Maryhelen Snyder, Never the Loss of Wings (Baltimore, MD: Passager Books, 2015)
Maryhelen Snyder married into a family where poetry was treasured and even expected. Both her father-in-law and her mother-in-law were treasured teachers of mine and both assigned poetry to me as a student at a phase in my life where I wasn't even reading much poetry, let alone trying to write it. The family, however, remained steeped in poetry as a way to express ideas and sentiments that reach beyond prose and other forms of expression. Maryhelen, however, has grown beyond her in-laws and into her own style of poetry. Although I think I can recognize some of the roots of her writing in the work of Ross and Martha's work, Maryhelen's work is uniquely her own.
This volume is definitely shaped by both her emotional maturity and having gone through the journey of grief with her eyes wide open and her heart ready to accept all that life has to teach even in the moments of pain and sadness and loss. The poems demonstrate a depth that invites the reader to sit with each one for a while, to read it over and over and to allow the thoughts to linger. I received this book as a birthday present and limited myself to only one poem each day so that I could mull and ponder the poems.
Several, including "I am Saddened at Moments by Loss" from which the title of the book is drawn, are poems that I have used when making presentations to group about the process of grief.
The book is a treasure and I am grateful to have been given a copy.
Elizabeth Alexander, The Light of the World: A Memoir (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2015)
It was by chance, not by design that I ended up reading two memoirs by women who had lost their husbands suddenly and traumatically. The emotional impact of either memoir is significant. I'm not sure I would recommend that others read this and Maryhelen Snyder's No Hole in the Flame back to back, but I definitely would recommend reading both books. I got interested in Elizabeth Alexander through her poetry, but it is clear that poetry isn't her only medium. This is a rich and engaging book. It is graceful and honest and tells the significant story of affection, love, talent, art and partnership.
Loss and grief have a lot to teach us if we take time to listen carefully. Unfortunately in our death-adverse society, we often rush past death. Alexander's book invites us to sit with death and loss and grief long enough to listen to the truth that lies within about our shared humanity, our capacity to love, and the power of hope in the face of devastating circumstances.
This is a book to read with the same kind of care and careful pace as one might approach a book of poetry. Its prose will open careful readers to layer upon layer of meaning.
Maryhelen Snyder, No Hole in the Flame: A story of Love and Loss in Prose and Poetry (Albuquerque, New Mexico: Wildflower Press, 2003)
It is impossible for me to even attempt to be unbiased in a review of this book. The characters are known to me. Ross Snyder, Sr. was one of my most beloved teachers. I knew his entire family including his son, Ross, Jr. about whom this memoir is focused. The Author, Maryhelen, wife of Ross Jr. reflects poetically on the process of loss and grief as she struggles to make sense out of his sunken death caused by a pulmonary embolism. Her frank honesty is almost too stark at some times, offering information that I'm not sure I want to have, but her loving nature combines with her careful writing to make the book a deep and meaningful experience for any who read. The Snyder family had close relationships and I can see the hand of both of Ross Jr's parents in this book. Having worked with Maryhelen's mother-in-law, Martha on a book that was later edited and updated by Maryhelen, I can see much of Martha's influence in the writing style and honest record of the book.
This is a book to be read slowly and carefully, returning from time to time to the poems to understand its reaching beyond the power of words to express some of life's deepest meanings. It was not an easy book for me to read and I suspect that it is not an easy book for anyone to read, but there are times when reaching beyond that which is easy for deeper meaning is rewarding. This is one of those times.
Jaclyn Lanae, The Me I Was: The True Story of How Death by Motorcycle Gave Me Life (Rapid City, South Dakota: Shelter 50 Publishing, 2015)
This is, in some ways, an inspirational story of an 26-year-old woman who survived a terrible accident and her journey to rebuild her life and her sense of purpose. I hate to be critical of a memoir, because it is a story told as remembered and should be valued as such. However, there are some parts of the book that don't quite hang together. Some of the place descriptions are inaccurate and there are details that just don't quite hang together. Sadly, it is the product of today's publishing world - a good book that could have been much better if there had been a bit more professional editing.
Having said that, it remains a story worth reading - a powerful testimony of survival and restoration in the face of overwhelming odds. It is a story of courage and vision with no small dose of inspiration thrown in. The story of Jaci's accident and the long road to recovery might be just the thing that is needed for another person to recover from an experience of loss and grief.
Her vision and version of God, while not exactly orthodox, is, I am sure, genuine and heartfelt and therefore not to be taken lightly. It is a worthy read for those interested in learning the stories of others. On the other hand, it probably isn't the only book you need to understand the nature of loss, grief and recovery.
Walter Brueggemann, Chosen?: Reading the Bible amid the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2015)
There are voices in the Christian Community that interpret the contemporary political and military conflict in Israel as signs of specific predictions about the future that they read in Biblical texts. Walter Brueggemann is a trusted and respected Biblical Scholar who, in this small four-chapter book takes a serious and scholarly look at what the Bible actually says and asks the tough questions about God's promise of a land to the people of Israel and how that promise applies to the turmoil in the region.
This volume is designed for group study and includes study guides for each session in the back of the book. It is insightful and helpful for individuals and groups who seek to understand the conflict in the light of a Biblical faith and to determine what the Bible has to teach modern political leaders. With no straight line between our ancient and holy texts and the oppression of contemporary Palestinian people by the government of modern Israel, he raises questions that every Christian should seriously consider.