OUR CURRENTLY FEATURED BOOKS, “POSTCARDS FROM THE SKY,” BY ERIN SEIDEMANN, “THEFT: LOSS AND OTHER TALES OF THE WORKING CLASS,” BY JOHN ABBOTT AND “THIS WAY UP,” BY PATTI CLARK, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST.
One of the reasons we read is to discover people and places and ideas that we’ve never encountered before. This week’s Snowflakes in a Blizzard offerings all provide that sense of discovery, each in its own way.
The photo above is of Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina, the magnet for thousands of pilgrims during the 1987 Harmonic Convergence. If you don’t know what this is, you’re probably not well acquainted with the New Age movement. In her novel “The Motel of the Stars,” Karen Salyer McElmurray probes this complex (and sometimes surprising) subculture from both the inside and the outside. She writes:
“The novel was first a response to the months following a two year travel experience of mine, the last six months of which were spent in India and Nepal. Those months were filled with sound, light, motion—everything from seven weeks spent walking from a lake in Pokhara in the center of Nepal to a temple near Muktinath in the north to some weeks spent on the banks of the Ganges outside of Varanassi.
” I came back into the United States to a Seattle summer, and there was a huge festival going on, one celebrating the anniversary of The Harmonic Convergence, which is the Mayan Calendar’s ancient prediction of the alignment of planets and the advent of world peace. That time in Asia, and that New Age celebration, are both in the background of this novel.”
Jan Linn, meanwhile, is a Minnesota minister who is not afraid to delve into another mystery, that of the life of Jesus Christ. His 2014 book “A Different Jesus” does exactly that.
“I wrote this book,” he said, “because as a pastor I met too many people who no longer believed what the church had taught them about Jesus, mainly because it forced them to condemn everyone not a Christian to hell (whatever that is), so they were ready to give up on Christianity. I wanted them to know that ministers learn to think in different ways about Jesus in seminary and they should have a chance to be in on those discussions. This book opens that door. I spent two and half years writing it because there is so much research to do on a subject like this. I spend most of my time reading the books and articles that disagreed with what I was writing in order to be able to speak to those concerns and arguments on the other side.”
Finally, no one can accuse Monica Starkman of not understanding what she is writing about. The author profile on her Snowflakes template spells out her qualifications: “Dr. Monica Starkman is a psychiatrist who is a faculty member of the University of Michigan Medical School Department of Psychiatry in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She is a clinician and a scientific researcher. Many of her publications in the scientific literature highlight concerns and conditions of women, such as the first study of women’s reactions to the use of fetal monitoring during labor. She has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is a recognized expert on the effects of stress hormones on mood and on brain structure. Dr. Starkman has also published in The New Republic and Vogue magazine. Dr. Starkman writes regularly for Psychology Today as one of their Experts.”
What this fails to mention is that she is also a gifted and sensitive writer. Her novel “The End of Miracles” is about a woman whose failure to conceive hurls her into a pit of depression, and the author infuses it with both empathy and a solid scientific background.
UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, AUGUST 22-28.
“THE MOTEL OF STARS,” BY KAREN SALYER McELMURRAY.
Ten years is a long time to wait for anything. For Jason Sanderson and Lory Llewellyn, it’s how long they’ve each been searching for relief from the emotional paralysis of mourning the same man, Sam Sanderson, Jason’s son and Lory’s lover. For the rest of the world, or at least those fervent New Agers caught up in the hype and glory of the 1987 Harmonic Convergence, the tenth anniversary spells a chance to gather at Grandfather Mountain, a vortex where, if anywhere, there’s a possibility to revisit the spiritual revelry promised by the rare strategic alignment of the planets. A troubled young man, Sam was once a seeker of such mystical wisdom, and his unexplained death a decade ago motivates both his father and former lover to undertake a coincidental journey, looking for an answer to the one question anyone who has ever lost a loved one asks: why? Melancholy yet expectant, McElmurray’s is a keenly sorrowful but plaintively lyrical examination of anguish and longing.
“A DIFFERENT JESUS,” BY JAN LINN.
From Jan: “In the past Christianity has ruled the world, at least since the fourth century. The Holy Roman Empire (French philosopher Voltaire once said it was neither holy, Roman, nor an empire) that existed between the ninth and nineteenth centuries was so called because of the belief that God sanctioned those who ruled Europe. The collusion between the church and the empire only added to this myth. The church’s power and influence grew exponentially during this period to the point where Christianity became the world’s dominant religion. But times have changed. Christianity remains the largest religious tradition – some three billion adherents – but no longer commands the world as it once did.
“There are many Christians who are unprepared for the world as it is, maybe most. There are just as many churches doing nothing theologically to help them navigate this sea of change that has taken place in the last fifty years. I believe the time (kairos) is right for Christians to re-engage our faith tradition in order to fashion new understandings of what can and should believe that will help us face the challenges ahead. The old notion that the way to preserve our faith is to set it in stone was never true. Faith is like anything else. To stay alive it must grow and at the same time adapt to a changing environment.”
“THE END OF MIRACLES,” BY MONICA STARKMAN
Margo Kerber has endured difficult years battling infertility while trying to sustain her good marriage and satisfying career. When a seemingly miraculous pregnancy ends in a late miscarriage, Margo is devastated. For a time, the unshakable yet false belief that she is pregnant again provides relief from all-consuming grief. When her fantasy inevitably clashes with reality, Margo falls into a deep depression requiring admission to a psychiatric unit. Uncertain if the sometimes chaotic environment there is helping or making her worse, she seizes an opportunity to flee. Alone on the city streets, new fantasies propel her to commit a crime with dangerous consequences for herself and others. Written by a prominent psychiatrist, this stirring portrait of one woman’s psychological unraveling takes readers on a journey across the blurred boundaries between sanity and depression, madness and healing.
THIS WEEK’S DEALS
Kelvin Singleton, whose novel “Black Tide Rising” was featured on Snowflakes in a Blizzard last year, is offering free Kindle downloads of all three books in his trilogy — “It Is Written,” “Black Tide Rising,” and “Dark Indian Eclipse.” The offer ends tomorrow and can be accessed through Amazon..