#94 ~ Castaway Kid

August 16, 2008 at 12:38 pm | Posted in Books, Family, LIfe, Reading, Religion | 1 Comment
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Castaway Kid: One Man’s Search for Hope and Home by R.B. Mitchell

In Castaway Kid, R.B. Mitchell revisits his childhood spent in an orphanage just outside of Chicago and the impact that had on his life. He is the only child of two parents who were very mentally ill. His father incapacitated himself during a suicide attempt and his mother spent most of her adulthood in and out of mental hospitals. Only his maternal grandmother Gigi brought any stability to his life. It was her weekly visits that provided him with the love he would ultimately need to survive inside the orphanage and to choose faith and hope over despair as he grew to adulthood.

It was heartbreaking to read about Mitchell’s experiences with his mother and the orphanage where she left him at the age of three. At such a young age, he had no concept of how sick she was and he blamed himself for being left alone. His kind housemother did what she could to comfort him and explain that his situation wasn’t his fault, but with so many other young boys to care for, she didn’t have all of the time and energy Robby needed. Gigi visited him weekly, but was unable to care for him physically or financially. Those visits were the bright spot in Robby’s week, but when she left him back at the orphanage it was like being abandoned all over again. Nothing good ever happened when his mother showed up, but Gigi tried her best to foster love between them. How it must have pained Gigi to watch the decline of her only daughter while being unable to raise her only grandchild as she would have liked.

Despite his circumstances, Robby is a resilient young boy who doesn’t want his circumstances to dictate how his life ends up. Once he learns that there is a scholarship to a college in North Carolina for which he is eligible through his father’s family, he starts taking odd jobs and weekend work to save the money he would need when he was on his own. His hard work earned him jobs that weren’t usually open to boys from the home. He also took it upon himself to invest his savings. This isn’t to say that his adolescence was smooth sailing. His anger, alienation, and feelings of inferiority would have led him down the wrong path had he not had this other side of him that wanted to rise above. His story is proof that nothing is impossible if you put your mind and prayer to it.

Even with a growing faith life, Rob continued to difficulty with relationships, especially with women. He realized that despite his loving grandmother, he had very little experience to draw upon when it came to romantic attachments. His fear that he would develop mental problems like his parents or that his girlfriends may turn out like his mother haunted him into adulthood. It wasn’t until he met the woman who was to become his wife that he opened his heart fully for the first time. Before that could fully happen, however, he had to learn to forgive his parents and learn to let go. It was a pleasure to experience that with him. She, like his grandmother before her, brought out the best in him and taught him how to trust.

It has been a long time since a book moved me to tears, but as I was reading the last pages of this book, I couldn’t hold them back. Some of the best and most inspiring stories come out of deeper personal pain. This story was well paced and well thought out. The only aspect that didn’t work well for me was the internal dialog and personal prayers. Those portions felt like they were often saying what was obvious from the context. I was able to skip over them without losing the story or its meaning. At its best, this memoir is a profoundly human story of the power of hope, love, and forgiveness. There is a reason for suffering if only you allow yourself to see it. This is an important message in such a cynical and sarcastic world.

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To buy this book, click here.

The Sunday Salon

August 10, 2008 at 2:42 pm | Posted in Books, LIfe, Reading | 18 Comments
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The Sunday Salon.com

This is my first Sunday Salon post and I’m so excited to get started. Thanks very much to Jen from Devourer of Books and my other favorite bloggers for gently nudging me to get started.

This week I was able to complete reading two books: Castaway Kid by R.B. Mitchell and Pattern Recognition by William Gibson. Definitely two very different books. Of the two, I liked Castaway Kid the best. I will save my thoughts for my reviews, but there was a lot of Pattern Recognition that went straight over my head. I would like to say that it all came together at the end, but not so much. I need to train myself to read books like Gibson’s in order to get the most out of them. I’ll be posting these reviews next week.

I wrote two reviews last week as well: The Four Seasons and Surviving Ben’s Suicide. Writing my review for The Four Seasons was difficult because there really wasn’t that much that stuck out to me to write about. It was a pleasant read, but easily forgotten. Surviving Ben’s Suicide was equal parts difficult and cathartic. All I can say is that there are the most generous and kind people out there in the book blogging world and I am so happy to be part of it.

Today, I probably won’t have much time to read until my children are in bed. Emma had her first friend visit for a sleep over last night and I am wiped out. They had a great time playing and it reminded me of those times I slept over at my friends’ houses. Those are always good memories. I am looking forward to Emma’s social life expanding as she enters kindergarten two weeks from tomorrow. We got a letter from the school system yesterday and Emma’s kindergarten teacher’s name is Mrs. Reynolds. I hope that her teacher will have as big an impact on Emma that Mrs. Riester had on mine. I know that Allison won’t be that far behind, either.

When I do get to reading today, it will have to be Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Robert Maturin.

I got this book for free from Penguin Classics under the agreement that I would read and review it in 6 weeks from receipt. It arrived on July 12th, so I don’t have much time left. This book was automatically selected for me when I entered their giveaway. This would not have been the classic I would have chosen and the cover pretty much freaks me out. I’m about 20 pages in to this 600+ page tome. It’s slow going because there is about three references on a page and unfortunately I am not the kind of reader who can just let those go by. Hopefully the story will eventually pick up. I really would rather be reading The Last Queen by C. W. Gortner or The Seamstress by Frances de Pontes Peebles. So, I’m keeping those books on my nightstand to drive me along. I’m also promising myself a professional pedicure as a reward for following through on my obligations. In this case, free books are not free. 🙂

That’s my life in reading today. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s going on in your world.

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