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Reviews

Poetry, novels and other works of fiction can be useful to persons engaged in a journey of self-discovery, and we often suggest such resources to our clients. In addition, there are also many excellent books, from self-help to reflections on the journey of personal and relational growth, which are similarly useful. In this section we've begun to post some of the works that appeal to us for such purposes. From time to time we'll add to the list. We hope you'll find them useful too.


All Over But the Shoutin'

by Rick Bragg
Reviewed by Gary L. Hulme

This autobiographical story by Rick Bragg finds him growing up "as po white trash" in the dirt pines of the South. An alcoholic and physically violent father who comes and goes our of their lives, his mother who works and slaves to eke out an existence, and the labels and prejudices that come with that life. He argues that the saying, "You can't miss what you've never had," is absolutely false. He saw what the people who were better off that he was had, and knew he missed it perhaps even more. It is a story of the courage of a mother and the determination of a son to rise above the poverty and prejudice to become a Pulitzer Prize winning writer.


Beach Music

by Pat Conroy
Reviewed by Gary L. Hulme

Whenever I read a Pat Conroy novel (I recommend them all, especially The Prince of Tides) I am always amazed at the marvelous and wonderful phrases he creates to describe and bring an image to life: "The water out of the fountain was pure and cold and tasted like snow melted in the hands of little girl." When a good writer describes a meal, my mouth waters and it makes me hungry, when Pat Conroy describes a meal, I am full and couldn't eat another bite. The novel, set in the low country of South Carolina to the ancient city of Rome, is a masterful story about a journey for the search for meaning. From holocaust survivor secrets, to teenage adventures at sea, to suicide and a surface genteel that belies the underlying complexities, Pat Conroy's ability to tell a story is unsurpassed.


The Black "O"

by Steve Watkins
Reviewed by Gary L. Hulme

This book by local author Steve Watkins (an English Professor at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, VA) tells the story of the largest class action racial discrimination law suit ever won in the United States. It tells the horrors of institutional bigotry that existed in the Shoney's restaurant chain up through the 1970's. Throughout are first hand accounts of Shoney's employees who repeat the same theme over and over, racism abounded at from the top of the corporate structure down through nearly every level of management. The Black "O" refers to the letter "O" in the word "Shoney's" on the employment application, which was blackened whenever an African-American applied for work, thus letting management know that the applicant could work in the kitchen or busing tables but could not be a greeter or server.


A Boy's Life

by Robert R. McCammon
Reviewed by Gary L. Hulme

Every guy in America knows what it's like to be twelve years old. That time just between childhood and adolescence when our bikes were rocket ships, we could fly through the air, when we loved and lost our dogs, when girls and music (rock and roll) where just beginning to catch our interest. McCammon's book beautifully catches this year in a boy's life. It describes a magical time when magic was still a reality and ghosts and monsters were also still real. Interwoven throughout this novel are mysterious adults, some to be awed, some to be feared and some to be admired. A Boy's Life is like a time machine that transports us back to a time of curiosity, invincibility, innocence and wonder.


Gap Creek

by Robert Morgan
Reviewed by Gary L. Hulme

Julie Harmon is a woman who can "do the work of a man." This novel, set at the turn of the century (1899-1900) in southern Appalachia is a story of youth and determination, of hardship and innocence, of endurance and a woman's search for her meaning, strength and voice. Through death, marriage, fire, flood, cheats, sickness and family, Julie tries to make sense out of the trials and tribulations of her life -- through it all finding more than physical strength -- finding emotional and spiritual strength as well. Julie is an inspiration to persevere and find deep meaning in one's life experiences.


The Highly Sensitive Person

by Elaine N. Aron
Reviewed by Gary L. Hulme

Are you sensitive to light, do loud noises startle or upset you, do crowds tends to overwhelm you? If so you might be what Elaine Aron calls a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). While our culture values extroversion, energy, and the bottom-line, Aron makes a strong case for persons who feel like they don't fit in that kind of culture. A Highly Sensitive Person herself, Aron takes the reader through assessments and descriptive vignettes which transform the HSP's self-understanding from self-doubt and shame to claiming one's uniqueness and healing sensitivity.


