Just because I haven’t mentioned the Alphabet Challenge in a while, doesn’t mean I haven’t been working on it. So far, I have reviewed A and B; today I wish to add C, D, and E–all of which I finished around the same time, this past weekend.

Coming Home: The Soul’s Search for Intimacy with God by Joseph M. Stowell was published in 1998, and I came upon it in a bag of books donated by a friend to my LFL (Little Free Library) as she was clearing out her bookshelves. The book deals with the “heart’s restlessness” to “live in radical reliance on the God who wants us to enjoy the delight and security of his [constant] presence.” My own New Year’s resolution was to, “draw nearer to God” (and be nicer to My Better Half), and this book helps me attempt to do both. James 4:8 tells us that the reward for drawing near to God is that, “He will draw near to you.”

One of the best parts of this book is its excellent explication of the 23rd Psalm.  I have heard many sermons and read many guide books to this passage, but even so, this book presented some new “angles” I hadn’t encountered before. The title reflects the journey of the Prodigal Son as he attempts to “come home” to his father from the “far country.” Chapters on “Aloneness” and “Connectedness” are extremely helpful in living our daily Christian walk, and the chapter titled, “Great Expectations” tells us just what we can expect at the end of our journey.

Kate Morton’s novel, The Distant Hours, fulfilled letter “D.” It is beautifully written, the descriptions of the English countryside and the old castle receive an A+ from me, and the characterization, as well, is outstanding.  Interconnected families tell their interconnected stories across the decades from WWI through1997. Opening with the following words, “Hush…Can you hear him? The trees can. They are the first to know he is coming,” set the tone of the story of The Mud Man, both the book the father of the castle wrote and the nightmare that haunts its daughters’ dreams on into their senior years. The descriptions are excellent: “The night has slipped on a fine pair of leather gloves, shaken a black sheet across the land: a ruse, a disguise, a sleeping spell so that all beneath it slumbers sweet.” “The moat has begun to breathe. Deep, deep mired in the mud, the buried man’s heart kicks wetly…the girl hears [a low moan rising from the depths.] She hears it, that is she feels it, for the castle foundations are married to the mud, and the moan seeps up through the stones, up the walls, one story after another…” This is Milderhurst Castle, home to three old women, never married, childless, full of mystery, and it is up to Edie (in more modern times) to sort out the stories of these old women and their connection to her own mother. People gave it four stars, calling it, “A nuanced exploration of family secrets and betrayal…captivating.” It is, for sure a novel of “quiet dread,” as stated by The Washington Post, and one which is an example of  “gothic mysteries [with] layers of surprising secrets…” as claimed by the Library Journal. The ending has several twists and turns, but ends on a satisfying conclusion. It was a good read.

A book I was picking up and putting down the whole time I read the other two was Jennifer Egan’s (author of Manhattan BeachEmerald City, a book of short stories. Described by The New York Times Book Review, the narratives are “tales of displacement and blazing moments of truth” and are “Hitchcokian” in nature. Here are women (mostly) of all levels of life from models to schoolgirls. Each story deals with some form of self-discovery, sometimes flattering, sometimes not so.

If I had to, I couldn’t pick a favorite.  Each story made me close the book and think, “Hmmmm.” Then I would reflect on it for the better part of a day.  Some were applicable to me or to people I knew, others were just “interesting.” I am glad I took the time to read this collection of stories.

I just looked at my TBR shelves and have found three books beginning with the letter F.  I hope by the end of the day to have made a decision for the third book I am currently reading (besides Stephen King’s conclusion to “The Dark Tower” series, Book VII and my Third Tuesday Book Club’s selection for March, Where’d You Go Bernadette). Since the three books will be so different, I should have no problem reading them a little here, a little there from each. Wish me luck!


Author: Rae Longest

This year marks my fiftieth year in AAUW (American Association of University Women). The Alvin chapter was begun in 1947, and as a new, green teacher to Alvin Independent School District, I joined in 1968. In the 80's we began a book group to share our love of reading, books,and fellowship with other women and girls who loved the same. We resurrected the group on-line in September of 2015. Eventually Powerful Women Readers folded as an on-line book club, but I kept the title and turned it into a blog. (See "Introduction,"first blog). This is my first experience at blogging or publishing anything and is becomes more fun with each blog posted. I have just completed 30 years of teaching as an adjunct at The University of Houston Clear Lake. This is after three years at Alvin Community College and an almost-twenty year career as a classroom teacher with Alvin Independent School District, adding up to a total of teaching 50 years in all. Reading and writing are "in my blood" just like teaching is. I hope you enjoy the blog.

6 thoughts on “THE ALPHABET CHALLENGE: An Update”

    1. I think H will be one I’ve intended to read for a while, Housekeeping by Marilynn Robinson. In the meantime, I am on p.129 of The End of Your Life Book Club. It is a book for people who like to read about books and are not overwhelmed by the thought of dying.


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