Tuesday, April 19, 2016

When My Baba Died



When My Baba Died

By Marjorie Kunch

Foreword by Fr Milos Vesin

Published by Pascha Press, 2015

www.paschapress.com



Dealing with death and grief is hard enough for an adult. Trying to explain it to a child and then help the child to deal with the grieving process in a sensitive and loving manner is  particularly difficult, especially when the majority of books written on the subject may not include Christian traditions in general or the burial customs of the Orthodox Church in particular.

In response to this need, a fine book has been written by Marjorie Kunch entitled "When My Baba Died". Marjorie Kunch is an American Serbian Orthodox Christian, a mother and also a mortician, so she writes in an appropriate, informed and sensitive manner; Fr Milos Vesin, who wrote the foreword, is an experienced Priest and Professor at St Sava Theological Seminary, ensuring it is theologically and pastorally sound. 

This small book is gently, clearly and sweetly written for children and can be read out loud to much younger children.  The traditions described and illustrated are described in Serbian terms but will be familiar to all Slavic Orthodox, yet the book is of course suitable for all Eastern Orthodox Christians or even also for Eastern-Rite Catholic families. There is a helpful and extensive glossary at the book to explain any terms which might be unfamiliar to the reader.

We learn of the death of a young girl's beloved Baba (Grandmother) and how that made her feel, before discovering what happens at the funeral home, some of the general work the funeral staff do and how they all prepare Baba for the Visitation by family and friends and the prayers of the Pomen ceremony. The second part of the book deals with the funeral service at the church and the final part outlines the procession to the graveside and the burial of the coffin, as well as the forty day Memorial.

I especially love the profuse colour illustrations; they are all based on photographs shot on location at the Bocken Funeral Home and the Elmwood Cemetery in Hammond, Indiana, and at the Serbian Orthodox Church of the Archangel Michael at Lansing, Indiana. The photographs have been carefully re-rendered with an artistic painted effect to be clear yet not overly-stark or frightening to a small child; they illustrate the funeral process beautifully, including the Last Kiss, without causing fear or distress. Excerpts from the prayers of the funeral service are included too.

I really cannot praise this book too highly, and recommend it to all Orthodox families. At some point, we will all be faced with a funeral in our lives and this is an excellent book to explain Orthodox funeral traditions to our children.  The only caveat for UK readers is that formal Visitation services are not commonly held here, though many families do informally visit their reposed loved ones in the funeral home prior to the funeral.

There is a valuable accompanying Activity Workbook to this title, allowing children to write stories or poems about their feelings, information about grief as well as providing prayers for the departed, Bible verses about death and bereavement etc. Instructions on how to make Koliva are given, as well as suggestions for making a memory table and ideas for writing letters to be placed in the coffin of the departed relative. There are word searches, ideas for drawing pictures, suggestions about people who may be able to talk to you about how you feel and support you, and so much more. Details of organisations which can help support grieving children and families are also given. This workbook is an excellent resource and extension of the work of the initial book and is well worth purchasing.

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Friday, April 15, 2016

The Murder Of Mary Russell




The Murder Of Mary Russell

By Laurie R. King

Published by Allison & Busby, April 2016


I am a keen long-term fan of this engaging series, and was so very excited to buy this latest installment in the saga of Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes. I really wish now that I had not bothered, then I could have just enjoyed re-reading all the previous cleverly-crafted books every year.

So what was wrong with this book? There were quite a few gaping plot holes and inconsistencies which annoyed me intensely. I cannot imagine the intelligent and astute Mary Russell could possibly have been so dim in her initial encounter with her Antipodean visitor, for starters.  Not to mention that considering she had contacted Mycroft Holmes about the encounter and its unfortunate aftermath, why was the omniscient and omnipotent Mycroft suddenly incapable of finding Sherlock and getting a message to him about Mary without it taking a ridiculous length of time? These were the days when you could post a letter in London in the morning and have it arrive at its destination the selfsame day, after all! Even if the Holmes' telephone line was tapped, someone in the village whom they trust could have been contacted somehow, even if Mycroft would have had to send a physical envoy. It just did not make sense, and this was not the only instance.

