Matthew Kelly

The people we surround ourselves with either raise or lower our standards. They either help us to become the-best-version-of-ourselves or encourage us to become lesser versions of ourselves. We become like our friends. No man becomes great on his own. No woman becomes great on her own. The people around them help to make them great.

We all need people in our lives who raise our standards, remind us of our essential purpose, and challenge us to become the-best-version-of-ourselves.

– Matthew Kelly, The Rhythm of Life

Original Writing

W.P Young’s “The Shack”

Recently, I decided to make the monumental decision of temporarily stepping away from crime thrillers and venture towards other genres. More specifically, I was attracted to the reviews of Young’s Shack, of which are considerably mixed.

Without giving too much away, the novel surrounds a man whose life is turned upside down when he experiences a family tragedy. The tragedy is of such a horrifying extent, he begins to question how God can live in a world where evil like this exists. His story and his journey address fundamental issues raised by agnostics and atheists on a daily basis, amidst wars in poverty-stricken countries and humanitarian crisis. Justifiably so, the protagonist loses faith in God, and whilst at this lowest point, he encounters an experience which somehow miraculously changes every single perception he had, of religion and of mankind.

My initial thoughts were of a sceptical nature when first reading this novel; firstly, I’m not a Christian and thus, could not take this at face value. However, there were considerable lessons to be learnt by reading this story; even if one isn’t religious, or practising, it certainly speaks to you on a spiritual level. It’s almost as if the author can sense the scepticism the reader feels prior to opening the book, and works with it to create a sensational masterpiece.

Like many other novels with underlying morals that shape the story, it left me questioning a few of my own spiritual beliefs. Religiously speaking, I know where and with Whom my faith lies, but I understand those who discredit any existence of a deity when wars, murder, rape and other evils are present in society everyday. This book addresses this internal strife. It speaks to the believer and the non-believer, without simultaneously shoving the reader’s own religious/spiritual stance down the reader’s throat.

I cannot recommend this book enough; it certainly makes you reevaluate how you look at the world, and the importance of being the best person you can possibly be in this lifetime.

A x

Featured Image: http://wmpaulyoung.com

Original Writing

Tell the Wolves I’m Home, Carol Rifka Brunt – Review

Having just finished this novel, I’m full of questions and admiration for Brunt. Written in 2012, set in the 1980’s, it certainly addresses the taboos of society during this era surrounding AIDS, through the protagonist’s journey of realisation and love. June Elbus: the epitome of innocence interlinked with a newfound sense of rebellion. Her journey of learning to accept a wrong love is both poignantly naive and heartbreaking as she understands the ramifications of her unrealistic desires. What’s  additionally poignant is the fact that Brunt outlines the direction of the novel from the first page: we understand that we have to accept a loss before we turn to the second page.

I think the most interesting concept in this novel is we ultimately know what will happen in the end. There’s a foreboding death hinted throughout the second half of the novel, very subtly understated yet very prominent in the actions and decisions of the characters. In many ways, Toby’s death is just as painful as the loss of June’s innocence. We as readers grow to accept Toby for the actions he is accused of and what he has done, and our love for Toby is reflected through the endearing, innocent June and her love for Toby. We learn to admire Toby for who he is and everything he stands for, not for the supposed crime he has committed and what has happened to Finn.

Toby is everything Finn is not and that’s quite possibly what makes him so charming; he’s not an artist, he doesn’t have family in the country and he’s estranged from everyone and everything he knew. He’s learning to make his own way in this prejudiced world, alone and at a distinct disadvantage fundamentally due to his sexuality alienating him. His death hits the reader and June very deeply, almost unfairly snatched from us both as his true identity begins to unravel before us.

The topic of AIDS is so beautifully expressed in this text; Brunt confronts the issue with compassion and fragility, similar to the characteristics possessed by it’s victim, Finn. Times have changed with regards to AIDS and it’s treatments/cures which the reader will recognise whilst following the protagonists’ journeys, but we’re nevertheless transported into a time where AIDS was believed to be as  lethal as the plague and anyone in a close radius of a patient will consider themselves at risk of “catching” it.

I find the character of Greta most compelling, however. She is immediately and instantly dislikable with her cruel and cutting attitude towards her little sister; she’s calculating and malicious once she realises what her younger sibling is doing. Yet, we understand she’s coming of age and is fighting her own battles which torment her, too, thus making her a sympathetic figure by the end of the novel: we admire her and respect her, finally. Her fear of losing her younger sibling to another love she refused to offer results in her acting with cutting maliciousness through cold remarks and sarcastic rhetorical questions. Greta is quite possibly the smartest character in the novel and although she makes mistakes, they’re understandable and forgivable. Her brief snapshots of kindness and mature, older-sibling care are greatly appreciated by us, not so much by June as we understand before she does what exactly she’s going through; quite possibly some of the readers have experienced her internal conflict, too, and the evaporation of childhood towards the rush of entering adulthood.

We laugh with Finn and June as we follow their footsteps, internally grimacing and sympathising with June as she naively mistakes familiar compassion for romantic love and we cry with June as we lose someone we barely know, yet adore nevertheless. The embedded innocence in all of the characters is something conveyed so exceptionally by Brunt, connecting the reader to the character. The loss of two of the most beautiful souls is something the reader struggles to come to terms with, just as June and Greta do, yet we are comforted with the knowledge that they loved and were loved in return, in equal measure. And that’s fundamentally important for every living soul: to love and be loved.

A x