Do You Really Ever Finish This Book? {Book Club}

Today we finish Wild in the Hollow by Amber Haines. But with a book like this, do you ever really finish it? I don’t think so. It will be working on us for the rest of our days. Anna mentioned last week that maybe we need to do a chapter a week—it was said as a bit of a joke—but that feeling will only be stronger this week!

I am afraid this is going to be unwieldy because of the sheer volume it has stirred with me and I’m guess you might be feeling the same, so I am going to approach this very systematically.

Chapter 13: See Through

I loved the line, “We were forced to learn that a house is not a good hope.” Yup, we know that too. A new teammate, or a change in organizational policies, or your kids not fighting may be good hopes, but none of they can bear the weight of being the solution, the ultimate hope.

“Every step toward maximized growth felt like an actual shrinking, like a kingdom of the powerless, and I didn’t want to be a part of that, though it’s exactly what I was living out in a local context and in my writing life online. I was beginning to see church as the kingdom of the dissatisfied powerless.” The tension she felt with the church also was familiar territory. Repeatedly when people in our line of work return to their passport country for a visit or to live, this is one of the common cries. How can we be honorable towards dissatisfaction without being poisoned by it? Thoughts! :)?

Chapter 14: Hope of the Exiled

I would be willing to bet money (if Christians gambled, wink) that over 90% of us marked the part where Amber was talking to St. Cyr and his comments on the satisfied church. “American culture never allows you to be satisfied,” he said. “When you want something, you go after it and get it, and as soon as you do, you want for something else, maybe a thousand more things. American culture will never have enough. It stands to reason that the church would follow suit.”

Ouch. It hurts because it is a direct hit. While Velvet Ashes is made up of many, many countries, I think we each can sit with what he said and ask the question, “How has the culture of never being satisfied influenced me? As an individual? In my family life? In my organization? With my call? When I am in my passport country?”

I wonder how a culture of being satisfied can be fostered? Overall, I’d say I’m a very satisfied person. I am living such a rich life it sometimes embarrasses me. Should someone be this happy? This satisfied? But that doesn’t mean these longings aren’t familiar to me. There are certain pockets (one in particular right now) I am very dissatisfied with. I’m wondering how much I need to make a gesture towards it? And how much dissatisfaction is not only reasonable, it’s healthy and the appropriate response? What wrestles have you had with the ideas she teased out?

Chapter 15: Whole in Sick Places

“What do I want? Desire always points to the kingdom I serve.”

Preach.

“Are you a woman allowed no role other than to keep nursery? That does not bind you. Nothing can bind you. . . Revolution doesn’t start in pulpits or with elder boards, though support from those place wold sure be nice. The kind of revolution needed in the North American church and in the world is going to start in the lowest places. It starts in the manger. . . It starts in the rubble, in the needy poor in spirit.”

Nothing can bind you. Struggling to learn the language? That doesn’t bind you. Feeling isolated in your apartment, lonely, bored? That doesn’t bind you. People in your organization not listening to you? That doesn’t bind you. Wow. I need these reminders. What hope do they offer to you?

Chapter 16: Siblings in the Wild Yard

“This is the kingdom, to see like a child, to live loved with my siblings, to work and to dance and to be filled up like a hollow, howl of laugher, fruit of joy.”

Amen. That seems a good place to stop and look for you in the comments.

Amy

We will start The Witch of Blackbird Pond next week. It is only $6.99 on kindle or here’s a free PDF. I have to admit I’ve gotten the book but haven’t started it yet. I’ve never read it and know nothing but all that I need to know. Elizabeth recommended it several months ago saying it has powerful themes for TCK’s. I’m trusting it has themes also for us TCP’s :). My new term. Third Culture People. We’ll break the book into Chapters 1-7, 8-15, 16-21. I’ll do some research on the book and will share next week.

The last week of February we got a treat with a children’s book and author! She and I were communicating today about the plan! Lots to look forward to in our current book and future ones to come :). 

Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

25 Comments

  1. Sarah H January 25, 2016

    I loved the last section of this book! It felt like an opportunity to lean in, to not be bound by things, like the quote you used from Chapter 15, Amy. Knowing the hope of Jesus that fills the empty places, being satisfied even in walking paths of sorrow and shame and depression. I really liked this quote from Chapter 16: “The culmination of all desire is not in marriage, motherhood, this yard, or the church building yonder. The Spirit of the Lord whispers it in quiet, empty places. We are loved. Yes, where the Sprit of the Lord is, the kingdom comes. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom, and even in a little Arkansas yard, I see through to it, the wilderness redeemed, the hollow filled wild with Eden”. Even in a little border town in western Cambodia, even in another move and another transition, I want to understand completeness in Jesus and not being bound by my changing (unknown) role now and what the future holds. I’m so thankful that our Father does whisper to the empty places in us.

