the bandwagon. So when The Shack came out a few years ago, and every Christian I knew was reading it, I resisted. In the back of my head I knew that I wanted to read it, because of how many people, Christian and non, shared how it affected them. So I added it to my last to read this year. And I’m really glad I did. It’s a powerful, and apparently true [?], account of one man’s weekend with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Probably my favorite thing about this book was how it broke down the stereotypes of God. The main character, Mack, even admits that he was expecting some old guy with a long white beard resembling Gandolf. But when God appears instead as a large African-American woman, Mack is thrown for a loop. And I just love the idea that God becomes who we need. Sometimes we need a father, sometimes a mother, and sometimes a friend. God is neither male or female and encompasses both. Young’s description of the Holy Spirit, a small Asian woman, was also striking. To me, the whole book read like a lesson in prayer. It revealed a new way to communicate with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Mack tackles some big theological questions with the Trinity during his time at the shack. I can see why this book caused such a controversy. I don’t know whether the author was right or wrong with his claims. But I do know that after reading this book, it made long for a closer relationship with God. Which I think was the whole point of the book.

Altar of Eden by James Rollins

This book wasn’t even my radar until a coworker recommended it. And what a great read it was. Set in the murky bayous of New Orleans, veterinarian Lorna Polk comes across an abandoned boat filled with mysterious creatures. Teaming up with Jack Menard of the US Border Patrol, they discover a corrupt world of genetic mutations, animal trafficking, and extreme biowarfare. It culminates on a primitive island, which was perhaps meant to be a fresh start for humanity, an Eden. A lot of the science in the book was lost on me, but the story was not. Humans using animals as their testing grounds is sadly a commonplace in our world. In the Altar of Eden, these tests and experiments were for a violent purpose. It’s not great literature, but it’s engaging and entertaining. The story moves at a lightning speed and the characters sweep you up. Hard to complain about a read like that.

Socialism is Great! By Lijia Zhang

My book club read of the month was the memoir of a Chinese factory worker in the 1980’s. I had to admit that I knew very little of China’s political climate, socialism and the Tiananmen Square Massacre of ’89. So I was glad this book got chosen, because I love learning new things as I read! Lijia, or Little Zhang, was a young girl with bright dreams. She loved school as a child, and yearned to study at a proper university. But as the Chinese government would have it, her mother forced Little Zhang to take her job at the factory. It appeared to be the only way to ensure Little Zhang’s employment, something a university could not. Feeling clipped at the wings, Lijia learned the ways of a factory worker, checking and repairing pressure gauges. Her factory actually manufactured missiles that were intended to be used against America one day. But the factory couldn’t keep Lijia from dreaming. Her world was bigger than those walls, and she pursued her dreams. I was struck by just how different her world was from mine. She’s probably a decade older than me, living her late teens/twenties through the 80’s, and I couldn’t imagine life as she lived it. From the government propaganda in every aspect of their lives, to the complete control of their appearance, sex lives, and menstrual cycles, it’s a completely world for me. But I did relate to Lijia as she longed for something more than the life in front of her. I love that is a universal longing in us as humans. We strive to make a difference in the world we live in. Whether oppressive or free, communist or capitalist, dreams are more powerful. And we set our minds to accomplishing them, nothing can stand in our way. Lijia’s story was one of empowerment, freedom, love, and regret, all of which are beautifully told.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

This was one of the strangest books I’ve ever read. Recommended on for “People Who Like Books About Books”, I checked it out at the bookstore. Then the cover compares the book to Harry Potter, Stephen Hawking, Monty Python, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I was thoroughly intrigued. Set in England, in an alternate 1985, Special Ops agent, Thursday Next [yep, that’s her name] works in the LiteraTec department, investigating crimes against books. In this world, literature is supreme. Characters rename themselves based on their favorite author [Miltons, Poes, Tennysons, Dickens, oh my!], Baconians [advocates of Sir Francis Bacon] go door to door trying to convince people that Bacon penned the classics William Shakespeare receives credit for, audiences watch live productions of Shakespeare’s Richard III with a Rocky Horror Show cult following [complete with audience participation, props, and inappropriate commentary], literary characters are constantly popping in and out of their reality, and Jane Eyre ends with Jane leaving Rochester and sailing off to India. It’s a unique place to say the least. So when super villain Acheron Hades steals an original manuscript of a Dicken’s novel, he enters the narrative and kills off a minor character, forever altering the published work, SO-27, LiteraTec, is called on the case to avert another literary homicide. Thursday tracks Hades through England, and through Jane Eyre, which alters the end as we know it today. The Eyre Affair ranges from bizarre [time-traveling vortexes, vampire slayers, Will Shakespeare monologue machines] to the corny [government agent Jack Schitt and LiteraTec head honcho Braxton Hicks] to the romantic [after Thursday alters Jane & Rochester’s romance, they repay the favor]. It’s not the best written book, but A+ for creativity. I will definitely be continuing Thursday’s misadventures through literature for some time come.

About the author

Joy Muldoon is a full-time missionary and part-time blogger. Read about her travels, adventures, and missions here!