Friday, November 22, 2013

Reflections on the Ring: One ring to rule them all.

Let's look a little at Existentialism 101. Don't worry, I won't bore you with a lot of details. One thought in Existentialism states that, since we are so radically changing, the concept of binding yourself to someone forever merely limits you, and binds your potential and chains your freedom for enslavement.  Welcome to Jean Paul Sartre, 101.

At the other end of the Existentialism spectrum, you have the Catholic philosopher Gabriel Marcel, who concluded that marriage is the ultimate act of freedom.  In marriage, we freely choose to commit to someone for the rest of our lives. Two people have decided to give their entire lives to one another.

End of lesson.

Now, as most of you may have noticed, I don't generally, as a rule, read chick-lit. Sherrilyn Kenyon? Sure. She's got an interesting fantasy universe, and I'm a bit of a romantic sap at times.

Then there was (deep breath) Reflections on the Ring: An Ordinary Woman’s Extraordinary Tale of How She Saved Her Marriage and Family.... yes, it's a bit of a title. And if you think the title is a little much, the back of the book is as follows.
Most women harbor dreams of a fairytale wedding and marriage. And while some do achieve it all, they are in the minority. For most of us the reality of living out our daily lives with another person demands compromise and commitment. Yes, it takes two to make a marriage, but someone has to take the lead. Why not let that person be you?

That’s the timeless life lesson author Lori Colombo Dunham learned when an unplanned pregnancy rocked her entire world back in 2001. Having only known her baby’s father for a short time, she agonized as to what God’s plan would be for her marriage and family once she and her partner decided that embarking upon an unanticipated marital union was the right thing to do under the circumstances.

So she bid her girlhood dreams of an elegant church wedding goodbye to exchange vows in a sterile county courthouse, mourning for what could have been. Little did she know that inauspicious beginning would lead to a magnificent marital and family life beyond her wildest dreams

Anyway, Daria Anne asked me to take a look at it, and she's hosted me enough times so that I could give her the benefit of the doubt. She coauthored it, so how bad could it be?

In fact, when I got it, I noticed it was less of a book and more of a pamphlet. 

So, was it good? Sure.  I'd give it about three to four stars, definitely leaning on A for effort, A for narrative style, and a B for execution.

Why wouldn't I give it five star?  Well, I had to slog through a few pages here and there. Have you ever had the prose of a book turn you off? Five pages in, I was going to just stop reading, lie to Daria and say that something had come up and I wouldn't finish this in time. There were at least two pages of mea culpa that just rubbed me the wrong way.
 Thankfully, the cringe-worthy setup rhetoric was wonderfully deflated by more sarcastic, wry commentary.  For example, describing "Tom... the male character in an ill-fated courtship that led to my starring role in a summer romance novel." Or, perhaps,
"Samantha, one of the most glamorous girls in the group... never misses a Pilates class or dares to leave her house without flawless hair and makeup, even if she’s only headed to Publix..She fixed her big blue eyes upon me with the same intensity a prosecutor might employ while interrogating a witness."
While not my usual thing, I liked it. There were moments at the beginning that I was tempted to shut things down, but thankfully, the narrative saved it. It keeps the rest of the book from becoming a collection of misery or a collection of sap. The narrative flow worked here.

Now, sure, there are a few problems here and there than just the opening. For example? Chapter 3 ends with Christmas, 2004.  Chapter 4 opens with October 2006 ... so, where did 2005 go?  There was at least one incident (a nice looking neighborhood populated by unpleasant people) that I wanted a chapter out of, if only to explain how she just knew some of what she described. And the plot twists at the end .... one plot twist undercut the impact of the other, which made me a little annoyed.

The book focuses heavily on faith and politics.  If you ever wanted to by a Dr. Laura book, don't bother, just pick this one up instead.  Aside from a lot of Catholic mea culpa in the opening, and Italian cultural tropes, it was heavy on the personal spirituality, and light on the religion... She obviously prays, reads her bible, etc, and "would rather go to my church than take from the government," but aside from "not dragging her husband to church," her faith seems to exist in a complete vacuum. So, if that's a problem for you, you know it's here. (For those of you wondering what the difference is, spirituality is your personal relationship with life, the universe, and everything, usually God; religion is where you go out and worship with other people in a community.)

At the end of the day, it was an interesting little book, and readable enough even for a hardened cynic like me.

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