I came across my old copies of John D MacDonald's laconic McGee when clearing out a dusty old box. First published in 1964 (53 years ago!) Travis McGee's third adventure is still rollicking good fun. Excellent writing that has stood the test of time - comments like "remorse is the ultimate in self-abuse" and "education is something which should be apart from the necessities of earning a living ... it needs contemplation, fallow periods, the measured and guided study of the history of man's reiteration of the most agonsing question of all: Why?" never age; they are as applicable today as they were when I first read McGee's adventures in the early 70's. To enjoy the stories in the second decade of the 21st century a reader has to put aside the gender and racial politics of the day. McGee is the Hero who saves the little woman, and does a damn fine job of it too! Great plotting, fast pace, interesting characters and a maverick hero. What more can one ask when whiling away a lazy afternoon?
A practical, funny and wise text from Swami Veda Bharati, whom I had the pleasure of meeting personally in 1999 when he attended the Council of World Religions in Cape Town. My yoga teacher here in Johannesburg, Glen Hudson, was a teacher of hatha yoga of the Himalayan tradition and organised a satsang & private blessings with Swami. I was lucky enough to attend both, and even luckier to receive a personal poem from Swami in response to a poem I'd given him (I'll load the photos on my author profile). This book took me straight back to that marvellous evening - Swami's voice shines through every page and his spiritual wisdom is indeed practical enough to be applied to every day life. Well worth the read.
I bought this book because exploring what forgiveness means is a passion of mine. I'm left ambivalent - relating my trauma to her trauma seems petty, but a trauma that requires the sheer hard work of learning to forgive on a soul level takes many shapes & sizes. I have to admire Derksen's commitment to this long (never ending) journey towards forgiveness - quite an amazing inspirational feat to take the terrible darkness that came into her life and turn it into a beacon of hope for others. To give (or at least find) meaning in a cruel meaningless act must take incredible courage & inner strength (& yes, a deep faith.) Derksen gives an excellent account of the process that forgiveness is but, as a Mennonite, her approach to forgiveness is strictly based on the Christian faith and that puts two strikes against the book (1) the odd and somewhat jarring interspersion of excerpts from the Bible too often came across as preaching and (2) forgiveness as a path to healing the brokenness within us is a human need - not just a Christian need. What about all the broken people of other faiths who may need to forgive? Is it only Christians who can find peace & redeem their lives through forgiveness? I would've liked to see Derksen explore what forgiveness means on a broader scale, rather than just from a narrow Christian perspective. Her trauma also comes across as intellectualised rather then allowing the reader to feel the depths of her emotional pain as Ralph Bulger did in "My James: The Heartrending Story of James Bulger by His Father, which was a howl of raw emotion from the first page to the last. But then Wilma Derksen has managed to do what the Bulger family are apparently struggling to do - her struggle toward forgiveness has given her daughter Candace's terrible death meaning & purpose while keeping her family and marriage together during the decades that have passed since her daughter's awful murder. That's a fantastic achievement and Derksen's struggle not to let hate & unforgiveness drag her down into the darkness is hugely admirable. The book is definitely worth the read (& I'll be re-reading it at some later stage) - a complex abstract concept (to forgive) is made simple and presented in an easy to read style.