Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur of the U.S. East-West Province have shared some of their favorite books and films in the latest edition of the Seasons publication. Here are two recommendations, and there is a link to the full list at the bottom of the page.
Life in Alaska
In her novel The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah moves beyond the spectacular beauty of Alaska into the dark reality of the survival of a dysfunctional family who leave mainland U.S.A. for what Ernt, the father tells them will be their promised land.
Ernt is no Moses. Psychologically damaged by PTSD as a POW in Vietnam and increasingly violent due to bouts of acute alcoholism, he leads his family to Kaneq, Alaska in 1974.
What he calls a cabin is really a shack without plumbing or electricity on 40 acres of barren and isolated land.
Unprepared for life in Kaneq, the family survives their first winter only because the community reaches out to them.
Cora, the mother, is an enabler. She honors the pre-Vietnam Ernt at the frightening cost of jeopardizing her own and her thirteen year old daughter Leni’s safety. And Leni, the only adult in the family, is caught between placating her father and protecting her mother while she works through her confusion about a developing relationship with Matthew, a classmate.
The Great Alone isn’t great literature, but it is a riveting story of personal survival and unexpected belonging. At the end of the novel, which marks the 50th anniversary of Alaskan statehood, Leni writes, “For we few, the sturdy, the strong, the dreamers, Alaska is home ….you either belong here, wild and untamed yourself, or you don’t. I belong.”
A Spiritual Treat
One of my favorite authors is Richard Rohr. His small book entitled Just This, is a collection of short contemplative reflections. Each day as I read a portion, the Spirit stirs my heart and I am lost in the wonder of God. The major gift I received while reading the book is the meaning of what Richard Rohr calls, “Just This.” He states the importance of simply looking upon, gazing upon a person, living creatures and things, with love. Doing this, there is no need to analyze or critique what God has made, and as negative thoughts are blown away, one can see “Just This.”
In stillness I behold the beauty of God
In the woman who sits near by-
And the bird in the nest and the gravel walk
Are “Just This” – in love’s gaze they lie.
You can see the rest of the Sisters’ reading and film suggestions here: Seasons, Summer 2018 (pdf, 787KB)