Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My Review of "Near Enemy"

Adam Sternbergh's Near Enemy: A Spademan Novel is an interesting book.  Set in a future New York City that has been ravaged by a terrorist attack, it's primary character is a former garbage-man turned hit-man, Spademan.  While Near Enemy is the second in a series (the first was Shovel Ready), this is the first Sternbergh novel I've read.

But it's a page-turner.

Most residents fled after the attacks and the ones who stayed escape through the limnosphere (called "the limn"), a virtual reality where people can live out their fantasies.  Everyone is safe in the limn, or so they thought.  Terrorists have discovered a way to kill people in the limn, a feat believed to be impossible.  Now it's up to Spademan to save the city and protect his make-shift family.

And what a character Spademan turns out to be.  He's talented with a box-cutter and his biting, sarcastic wit left me smiling page after page.  But he's not alone, either.  Nearly every character is so well written that Near Enemy is a real literary treat.  Particularly Persephone and Mark.

The plot, though, was the most intriguing.  Like most other dystopian stories, Near Enemy tells about a distant place in the future, but it could just as easily name our own world's fears of terrorism.  That also adds to this book's page-turner quality:  Because it trades on the anxieties we know all too well.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.

Friday, March 13, 2015

My Review of "This Is My Body"

Ragan Sutterfield's This is My Body:  From Obesity to Ironman, My Journey into the True Meaning of Flesh, Spirit, and Deeper Faith is a memoir of his own experience in moving toward a Christian faith in which our bodies matter.  Having wrestled with being overweight since his childhood, Sutterfield eventually finds himself in adulthood, with a failing marriage and at his heaviest weight.  He is faced with the incongruity that he is an environmentalist and farmer, doing grueling work to care for the land and creation, and yet taking poor care of his own body.  After the collapse of his first marriage, Sutterfield surrenders himself to the disciplines needed to care better for his body, specifically controlling his diet and becoming serious about exercise.  From this conversion point onward, Sutterfield begins to learn and experience an incarnational faith in which our bodies cannot be taken for granted.

In what is the most moving passage of the book, Sutterfield recounts:
What if God himself became flesh and remains enfleshed?  What if God not only has a heart that longs for our love but also a heart that pounds with blood?  What if God has skin that drips with sweat?  What if the God who offered his body as a sign of love also wants us to experience our bodies as a gift of his love?  Christians must worship a God who is all of these things because we worship a God who was made manifest to us in the human, embodied life of Jesus.  The denial of the body, of the flesh, is not a denial of the dangerous locus of sin, as so many of us have been taught.  It is a denial of the Word made flesh.  Those of us who follow Jesus Christ -- God in human skin and muscle and mind -- cannot deny the goodness of the body.  To do so is to reject the reality in which Christ now lives as the risen and ascended Lord. 
This Is My Body is an amazing book about the implications of the Christian incarnational faith for our daily lives.  Though it alternates between Sutterfield's larger conversion story with ones that focus on the particular story of preparing for the Ironman race, the book as a whole is a theological reminder that there's joy in living thoughtfully and faithfully by caring for our bodies as disciples of Jesus.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

My Review of "Our One Great Act of Fidelity"

The heart of the Christian faith is that God has come to us, with us, as one of us.  The Good New is nothing but this:  God-with-us.  And Our One Great Act of Fidelity:  Waiting for Christ in the Eucharist is a reminder of that simple truth.  The Christian Gospel is the story of God taking flesh.  In Scripture, "the body of Christ" takes on three meanings:  The historical body of Jesus, the Church and the bread of the Eucharist.  "From these we create church", Rohlheiser reminds us.

"Christianity is without doubt the earthiest of all religions" (page 25).  The Eucharist is a family meal that brings together the faith in all its messiness.  "There is no adequate explanation of the Eucharist for the same reason that, in the end, there is no adequate explanation for love, for embrace, and for the reception of life and spirit through touch" (page 29).  The touch heals.  Touch communicates.  And in the Eucharist, Jesus touches us in a great act of fidelity.

Rohlheiser rightly highlights all the ways we're estranged in our culture.  And he produces a biblical argument that the Eucharist is the meal that brings wholeness and healing.  It is the medicine of our souls and bodies.

Because the Eucharist is the gift of God's faithfulness to all creation in Jesus Christ.

The book ends with three fresh translation of Augustine's sermons on the Eucharist.  Those translations alone are worth the book.

Our One Great Act of Fidelity is an amazing book.  Don't miss it.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.