Wednesday, September 22, 2010

{book}worm wednesday :: Neighborly Giveaway

It is the loveliest of fall days today. Even the gusty wind is welcome, bringing the familiar sound of leaves rustling in the cool breeze, the warm sun sending afternoon shadows, while the rise and fall of children's voices wafts in through windows and doors flung wide.

It's the kind of day that makes you cook down a pot of apples for sauce making, or reach for a light sweater, the kind of day that makes the thought of a new novel or a knit hat, even a mid week holiday from school a welcome idea. Today has held all of those things and more, at least for those of us who are here, in this corner of the world.

Today is also Zhong Qiu Jie, or the Mid Autumn Festival, one of the most important holidays in China, when the moon is at its fullest and the Chinese celebrate the bounty of harvest, of togetherness, of family unity and wholeness. On this fittingly crisp day the kids are running about happily, enjoying the freedom and companionship of this neighborhood, while the country all around us does so on a grander scale, with families coming together to celebrate the blessings of both the earth and generations.

It is with these thoughts and scenes in my mind that I happily bring you today's event for this week's {My Neighborhood} theme: a book giveaway... the novel, Velma Still Cooks in Leeway by Vinita Hampton Wright.

Velma Still Cooks in Leeway: A Novel

Several weeks ago I listed this novel as a new read in {book}worm wednesday, and said I would let you know how it went. It turns out I absolutely loved it, and immediately decided I wanted to give one away for free (how neighborly of me). Aside from simply wanting to put good books into the hands of willing readers, this particular book and author is slightly less well known (than say, Cry the Beloved Country or Grapes of Wrath) and yet its themes are just as timeless and important.

Velma is a middle aged woman, living in a small, mid-western town where knowing your neighbor and the streets that they live and die on is a way of life, and essential to it. It's complicated though, and Velma begins to feel that the weight of the town's griefs and burdens are becoming to heavy for her to bear. She wrestles with the hurts and disappointments she experiences with and through her neighbors, and with God. There are no cookie cutter answers or easy formulas here, just Velma and her story, within which we are made to grapple with our own questions and struggles with suffering, forgiveness, the hope of redemption, and the way life holds all of these but is not crushed under the weight of them, bearing mercy and grace in spite of it all.

Among other themes, some that struck me were the importance of place, physical place-- the memories they hold and they way they tie and unite, comfort or even instruct life in a way. I felt like I had a deeper appreciation or understanding for people in my own life who are deeply attached to places, to memorabilia that holds significance because of its connection to people. Forgiveness is without question a theme... even more so it seemed to me was the power of healing that human forgiveness brings to another soul. It is something Dietrich Bonhoeffer talks about in Life Together, the way we minister God's forgiveness to others by the way we ourselves forgive. It made me ponder the transforming acts of human forgiveness that I have seen, as well as the the ramifications of when it is withheld. 

Last week I handed this book off to a friend, an English Lit teacher, to see if my zeal over it as a piece of honest and transformational work was off or not, and she wrote me the next day to say she couldn't get it off her mind-- the story had already gripped her, and the the themes seemed to be resonating with those in her own life.

Of course, we each have books that hit us, and sometimes especially so at particular times in our lives. Yet, even with that in mind, I think this story has enough merit to stand on its own. And now, I'd love for one of you to have it in your hands-- but hopefully you will ALL read it!

To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment below telling me what book you are currently reading or would like to read. For an additional entry, post a link to this blog on your facebook page or twitter and then say you did so in a separate comment below.

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USA time: Friday, Sept. 24th 12:00 am
China time: Friday, Sept. 24th 12:00 noon

Congratulations Sam! You are the (randomly selected) winner of a new copy of Velma Still Cooks in Leeway. Although the odds were in everyone's favor:)
Please email me your address so I can get it sent to you right away. 


  1. I am not reading a book right now, because my youngest daughter just got married (18th) and I was so busy with wedding and hosting her husband's family (from South Africa) I did not have time to read. I am ready for a "good read." I love Christian Historical fiction or anything by Karen Kingsbury. Look forward to reading your selection. Thanks for the suggestion.

  2. I am reading "Approval Addictions" by Joyce Meyer! Loving it! (not sure how I could win but it would be fun!)

  3. I also posted a link to your blog on my FB page! You are set, friend!

  4. I'll do anything for a free book :)
    I'm reading "Ethics" by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (we are kind of on a Bonhoeffer kick in our house right now).
    Again, love reading your thoughts!

  5. From one bookworm to another...

    Yesterday I finished "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light--the Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta". And sitting on my shelf to be read are "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and "The Life of Pi". All three were borrowed from the library, per the request of my husband who wants me to read books first before spending our/his hard-earned money on them.

  6. Right now I am reading "Committed: A skeptic makes peace with marriage" By Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the runaway hit "Eat Pray Love." I wasn't expecting to like Committed very much, because I was one of the (apparently few) readers that didn't like EPL. I thought it self-indulgent and pithy. Committed, however, really has me thinking about marriage, why we get married, and who I am (and my husband is) within our union. I recommend it.

  7. I have not picked up a book for myself in a couple of weeks, but we have read many out loud this summer and hope to into the fall. Sarah, Plain and Tall, The Narnia series, Little house on the Prarie, and we just cracked open Island of the Blue Dolphins, which I loved as a little girl. We are also in much anticipation for the planned Christmas break reads, Where the Red Fern Grows, and Treasures in the Snow.