The Books We Got for Christmas

This year, we each got more potential books than physical books to unwrap. I got two gift cards to bookstores, including one to the Four-Eyed Frog in Gualala, and Spouse also got two. (One of his is for Mockingbird Books.)

Spouse got The Boys in the Boat, about the 1936 Olympics, and a book about gold called, well, Gold. Gold is written by Matthew Hart, who is a novelist as well as a non-fiction writer. The book does not go into great depth, but it is a good overview of the search for one of the planet’s most sought-after metals.

The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown, is about the USA crew team at the 1936 Olympics in Germany.

I got one book to unwrap; The Book of Strange New Things, by Michel Faber. This is a strange literary novel, a meditation on the missionary experience, the nature of spiritual faith, and what keeps a marriage together. It’s thought-provoking and at time just plain old provoking. Naive, devout preacher Peter is sent through space to a planet in another solar system. It can support earth-life, and it has an intelligent, self-aware species who wants a Christian minister to teach them about Jesus and the New Testament, which they call the Book of Strange New Things. This is a dream come true for Peter, except that he is not allowed to bring his strong, devout and loving wife Bea along. This is a real detriment for Peter, who is not very perceptive, and could really use Bea’s insightful gaze. Although they can send a version of e-mail to one another, they cannot communicate face to face or send pictures, and the relationship begins to fray under the pressures of two planetary environments. The book is not science fiction in any way, really; it’s more that Faber wants to create a missionary experience that by definition carries none of the weight of our missionary history. Peter’s weaknesses, and his profound strengths, play out perfectly, and Faber’s honestly is a sharp and honest as a scalpel.

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