I’ve never been what you might call “out-going.” It’s not that I don’t like meeting new people, exactly…it’s just that old friends are so much more comfortable. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of call-up-anytime-friends I’ve made in the four years I’ve lived in Colorado Springs. This is, of course, my own darn fault: There’s no shortage of wonderful people here, though nothing compares to the density of awesome minds and souls that one can find in a certain small town in south-central Michigan… I’ve just been lazy about pursuing deeper relationships, falling back on a sequence of easy excuses (I’m engaged! I’m planning a wedding! I’m pregnant! I’ve got a newborn!) to justify my lack of initiative.
Friend-dating is almost as stressful as real dating: I always feel that I have to try to seem smarter, holier, and more fashionable than I actually am, anxiously awaiting the inevitable moment of truth when they discover my myriad flaws. Plus, it’s hard to find women who are comfortable with the special kind of gross that comes with raising an infant (“Um…I think your son has some, uh, green stuff? On his head?”)
While I’m slowly taking steps to develop a few new friendships here in the Springs (watch out: you’re next!), I’ve recently noticed that this reluctance to make new friends is reflected in my reading choices, as well. A couple of weeks ago, Zach and I joined the mob of looters at our local Borders and even the prospect of trying out something new at 90% off wasn’t enough to lure me out of my comfort zone. I walked away with Alexander’s Bridge by Willa Cather (her earliest work, really depressing and doesn’t sound like her at all, but has a great introduction about finding one’s literary voice), a copy of The Pearl by John Steinbeck (which I didn’t finish, as a scorpion stings the baby in the first chapter and, frankly, John, I am just not willing to see where you’re gonna take that), and–the kicker—a copy of a book that I ALREADY OWN because I might want to give it as a gift sometime.
Fortunately, my husband keeps an eye on reputable websites that recommend good books and the other day he brought home a copy of Father Elijah by Michael D. O’Brien. Now, Mike has a few strikes against him from the start: he’s still alive (not that I begrudge him a healthy life span–I’m just accustomed to dead authors), he’s Canadian (kidding!) and he has spoken out against Harry Potter, who is quite dear to my heart. Nevertheless, I decided to give him a try after watching Zach devour his 500 pg novel in a matter of days.
In short, He’s phenomenal.
Father Elijah was a little too apocalyptic for my tastes, but I suppose that I’ll have to retract that criticism as it is, after all, about the apocalypse. But not at all like the Left Behind series, I promise! I loved O’Brien’s depiction of the priest: so complex and human, while still maintaining a genuine respect. His descriptions of an unnamed Pope are uncanny, especially considering the book’s publication date.
But it was the second novel in O’Brien’s “Children of the Last Days” series that really hooked me. Strangers and Sojourners follows the life of an intelligent English woman named Anna as she discovers love, life, and God in the wilderness of British Columbia. The story expands to include her children and her grandchildren as well, showing how the sins and graces of an individual trickle down through the generations. O’Brien tells it beautifully, often using Anna to voice truths about marriage and motherhood that resonated with me for days. In fact, I identified so closely with Anna early on that I had to intentionally step back from the book for a little while when, later in her life, she makes some decisions that were a little emotionally traumatizing for me!
All said, I’m glad to have discovered this new writer, and am happy to insist that you read him, too. (And if you don’t have the time, feel free to send more of his books my way, and I’ll read them for you.)