    By the way, “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” is one of my most memorable childhood books. My dad read it to us and it has always sort of haunted me (in a good way). I read it again for myself last year and I’m excited to see what themes come out in the discussion here! 🙂

    1. Michele Womble January 26, 2016

      I loved the end of the book, too, Sarah.  I felt like it was itself a leaning in and an unloosing  – the earlier chapters had kind of burdened me.  I like your phrase “not be bound by my changing role” but understand completeness in Jesus.  We’re in the midst of  change and transition right now, too – and it’s funny to think that a changing role can bind you (it seems more like a changing role would be more loose and/or free) – but it can.  But my completeness is in Jesus and not affected by my role or lack of one at the moment (or at least, its changing definition).

    2. Amy Young January 30, 2016

      Sarah and Michele, ah, there is so much that changes in life. I’m wondering if even these good things (locations we love, being mom, a certain job, whatever) might not also be what Jesus was referring to when he talked about building our lives on the sand versus on a rock. How many times have we heard to build on rock? Since it’s an easy idea for kids to grasp . . . lots :). But as I type this out and reflect, I think even us “mature” believers can build out lives on sand on the rock :). Does that make sense? I know you and I are built on the rock. But then then add sand on top of the rock and that sand can shift. That’s why I need you all! To talk about these things and help see the “sand” in my own life.

  2. Kiera January 26, 2016

    Since I listened to it, I don’t know which chapter this was in, but this line stuck out to me most after finishing the whole book – “what if the kingdom version of a person was the only version?” I’m sure it’s slightly misquoted, but it really gave me pause to think of how I view people.

    Related to your comments, Amy, about American culture being one of never being satisfied. I think that is true, but I also think it’s certainly not the only culture to think that way. Americans want stuff and “freedom” (however they define it), but in China I think there is a never-ending desire for “success” especially that leads to career advancement and money. Ultimately, in every culture, I think, there are things that people strive towards and unless they are Christ, they are empty. Sometimes when I am feeling really annoyed towards something here in China, I remember that it’s not a China problem, it’s a sin problem. For example, the “me first” culture I feel sometimes here – that’s a sin problem, not a China problem. I think I would say the same thing about never being satisfied – it’s a sin problem. Recognizing that helps me because it’s ok for me to dislike sin, but it makes it not about the people I rub shoulders with, but about the bigger picture of sin in the world and amps up my desire for God to come and make all things right.

    I’ve read the Witch of Blackbird Pond too but years ago. I remember that it was good – and pretty much nothing else, so it will be good to read it again. 🙂

    1. Michele Womble January 26, 2016

      I agree, Kiera, that America isn’t the only culture that is never satisfied.  It definitely is one of them, though!

    2. Michele Womble January 26, 2016

      oh, and I loved that line, too.  You quoted it right, I believe.  Actually – I think it IS the only version – and all the other versions are the ones we’re making up.  Yeah… it makes me want to rethink how I view people….

    3. Anna January 27, 2016

      I think the problem of never being satisfied is more of a human condition than only existing in certain cultures, usually we associate this with either material things or sexual desires, but it can also be about relationships, power, and anything you can imagine.  We try to fill that natural desire for God with all the other things we find.

      1. Michele Womble January 27, 2016

        Yeah, I agree with you, I think.  Maybe the difference in cultures or more about what particular things we are never satisfied with.  I definitely agree that we are all (whatever culture) trying to fill our natural desire for God with other things. (sometimes anything!)

      2. Amy Young January 30, 2016

        Agreed that the not being satisfied can come out in many different ways :). And in all cultures. I’m trying this week, to pay attention to how it has stuck it’s ugly, deep talons in me. I’m also wrestling with when it’s good/appropriate to speak up in the face of injustice and when to “not stir up controversy.” and how the idea of being satisfied plays into this tension for me. Sigh, I wish parts of life were much easier than they are!!!

  3. T January 26, 2016

    I’m not sure what I want to comment about the end of the book.  It was really the first part that left me thinking the most…but I wanted to write and say, “Thanks!!!” for book club.  As a girl, I thought about what my life would be and going to book club at the local Carnegie Library would have been one of those things that I had given up on doing in my remote location.  Thanks for making this happen.  When does community band start?  I’m ready to play xylophone and auxilary percussion…and I wouldn’t mind trying out for the spring play!  (or better yet, let’s make it a musical!)

