A brief, disturbing remembrance of abuse and faith.

13 YEARS FREELY A SLAVE

Debut author Lee describes how God delivered her from an abusive relationship in this Christian-themed memoir.

When the author was 15, she sneaked out of her grandparents’ house and went to a club with friends. There, she met 19-year-old Daniel (not this real name): “He was very good looking, dressed in white slacks, a white jacket and that sparkling white diamond tie!” The author says that she’d already endured physical, sexual, and verbal abuse during her childhood, and Daniel exploited her vulnerability. She immediately moved in with him, beginning a 13-year relationship that was characterized by constant horror. After two months, Daniel relocated Lee to a small town, where he kept her locked in a trailer. She was let out once a day to bathe, she says, and not allowed to talk to anyone. She writes that he raped her repeatedly and got her pregnant; she was briefly rescued by her mother, but after the baby was born, the author and Daniel moved to a new apartment. It was a long time before Lee finally found the strength to escape her abuser for good, she says, and she credits it to her eventual discovery of and faith in God and Jesus Christ. Interspersed with her account, the author provides Bible verses with short explanations of how they related to her situation and how readers might apply them to their own lives. Lee writes in a searing prose style that captures her strong emotions every step of the way, as when Daniel locks her in the trailer: “I had been homeless before Daniel, I had been molested before Daniel, I had been raped before Daniel, I had been abused before Daniel, I had been abandoned before Daniel...but in all that, never had I felt so trapped as I did right at that moment.” The book is fewer than 60 pages long, and its account is rather skeletal, with many details left out. It seems as if it’s intended to be read a sort of simplified parable, showing how the author suffered before turning to God. Readers may not draw the same theological conclusions from Lee’s experiences, but they’ll find them to be harrowing, nonetheless.

A brief, disturbing remembrance of abuse and faith.

Pub Date: March 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-973622-22-2

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2018

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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

THE BOOK OF GENESIS ILLUSTRATED

The Book of Genesis as imagined by a veteran voice of underground comics.

R. Crumb’s pass at the opening chapters of the Bible isn’t nearly the act of heresy the comic artist’s reputation might suggest. In fact, the creator of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural is fastidiously respectful. Crumb took pains to preserve every word of Genesis—drawing from numerous source texts, but mainly Robert Alter’s translation, The Five Books of Moses (2004)—and he clearly did his homework on the clothing, shelter and landscapes that surrounded Noah, Abraham and Isaac. This dedication to faithful representation makes the book, as Crumb writes in his introduction, a “straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes.” But his efforts are in their own way irreverent, and Crumb feels no particular need to deify even the most divine characters. God Himself is not much taller than Adam and Eve, and instead of omnisciently imparting orders and judgment He stands beside them in Eden, speaking to them directly. Jacob wrestles not with an angel, as is so often depicted in paintings, but with a man who looks not much different from himself. The women are uniformly Crumbian, voluptuous Earth goddesses who are both sexualized and strong-willed. (The endnotes offer a close study of the kinds of power women wielded in Genesis.) The downside of fitting all the text in is that many pages are packed tight with small panels, and too rarely—as with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—does Crumb expand his lens and treat signature events dramatically. Even the Flood is fairly restrained, though the exodus of the animals from the Ark is beautifully detailed. The author’s respect for Genesis is admirable, but it may leave readers wishing he had taken a few more chances with his interpretation, as when he draws the serpent in the Garden of Eden as a provocative half-man/half-lizard. On the whole, though, the book is largely a tribute to Crumb’s immense talents as a draftsman and stubborn adherence to the script.

An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-06102-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

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