Mrs Hudson is certainly not the character whom we think she is, and sadly this then has coloured my view of her retrospectively throughout the entire series. Her back-story occupies an inordinate length of time and  I found it overly long and tedious, neither did I find myself having any sort of real sympathy for her or any of her dysfunctional family.

This is one of the rare books I really wish I could un-read and expunge from my memory, in the same way I wish I could un-watch the dreadful "The Abominable Bride" Christmas special episode of Sherlock.

Will I ever read this book again? No.
Do I even want to have it on my bookshelf with all the others in this series? No.
And that breaks my heart.

Caveat Lector - let the reader beware!









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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Exciting News For Orthodox Christian Book Lovers!

Do you like reading Orthodox books, whether fiction, theology, history, devotional or travel? Do you want to buy books but get frustrated at the heavy shipping costs if you live far away from an Orthodox bookseller? Are you fed up with not being easily able to get Orthodox books for your e-reader?

I have answered yes to all of these at various points in the past, but no longer :-)

Ancient Faith Ministries now have an up-and-running e-bookstore with a superb selection of books which can be purchased and delivered immediately to your e-reader no matter where in the world you might be. Books are available in a variety of formats - mobi, epub or pdf, (though not all titles will have every format available at the moment) so the books will generally be suitable for Kindle, Nook, Kobo or generic e-readers. Purchasing and downloading books is simple and straightforward, and if you have any problems, staff  running the site will do their very best to assist you to resolve them quickly. I was able to navigate the site, purchase and download my book with no problem at all.

Currently, the 55 books in the e-book catalogue are available for $8.99 per title. I'm reading and thoroughly enjoying "The Scent of Holiness: Lessons from a Women's Monastery" by Constantine R. Palmer at the moment and have spent quite a while looking at the titles to see which one I will read next.

I am particularly impressed by the fact that once you have purchased and downloaded your book, you can lend it to someone or even sell it once you have read it, provided that you do not retain a copy for yourself as well. (http://www.orthodoxchristianebooks.com/copyrights-and-usage/)

We really are spoilt for choice now, and all I can say to Ancient Faith Ministries is a huge "Thank You!" for making this possible.

If you want to see which books are available or want to know more, simply click here. And enjoy!


http://www.orthodoxchristianebooks.com



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Saturday, April 02, 2016

Anatomy Of A Soldier





Anatomy Of A Soldier

By Harry Parker

Published by Faber & Faber, March 2016






To say this is a remarkable book is something of an understatement. How on earth is it possible to write a new book about war, injuries and the realities of combat without ending up simply repeating chunks of what so many other books have said before?  Harry Parker has managed it and this book is very special indeed.

Our soldier is identified at the beginning simply by his army ID:  BA5799. We know nothing about him, really, other than that he has been very badly wounded indeed.  Each short chapter focuses on an aspect of his life as a soldier, from the tag which identifies him and his blood group, the fertiliser which is used by native inhabitants of the country to make the explosive device which changes his life forever, to the instruments used in operations and the wheelchair he uses at the start of his lengthy rehabilitation process.

In each chapter, we learn  a little more about BA5799,  Captain Tom Barnes, his life, his family, his hopes, his determination to do his job to the best of his ability and to treat the native people of the region with respect and decency, his comrades, the circumstances around his injuries and how his life falls apart and is slowly rebuilt. Running concurrently with this is the story of some of the inhabitants whom he meets and interacts with; what pressures are placed upon them and how they too do their best to cope with what fate has dealt them.

It can at times be a little challenging to work out what item is telling the story in the chapter; these can range from boots to surgical items, but it generally becomes obvious pretty quickly what they are.

Tough, gritty, emotional and succinct, I found this to be moving, enlightening and a terrific read.


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