The Sunday Salon: A Disappointing Book, & Another Reading Detour

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.


16 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: A Disappointing Book, & Another Reading Detour

  1. I am sorry the book was such a disappointment, Laura. It sounded promising from the description. I am glad you are enjoying summer so far. I am not ready to let go of spring just yet. Although I will be glad to see my allergies go. I hope you have a great week. Enjoy your next book!

    • Wendy, it’s nice to see you here again! Fortunately I don’t have seasonal allergies but my kids do, so I completely understand! Have a great week.

  2. Disappointing books can certainly spoil a weekend. But it sounds like you have many other things that will keep you content.

    I’m sitting here in “coolish” weather in the Central Valley of California, with my sliding door open to the patio (screen closed).

    I’m thinking that, because it’s cooler but not cold, a day at the outdoor mall, with lunch at an outdoor table…and maybe a movie. But I’ll have Sparky, my Kindle, along. I’m reading Exposure and it’s captivating.


    • Laurel-Rain, I consoled myself today with a visit to our local dairy farm/ice cream stand! I like that you named your Kindle. I thought about it but haven’t come up with the right name yet.

    • LOL, Jill! I thought it might be you but I’m glad you left that second comment! Hope you’re having a great weekend, too.

  3. I’ve heard it said that it takes five positive comments to make up for every negative comment spoken in a marriage. Perhaps that is true for books, too. Do authors/publishers/editors realize the damage that bad books do?!

    Here’s my Sunday Salon: Summer, Here I Come! I hope you will stop by!

    • Deb, I like that 5 positive / 1 negative idea. I think there’s some merit in that. I hope you enjoy your summer reading!

  4. Even though your book turned out to be disappointing, I’m glad you found something else to do. This is a great weekend to be outside! 🙂 Have a great week.

  5. Laura — When we were in high school, I used to force myself to read a book to the end, even when I hated it. I like your approach better! (I’ve since adopted it myself.) I’m interested, though, what members of your reading group thought of the book, if you hear whispers of it at your next Quaker Meeting.


    • Chloe, I’m a big believer in the Rule of 50 as a guide to giving up on a book. I don’t always follow it, but sometimes it helps me give myself permission to chuck a book that just isn’t doing it for me.

Comments are closed.