‘The Lost Book of the Grail’
by Charlie Lovett
Reviewed by Katie Eubanks
If the words “Holy Grail,” “cathedral library” and “ancient manuscripts” don’t have you salivating, you’re missing out on a treat. This book, released in August, is a historical mystery akin to “The Da Vinci Code” but with less heresy — and it has surprisingly positive things to say about faith.
Arthur Prescott is a curmudgeonly university professor in fictional Barchester, England, who only took the gig because his late grandfather told him he believed the Holy Grail was hidden somewhere in Barchester. Arthur is obsessed with the Grail and pores over old books in the local cathedral library to find clues.
He’s also a traditionalist who can barely send an email with an attachment. So when a young American named Bethany shows up to digitize the cathedral’s oldest manuscripts for public access, he turns his nose up. But soon he finds out Bethany’s a Grail lover, too. Together with Arthur’s buddies Oscar and David, they discover ancient secrets about the cathedral, the monastery that preceded it and yes, the Holy Grail. How much do they discover? You’ll have to read the book.
Almost as interesting as the Grail plot are Arthur and Bethany’sconversations about faith. He’s an atheist who attends cathedral services regularly — all but Sunday morning, when the call to communion would be awkward. Bethany is a “PK” whose father preaches at an American megachurch. (She has to explain to Arthur what a megachurch is.) She believes in God but isn’t exactly chomping at the bit to attend Evensong at Barchester Cathedral.
This isn’t a Christian book, and Arthur and Bethany talk less about Jesus specifically and more about the nature of faith. But it’s still surprising how much they encourage each other on their spiritual journeys.
And then there’s the whole unlocking-an-ancient-mystery thing. I was absolutely fascinated. Each chapter contains both a flashback to the history of the monastery/cathedral and a chunk of Arthur and Bethany’s exploits. It’s the perfect combination to keep the reader tantalized.
The ending is satisfying, and it made me even more curious about the legend of King Arthur and the Holy Grail.
Recommended for bibliophiles, Anglophiles and anyone who enjoys a hearty combo of myth and history. Contains a bit of language, one French kiss, no sex and very little violence on the page.
‘Love Lives Here’
by Maria Goff
Reviewed by Marilyn Tinnin
If you are a fan of New York Times bestselling author Bob Goff, you will know who “Sweet Maria” is — the girl he pursued relentlessly and eventually convinced to marry him. This author is none other than “Sweet Maria.” If you enjoyed “Love Does” and “Everybody Always,” you will not be disappointed in “Love Lives Here.” The subtitle is: “Finding What You Need in a World Telling You What You Want.” Oh, my goodness — don’t you relate?
If you yearn, as I do, to clear away the real from the noise of the contemporary world, this is a book you want to read. It is a collection of stories with practical life lessons and nitty-gritty reality. Navigating relationships and simply being an imperfect person dealing with other imperfect people in a very messy world is a challenge. But here is a person documenting how she manages to also be salt and light as an ambassador of Jesus Christ in a world that does not always value what she values, or what God values.
From very rich and illustrative stories about her children, her dogs, her neighbors and her ideas frequently in total contrast with her husband, Maria is real, pragmatic and inspiring. She is a modern study in biblical womanhood and that is NOT the submissive, nonthinking, wallflower type the phrase may bring to mind.
If you are seeking to create a home that is a refuge for your own without being a cloister from the uncomfortable reality right outside your front door, you will love this one. Maria has the ability to open the eyes of your heart to see beyond the superficial. I love that she is a quiet person who hates conflict. Oh how I get that part of her. But she manages to get beyond the comfortable and open herself to embracing a needy and hurting world — kind of like Jesus.
An easy read. A great book to keep on your nightstand and read as a grown-up bedtime story! I guarantee sweet dreams and the desire to just be more Christ-like in the morning
‘Tangles and Plaques: A Mother
and Daughter Face Alzheimer’s’
by Susan Cushman
Reviewed by Marilyn Tinnin
Author Susan Johnson Cushman is a Jackson native and an old college friend of mine. She is also an up-and-coming Southern writer with three diverse but impressive books under her belt as well as a contributor to three anthologies, all Southern to the core.
“Tangles and Plaques” chronicles her eight-year journey as long-distance caregiver for her mother, Effie, who became another sad statistic in the growing number of seniors living with Alzheimer’s. I actually read the whole book in less than 24 hours. For me, it was cathartic, because I lived a similar story with my mother.
Susan’s book is special because it is personal. She did not waste one emotion during that bumpy season of life. Her mother’s illness offered more than one opportunity to revisit unresolved pain in her childhood, and Susan did so with grace and a level of forgiveness and understanding that only a believer in Christ could exhibit.
If you love someone who is suffering or has suffered with this disease, you will identify with every situation she describes. This is a diary — it’s not a clinical how-to-survive manual. Her stories will make you laugh and a few will make you cry, but Susan’s willingness to be real and vulnerable left me feeling comforted and grateful. Grateful, because she had a way of describing a moment and dealing with her feelings in real time. Grateful, too, that her own gratitude for others who came alongside her to love her mother right where she was during that time deepened her faith that God was still the Loving Father whose ways and times are not always ours.
“Tangles and Plaques” is available at Lemuria Books in Jackson or on Amazon.