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Reading Between the Turkey Feast and Tinseled Tree

Reading Between the Turkey Feast and Tinseled Tree

I Still Believe: A Memoir of Wreckage, Recovery, and Relentless Love

By Russ and Tori Taff
Reviewed by Paul Delger
Christian music icon Russ Taff has won numerous awards, including Grammys, but his biggest victory was overcoming an alcohol addiction. Readers receive a brutally honest inside look at Taff’s demons and how they almost destroyed his marriage and his family. Husband and wife each write individual reflections of how they worked through major relational pain through God’s grace and mercy. Readers also discover the inner workings of the music industry and how its community reached out to the Taffs and didn’t bury the singer despite his alcoholism. The book brings hope and encouragement to others who struggle with addictions or know family and friends who do. (Post Hill Press)

Just. You. Wait: Patience, Contentment, and Hope for the Everyday

By Tricia Lott Williford
Reviewed by Lorilee Craker

It’s so hard to wait—for physical healing, for a relationship breakthrough, or for a dream to come true. But through the process of waiting, we are becoming, growing and developing into a stronger, braver, wiser version of who we were when we began to wait. Life in 2019 doesn’t exactly cultivate patience, but this book, like the Bible and God himself, is wonderfully countercultural. When I closed the pages of the funny, warm Just. You. Wait., a shift had occurred. I knew God was with me in my waiting, attending to my hopes and needs. I knew I was becoming someone new, and that my awakening was coming—maybe not today, but someday, at the perfect time. (NavPress)

Reforesting Faith: What Trees Teach Us About the Nature of God and His Love for Us

By Matthew Sleeth
Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

Several years ago, author Matthew Sleeth faced a difficult time in his life. Trained as a medical doctor, Sleeth, who was not yet a Christian, began to look for answers in nature, especially in trees. He wondered, “What can trees teach us about the nature of God and his love for us?”

Sleeth’s questions led him on a nature walk through the Bible, resulting in his conversion and then in this intriguing, spiritually insightful journey from Genesis to Revelation. Focusing on Job, the patriarchs, Moses, God as gardener, Isaiah, Jesus the vine, and Paul, he shows that trees are a thread throughout Scripture. Pondering Reforesting Faith will contribute to readers’ deeper appreciation of the intricacies of God’s salvation narrative. (WaterBrook)

Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America

By Chris Arnade
Reviewed by Andrew Zwart

Even after years of documenting “Back Row America” with his camera, Chris Arnade doesn’t know how to solve poverty, stop drug addiction, or end racism. In fact, as he notes in his astonishing book of photojournalism, it’s all too easy for us in the “front row” to hold opinions on these matters without ever meeting someone whose life is entangled with these difficulties. Rather than offering answers, Arnade wants us simply to see those we’ve relegated to the margins. Impressively, he does so without reducing them to morality tales or items of merely academic interest. It most powerfully teaches a holy lesson—a lesson about the dignity we are all imbued with, including “the least of these.” (Penguin/Sentinel)

Best Friends

by Shannon Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
reviewed by Kristy Quist

This new graphic novel/memoir from author Shannon Hale (The Princess Academy) explores how hard it was to make her way through the minefield of middle-school friendship pressures. As young Shannon begins sixth grade, she has a new best friend, the most popular girl in her class. She is overjoyed to be part of the popular group. But is she really part of it? Does she want to be? This empathetic book is true to the ups and downs of middle-school life, and it will be both comforting to readers and encouraging to students who have the opportunity to show kindness to someone who is on the outside. Ages 8 and older. (First Second)

Paseka: A Little Elephant, Brave

by Ruth James, illustrated by Kent Laforme
Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

On the African savannah, an elephant calf’s mother is killed, and the calf becomes vulnerable to the attacks of hyenas and poachers. Wounded, frightened, and alone, Paseka runs away from the hyenas, calling for her mother. She is filled with hope when she sees a big, grey shape moving toward her. Thinking it’s her mother, Paseka gives chase and bursts through a wooden wall into a safari camp. Based on the true story of an orphaned elephant calf who found a new family in an African sanctuary, this children’s picture book shares the wonder of God’s creation of elephants and the necessity of protecting them. Illustrated with exquisite watercolor paintings. Ages 6 and older. (Page Two Books)

