Saturday, December 17, 2016

Book Review: Neighbor as Yourself

It was like Christmas came early! I opened the front door to find a much welcomed package waiting for me:

Bedecked with my friend Kyle's classic artwork even:

I always buy myself at least one gift for Christmas (here's my gift from two Christmases ago). This year it was a no-brainer. As soon as I learned that my old writer's group friend, Kyle White, had published another book, I wanted to buy the book as my Christmas present to myself - ha! Kyle was kind enough to send an autographed copy.

Like its predecessor Wisconsin River of Grace, this little book entitled Neighbor as Yourself is a collection of Midwest personal essays and poems. Kyle's writing always gets the reader thinking and contemplating life's deeper questions - questions of faith and purpose and God's grace. The first book focused more on his love of Wisconsin, his original home. In this book, he has made peace with his transplantation to Sycamore, Illinois, and recognizes God's blessing can fall no matter where you are located (even Indiana, Kyle, even Indiana).

I loved the pages of introduction with these two telling quotes:

"The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world ... The reason is obvious. In a large community we can choose our companions. In a small community our companions are chosen for us." - G.K.Chesterton

And - "Our unity is constituted by our inability to tell our stories without one another's stories." - Stanley Hauerwas.

I don't know who Stanley is, but he certainly shares my love of storytelling and attributes accurately the interdependence of story in our lives.

Kyle's humor shines through, like in his little piece called "Quotidian Meeting of Insomnia Committee." Who among us cannot relate to the middle of the night important (or less-than-important) business cogitation? In "The Scandalous Truth about You and Cold Weather," Kyle once again makes me laugh about our relationship to the seasons (reminiscent of his letter of recommendation, titled "To Whom it May Concern," on behalf of autumn for the position left vacant by summer, found in the last book). There are a few essays about facial hair and disastrous haircuts, and one about mothers waving at the bus stop like people do when they're drowning ... like people do when they're about to be rescued from drowning - ha!

But, there are serious things to contemplate, as well. One of the first essays in the book tells of an experience when Kyle happened upon the aftermath of a horrific accident on the day after Christmas. In reading about it, I felt as if it happened to me. That essay, along with others, caused me to reflect on death. This dose of deep reflection, flavored with bits of laughter, sums up Kyle's books nicely. As he declares in a heartfelt prayer on the back cover - "For our thinking that everything lasts forever: grant us mercy. And, one more day of 45% relative humidity. Amen."

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