{Giveaway & FOF Book Critic} Fall Reads From Linda Wolfe

I had a hard time deciding which fall books to review, because there have been so many terrific ones published of late that it’s been hard to choose among them. But here’s a half dozen fabulous reads, three novels and three memoirs, that will make you forget it’s turning cold out there because you’ll be cozily at home avidly turning pages.

FOF award-winning author, Linda Wolfe, recently published her powerful book, My Daughter, Myself: An Unexpected Journey, in June. She has published eleven books and has contributed to numerous publications including New York Magazine, The New York Times, and served the board of the National Book Critics Circle for many years. Her latest reviews capture everything from 1960s Kabul to present-day hostages in Somalia.

Win one of these fall reads! To enter, comment below by answering the question: Which of Linda’s picks do you want to read?

First, the novels:

Claire of The Sea Lightby Edwige Danticat

Knopf. 238 pp.

I was blown away by award-winning novelist and memoirist Edwidge Danticat’s latest book, Claire of the Sea Light. It takes a writer—but only a supremely gifted writer—to give you a village, and that’s what Danticat has done here, given us the story of an entire Haitian village, told through the linked experiences of a fascinating a group of characters. There’s the girl of the title, Claire, a perceptive seven-year-old whose mother died giving birth to her and whose impoverished fisherman father, Nozias, hoping to ensure the child a better life than he can provide, wants to give her away to a wealthy townswoman. There’s the woman, Gaelle, whose own daughter has died and whose beloved husband has been the victim of a bystander shooting. There’s the owner of a private school whose son has failed to live up to his youthful promise, a hardworking restaurateur whose son has grown up to be an enterprising radio journalist, some corrupt policemen, careless gang members and a young housemaid raped and impregnated by a member of her employer’s family. The lives of all these people, and more, come together over time to provide a stunning portrait of Haitian life, one we never get from news stories about the island. Equally stunning is the technique with which Danticat handles the progression of time and the secrets that lie in time past, there for the taking if only we could make time run backward.

Danticat uses words sparingly, and to great effect. Here she is describing Haitian wives who prefer to live in antiseptic Miami but occasionally return to visit husbands stuck in Haiti by their businesses: “the so-called expatriate wives came back each time fatter and reeking of citronella, every mosquito and salad and untreated glass of water suddenly their mortal enemy.” Here she is, seeing Haitian youth through the eyes of the schoolmaster. “There was something tragic about a generation whose hopes had been raised, then dashed over and over again… Their leaders and elders—including himself—had made them so many promises that they’d been, for whatever reason, unable to keep.”

This small book—it’s only 238 pages long—more than holds it own against this season’s enormous doorstopper books. It’s tiny, but as exquisite as a gem.


Your Reading List for Enlightenment

FOF Sophy Burnham is one of the foremost spiritual seekers and writers of our generation. Her books about everyday experiences with angels, including A Book of Angels and Angel Letters, have sold millions of copies and changed the way the world looks at the afterlife. Her most recent book, The Art of Intuition, explains how each of us can tap into our own connection to the spiritual world.

We asked Sophy to put together a short list of titles that will help you get started on your own spiritual search…Here, her essential “reading list for the soul”. . .

The Varieties of Religious Experience, by William James (Penguin Classics)
This is a classic: A brilliant mind exploring what it means to be hit by the Holy Spirit–what happens, what happens afterwards. It was taken from a series of lectures at the University of Edinburgh and was immediately acknowledged as the best joining of psychological, philosophical, and spiritual thought. I can’t be more enthusiastic about it. Anyone interested in “the self” should read it.

Autobiography of a Yogi, by Yogananada (Self-Realization Fellowship) is from the Eastern point of view. Chatty, readable, wise. It will lift your heart.

The Way of a Pilgrim (Image Books). An unknown 19th-century Russian peasant wrestles with Christ’s teaching to  “pray without ceasing.” There are so many brilliant works on Christianity that it is hard to pick one, so I choose this most unusual little classic about a man who tried to live like the Master at every moment.

The Cat Who Went to Heaven (Aladdin Books), winner of the Newbery Medal for Children’s books, by Elizabeth Coatsworth. This is the story of a Japanese painter who is trying to paint the story of the Buddha.  I read this every year and sometimes more because in its little 60-page tale is all the wisdom and kindness and goodness of all the books ever written. Perhaps my favorite, I keep this one by my bedside.