The Words Between Us

by Erin Bartels
Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

Fourteen-year-old Robin Windsor is given a new identity to protect her from public association with her infamous parents, both serving jail terms for high-profile crimes. As Robin Dickinson—so named to honor poet Emily Dickinson—the teen grows up to own a failing bookstore in River City, Mich., and run it with her employee, Dawt Pi, a refugee from Myanmar. On the morning of her father’s scheduled execution, Robin receives a package in the mail with a familiar book, and is transported back in time to her high school memories. Books arrive daily, each a window into her bygone years and the broken relationships she’s left behind. A tender, gripping novel portrays the power of life to overcome death. (Revell)

Celestial Bodies

By Jokha Alharthi
Translated into English by Marilyn Booth
Reviewed by Jenny deGroot

This 2019 International Booker Prize winner takes readers into the village life of an Omani family. Three upperclass sisters are raised knowing they will be married within the context of familial choosing. After a heartbreak, Mayya dutifully marries a rich merchant. Asma pursues an education, marrying a young man presented to her. Khwala, the youngest, has given her heart to a cousin who moves to Canada. She stubbornly refuses marriage, awaiting his return despite the rumors that surround his life in this far country. All the while, the sisters struggle to see both servants and mistresses living with much more love and freedom than they themselves ever hope to experience. An enthralling family saga. (Sandstone Press)

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love

By Dani Shapiro
Reviewed by Jenny deGroot

When Dani Shapiro innocently submitted a DNA test, the results were earth-shattering: she was not 100% Jewish and not, in fact, her beloved late father’s biological child. But then who was her birth father? Who was she? With the help of her journalist husband’s sleuthing skills, Shapiro begins to unravel and then piece together the story of her unusual conception via artificial insemination. This tossed her into a world of family secrets, altered memories, and actions buried deeply in her very identity. Propulsive, tender, and profound, this memoir would be excellent for book clubs, for adoptees, and for anyone who has wrestled with family secrets or identity issues. (Knopf)

The Deer Camp: A Memoir of a Father, a Family, and the Land that Healed Them

by Dean Kuipers
Reviewed by Karl Westerhof

This is a memoir of a broken Christian Reformed family and the Michigan land that binds them. A father’s controlling nature and sins destroy his marriage and damage his three boys. Somehow—I might like to say by the grace of God, but God’s grace isn’t acknowledged in this story—they doggedly keep trying to relate, mostly about hunting and the dreams they have for the acres of field and forest their dad buys. As they engage together in the project of healing the land, their relationships begin to heal too. Kuipers’ writing itself is healing, and the book brought me with it through pain to beauty, though it was still painful to see how very little of that healing the church contributed to their lives. (Bloomsbury)

Tasting Grace: Discovering the Power of Food to Connect Us to God, One Another, and Ourselves

By Melissa d’Arabian
Reviewed by Ann Byle
Melissa d’Arabian, winner of The Next Food Network Star Season 5 and host of Food Network’s Ten Dollar Dinners, takes readers deep into her love for food and family in her newest book. She offers 16 invitations that encourage readers to see food as a gift from God to be used well. Her invitations—into compassion, authenticity, grace, patience, stewardship, work, dependence, hospitality, and more—are mixed with her life story to create a full-bodied, well-blended, tasty meal that will satisfy her longtime fans and create new ones. D’Arabian reveals much about her food-insecure childhood, her mother’s death, unexpected stardom, four babies in three years, and the life she and her family have created around food. (WaterBrook)

The Road Back to You (Audiobook)

By Ian Michael Cron and Suzanne Stabile, narrated by Ian Michael Cron
Reviewed by Lorilee Craker

The audio version of this bestselling book remains a top pick, and for good reason. This winsome, story-driven book was my introduction to the Enneagram, an ancient personality type system with an eerie accuracy in describing how people are wired, positively and negatively. Cron, a therapist/Episcopalian minister, and Stabile, a retreat director and Enneagram teacher, create a practical, comprehensive way of getting into Enneagram wisdom, exploring its connections with Christian spirituality for a deeper knowledge of God and of ourselves. Cron narrates the book, and I was drawn to his warm, homespun voice. Since the main takeaway is to be yourself—and to let others be themselves—Cron’s authenticity as a narrator is the perfect complement. (IVP)

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