Saturday, July 25, 2009

On Leif Enger's Novel, Peace Like a River

I just finished reading this beautiful novel. Years ago, I saw the book in paperback at a Barnes and Noble in Flagstaff, Arizona. After reading the back cover, the opening lines, and the blurbs (one gorgeous blurb provided by Frank McCourt), I knew it was a novel I needed to read.

Leave it to the fact that the essential things of life often end up waiting longest that I have procrastinated until now regarding my reading of Peace Like a River. However, in that odd sort of way in which life fulfills itself, it has been entirely worth the wait.

As I read the final lines of the novel tonight, I found myself filled with an indescribable hope; if I had to translate this hope into language, it would have to take shape as a prayer: "Thank you, God, for this book--and for what it represents." It felt strange to read a novel and feel closer to God for having done so; it somehow provided the realization that the beauty of language and the power of storytelling are nothing less than divine--miracles, you might say.

After finishing the book, I simply held it in my hands a while. Then, I turned to the first pages, wanting to relish its opening once more. Part of me wishes it had never ended.

During the reading of Enger's novel, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird came to mind time and again. Jerimiah Land--the father in Peace Like a River--shares many beautiful similarities to Atticus Finch--Lee's courageously humble father in Mockingbird--and yet is entirely his own character.

The only thing left to say is this: anyone who wants to write should read this book. Anyone considering what it means to believe should read this book. And anyone who knows that stories spark with humble flames that possess the possibilities of lighting fires in our hearts should surely read this book.

Friday, July 17, 2009

On Frank McCourt

Yesterday evening, Jennifer and I were saddened to read the Associated Press report that Frank McCourt--famed author of Angela's Ashes and a long-time English teacher in the New York City public school system--is facing "imminent" death. Frank's brother, Malachy, made a statement which said, among other things, that his brother's "faculties are shutting down" and that Frank McCourt is currently in hospice care.

As I read the news item, I felt tears well up in me. Had I ever met Frank McCourt? No. So why was I so saddened, and with such immediacy? The answer resides in a single word Mr. McCourt e-mailed me about two years ago when Jennifer and I were beginning the long journey of editing an anthology of original work whose profts would be donated to The Save Darfur Coalition, entitled Dedicated to the People of Darfur: Writings on Fear, Risk, and Hope.

Jennifer and I had been contacting authors whom we admired to ask if they would contribute original pieces written especially for this volume. Many authors we asked were quite famous, while many others were little-known and some were even entirely unpublished. Most of the famed authors rejected our query. (Of course, their lives are incredibly busy--and most likely they are inundated by requests such as ours, also for good causes.)

However, what stands out regarding Frank McCourt's response to our invitation is a single word.

This, in sum total, was the e-mail Mr. McCourt sent us in reply to our query--would he join this anthology and write a new, original piece to benefit The Save Darfur Coalition?

"Dear Luke:


Frank McCourt."

Fast forward two years: Frank McCourt's essay arrives in my e-mail inbox, and I read his glorious, insightful words.

Frank McCourt is a man whose soul is sweet, whose heart is good, and whose willingness to help, to teach, to write, and to love is unbounding.

Thank you, Mr. Frank McCourt. Thank you so very much.

Walking with Astonishment

My wife, Jennifer, and I are consistently amazed by our nine-month old son, Tyler. This morning at seven, as I pushed him in his stroller around our apartment complex, that amazement pinnacled in one glorious moment.

As we approached another early-morning rambler, Tyler's arms extended wide from the berth of his stroller, and as I peered around to see his face, it held an expansive grin, his mouth hanging open. When the young man came close to us, Tyler began to scream in excitement, as if he were saying, Holy cow! Another person! Look, Dad, there's another guy walking around! Wow! Wow! As corny as my recitation of what Tyler might have thought sounds, it feels right, true.

Tyler looks at the world around him in astonishment. He is consistently amazed by: the people he sees, the feel of water, heat and cold, food, colors, sounds. In the face of our nine-month old son, I see what a life lived in wonder looks like--and seeing this empowers my own soul.

Indeed, at times, the child is the teacher.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Jennifer's Website Up and Running!

My wife, Jennifer Reynolds, recently got her website up and running. It is called Moms With Passion and it explores how moms can continue to follow their own dreams even as they care for their children. Check it out at