I Don't Want to Talk About It

by Terrence Real
Reviewed by Gary L. Hulme

This book is a must for both counselors who work with men who are depressed as well as men who are trying to make sense and meaning of their lives. Real sees depression in men as being unique and different from depression in women, children and teens. He suggests that significant cultural forces can be the basis for men to become "wounded wounders" who externalize their depression through a number of behaviors including alcohol and drugs, workaholic, aggressive, withdrawing and sometimes violent behaviors. In this highly readable book, Real shares his own personal journey in a way that helps both the professional and the lay person better understand the unique ways that depression impacts the lives of men.


Losing Julia

by Jonathan Hull
Reviewed by Gary L. Hulme

Jonathan Hull's exquisitely written novel is filled with vivid imagery that puts the reading right in the middle of the story. Set in three different time periods in the life of Patrick Delaney, we follow his story as a 20 year old in World War I, experiencing all the horrors and intensity of trench warfare. We are with him ten years later at the WWI memorial service and monument dedication where he meets the girlfriend of his best friend killed in the war. We are also with him in his eighties as he describes his current life in an assisted living facility and reflects back on his life as he is dying of cancer. This rich and poignant story is one of love, life, death and the search to make meaning through decades of experience.


One True Thing

by Anna Quindlan
Reviewed by Gary L. Hulme

When a successful and busy young woman living in New York City learns that her college-town mother is dying of cancer her life is turned upside down. Through her at-first reluctant care giving, she learns more about her mother than she ever imagined possible. She finds a person of strength and determination, of giftedness and resilience. This moving story about the ever deepening relationship between a daughter and her mother is filled with a richness of meaning, questioning, learning, loving and ultimately healing and reconciliation.


Three Cups of Tea

by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
Reviewed by Judy Hall

On the afternoon of September 2, 1993, American climber, Greg Mortenson, became lost in Northern Pakistan during his descent from a failed attempt to reach the summit of K2. Sick and weak as a result of his strenuous high altitude rescue of a fellow climber two days earlier, he had sent most of his gear down ahead of him with his porter. Searching for the right path after spending the night alone on the Baltoro glacier with only his parka and a thin wool blanket to protect him from the cold, he found himself in the impoverished Balti village of Korphe high on the side of a canyon along the Braldu River in the Karakoram range bordering China, Pakistan and India. Korphe villagers crossed the river in a box made of scrap lumber and strung along a cable 200 feet above the river. It was their only link with other villages.

The people of Korphe, though extremely poor, shared the best of what they had with Mortenson during his stay with them. He was welcomed into the hut of the village chief, Haji Ali and he became one of the chief's family. Mortenson learned the language and socialized with the villagers, using his nursing skills and medical supplies to heal and his personal gifts to form friendships. When he saw the children of Korphe gather to practice reading and writing even though they had no school building and no teacher, he was moved by their desire to learn. Before he returned to the United States, he promised Haji Ali and the villagers that he would return to build a school for the village.

The story of Greg Mortenson's passion for helping Korphe and other poor villages in Northern Pakistan build schools for the education of both boys and girls is one of determination, love and hope. The news of the school he and the Korphe villagers built spread like wildfire and soon his gesture of friendship and gratitude became a way of life. Although he knew nothing about fund raising or building, his own passion and dedication to the people of Pakistan drew a small army of contributors, builders and teachers. By the end of the decade fifty-five villages in Northern Pakistan had new schools, teachers, curriculum and supplies for their children, especially for girls. Individuals whose lives were touched by Mortenson-from Taxi Drivers to members of the Taliban, walked away from the lives they were leading to join Mortenson's vision for the future of Pakistan's children.

Why is this story entitled "Three cups of tea"? Because it was the hospitable kindness of the people of Korphe that inspired Greg Mortenson to a lifetime of service to the people in that part of the world.

"Here, we drink three cups of tea to do business; the First you are a stranger, the Second you become a friend, and the Third, you join our family, and for our family we are prepared to do anything-even die."
--- Haji Ali, Korphe, Village Chief, Karakoram Mountains, Pakistan

The story bears witness to the power of Mishpat (justice), Tsedekah (righteousness) and Hesed (kindness) in a world where peace and brotherhood are often neglected alternatives to war and oppression.



Feature Article
Family Covenant of Nonviolence
by
Dr. Gary L. Hulme, D.Min.



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