Hello everyone … it’s a 3-day weekend here in the US, which usually means a little extra reading time. But things are turning out a little differently than I expected.
After enjoying Winifred Holtby’s The Land of Green Ginger (my review is here), I planned to read a memoir called The Barn at the End of the World, a book chosen for discussion at the Quaker Meeting I attend. Subtitled “The apprenticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist shepherd,” here is Amazon’s blurb about the book, from Publisher’s Weekly:
Quakers, a Christian sect that arose in 17th-century England, are known for their pacifism, egalitarianism and reliance on the “inner light” for guidance. Depending on what branch they belong to, Quakers may give the inner sense of guidance more authority than written Scripture, which explains why a modern Quaker like O’Reilley can adopt Buddhism as her faith and still remain a Quaker. O’Reilley, professor at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., and author of The Peaceable Classroom and Radical Presence, tells the story of her decision to tend sheep and describes the spiritual ramifications of that experience. Anyone who is looking for a religious instruction book will not find it here: O’Reilley’s writing is narrative, not didactic. She simply tells more or less connected short stories about her sheep-tending and concurrent religious explorations. Whatever one thinks of her philosophy, O’Reilley has obviously mastered the craft of writing. Her rich, allusive prose draws on Catholicism, Quakerism, Buddhism, monastic tradition, Shakespeare and the Bible. Her short vignettes are luminous with faith matters, yet full of the earthy details of animal husbandry, resulting in a style that’s a cross between Kathleen Norris and James Herriot. The only caveat is that any readers who are squeamish about the messy details of barnyard life may find O’Reilley’s descriptions of her farm work too realistic for their stomachs.
It sounded promising, but I was ready to throw it at the wall after 50 pages. I found myself agreeing with a couple of LibraryThing reviewers who found the book light on spiritual content, and felt the author was trying too hard to be profound. And maybe trying too hard to be like James Herriot as well. Bleah. This book is heading into the donation bin, and I’m not going to “count” it as read nor will I write a full review. I’ll also be skipping the book discussion group, which is actually rather disappointing.
So now what? For whatever reason I don’t feel ready to dive into another book, even though I have several I’m looking forward to reading. The weekend weather has been very nice, and I took advantage of it to go jogging with my daughter yesterday. Perhaps today I’ll do some gardening. I’m going to focus on enjoying the first summer holiday weekend, so my reading is likely to occur in short bursts. And I think I have just the right book for that: A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen. I bought it a few months ago using a birthday gift card, and have dipped into it from time to time. I’ll be back after the holiday to share my thoughts on this book. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy your weekend, wherever it takes you!
Read more from The Sunday Salon here.