By Elizabeth Prata
If you’re like me, when you get home from a long day at work (or if you’re a SAHM, a long day of work at home) and after you finish your chores and put the kids to bed, you’re wiped. All you want to do with the few precious minutes of sentient thought you have left is to veg out. You don’t want anything demanding of your tired brain, and you just want to read or watch something easy, clean, and perhaps edifying.
I am reading two books and have recently watched two movies that fit the bill, in my opinion.
Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane C. Ortlund is the book of the year. No, really, this book has appeared on many Christian Best-Of lists for publications in 2020. Its devotional style makes for easy reading, and its wonderful content is so edifying you’ll feel like you showered in a fresh rain sprinkled with lavender afterward. Here’s the blurb: “How does Jesus feel about his people amid all their sins and failures? This book takes readers into the depths of Christ’s very heart—a heart of tender love drawn to sinners and sufferers.” Recommended so highly you should run to the store and get it now.
This novel fulfills all my expectations and needs for a relaxing journey on a rainy Saturday covered in my quilt in my easy chair, with cat. It’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel by Robin Sloan. Here’s the blurb: “The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything―instead, they “check out” large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele’s behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends. But when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls. Rendered with irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave.”
It is well-written and I note this because a well-written novel is increasingly a rarity these days. Not being a snob, just saying of my experience lately. It also draws you in immediately, another rarity. I don’t have to slog through any bumbling first pages or chapters to get to the good part. The book is good from the start. It also proceeds at a perfect pace, unfolding the mystery and the characters like peeling an onion steadily. I’ve read half of it, so I hope my feelings about the book is sustained through the second half.
Movies: Dear Viola. It’s Hallmark-y, a chick flick romcom (not a lot of com) that’s well produced and easy to look at. The joy was discovering one of the actresses. Jackie Richardson is a secondary character with a lot of screen time, and she is a delight. A Canadian singer and actress, Richardson’s musical mainstay is Gospel. The characters in the movie go to church and Richardson gets to sing (and the songs they picked are of Jesus, who they mention by name. Just a happy tidbit). Find her on Youtube or elsewhere and enjoy her voice.
Anyway, the small town in this case is Cobourg Canada (named Bell-something or other in the film) and it’s gorgeous. On the shores of Lake Ontario, the scenic shots include yachts, lakes, lighthouse and yummy more eye candy. Here’s the blurb: “Kellie Martin plays an accountant who submits a reply to a “Dear Viola” letter to the editor that she works for. She has a real knack for writing to people and getting to the heart of the matter, and soon the whole town is involved in the romantics.” Blurb from a viewer at IMDB
I liked that the film was clean, featured wholesome activities such as church, baking, dad & daughter, caring for elderly-sick, etc. And the small town newspaper was right up my alley. It’s a little corny and you see where this was going the whole time, but it’s easy on the eyes, undemanding, and the sweetest ending.
This next movie is based on a true story which makes a movie all the more compelling for me. I get to look up stuff afterward and stay with the characters after the last scene fades. The movie is Penguin Bloom, an Australian film that is also lushly filmed and extremely well acted.
Blurb: “Based on the best-selling book of the same name, the film tells the story of Sam Bloom (Academy Award® nominated Naomi Watts) a young mother whose world is turned upside down after a shocking, near-fatal accident leaves her paralyzed. Sam’s husband, (Andrew Lincoln), her three young boys and her mother (Academy Award® nominated Jacki Weaver), are struggling to adjust to their new situation when an unlikely ally enters their world in the form of an injured baby magpie they name Penguin. The bird’s arrival is a welcome distraction for the Bloom family, eventually making a profound difference on Sam’s life, teaching her how to live again.”
Australians are hearty people and extremely active. They love sports and live for the outdoors. The film portrays something we don’t get to see much these days- the three boys playing outside and at the ocean’s edge all day- building forts, running, skating, exploring. I used to do that. In the 1960s. It was a pleasure to see a family committed to each other and to exploring and imagining – and not an iphone or screen in sight. The story of the injured mother’s journey to good emotional and mental health was a well done. The magpies were tremendous. (I say magpies plural because in the credits there were a lot of them!)
I wish they’d make more movies like Penguin Bloom.
Anyway just a few recommendations for you if your’e looking for something to read or watch. Have a great week!
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