    1. Michele Womble January 26, 2016

      T – If you get a community band going let me know!  I’ll jump in there with you! 😉

    2. Amy Young January 30, 2016

      I’m thinking we could do a cyber version of our next book! Who wants to be in charge of costumes?!

      T, when we were dreaming of what VA could be, having a book club was high on the list! It’s something I think many of us assumed wouldn’t be possible overseas . . . and I’m so thankful God has opened doors for it!!

  4. Anon January 26, 2016

    I need to meditate a bit on “good hope.” I have several hopes and dreams right now that might be just beyond the horizon, and I realize I have been putting these ahead of the real Hope.

    Thank you for sharing from this book.

    1. Michele Womble January 26, 2016

      Praying for you now about those hopes and dreams that might be just beyond the horizon – that they would find their meaning, shape, and substance in the real Hope.

    2. Amy Young January 31, 2016

      Ah, Anon, isn’t this part of the blessings of books and community — the invitation to slow down and check which hope we’re focusing on :). Thanks for this gentle reminder!

  5. Michele Womble January 26, 2016

    I loved the end of this book.  (Yes, Amy, I highlighted all of St. Cyr’s answers to her 3 questions) .  Amber writes beautifully, I’ve enjoyed reading Wild in The Hollow – I’ve loved her metaphors – yet I would say that until this last section I felt almost weary after each reading – weary and sad.  But this last section I feel she pulled it all together  in such a way that the “why” I was feeling so heavy for the first part of the book found it’s explanation and release in the last quarter.  I had a similar experience with Phantastes – while I enjoyed reading it, I felt like the main character was sort of rambling around doing things that seemed pointless and didn’t make sense  – like he was wandering around sort of lost and aimless – until I got to the end and understood that it was brilliant and part of the whole point.

    Some of my unease was because my experience of the church has been so different.  And so, when she would say things like, “Sunday mornings had become like visiting a stranger, when once she had known and loved me…when she opened the door, she didn’t know my name, and I had a hard time recognizing her face. Is Jesus here anymore?”  – the words fell heavy on my soul.

    They should fall heavy.  I realize that this is the real experience of some.

    It’s wrapped up in that weary circle of never being satisfied.  And it IS sad.

    “Many leave, wanting something that sustains, and what they had been calling the church is not what sustains.  In fact, the church was never meant to be the sustainer.” 

    With those words my uneasiness about her earlier words about the church fell away.  This is why that burden and that uneasiness had to be built up in the earlier chapters. To get to this point.

    Of course there are things wrong with the church.  It is made up of broken people.  The church was never meant to be the sustainer.  Just like the metaphor wasn’t meant to give life.  (“We live as if the metaphor will save us, when the metaphors were only ever made to point us to God.“)

    But both are beautiful.

    “…so I cannot live without the church, because she and I are one…”

    …and my tension in her story is resolved, just like that.

    AND I think I need to go back and re-read the book.  Like Anna said last week, one chapter a week.  (I was thinking about that earlier, that there was SO MUCH in each chapter and I was highlighting EVERYTHING and yet so far had nothing much to say about it except that I was overwhelmed by how deep it all was, and sad about her experience with the church)

    I love how she says that we should “show up and go underground” instead of leaving the church.  That we should seek those who are broken, and love them.  “Take the bread and give thanks like a child.  Serve the bread and give thanks for that, too.”  (This reminds me of “The Servants Knew: Thirsty (the Grove)”  https://velvetashes.com/the-servants-knew-the-grove-thirsty/)

    I also love how the last chapter (so far!) brought her back where she had started.  I absolutely LOVE how the pastor next door is the one who heard and helped her son when he cut his foot – beautiful picture!

    How he must love me to have said no to so many other things to bring me here.

    Amen.

    Soooo… The Witch of Blackbird Pond…

     

    1. Amy Young January 31, 2016

      I’m always curious in a memoir like this— where there is no clear ending because it’s not about one clear time period in a person’s life —how the author will land the plane. I agree that after experience such turbulence and expressing it in a respectful way (You could tell there was angst, but she didn’t slam or destroy the church), she found a landed the plan softly. I could sense many of her readers not quite ready to deplane — which is such a better way to end a book than relieved it is finally over :)!!

  6. Michele Womble January 26, 2016

    I read The Witch of Blackbird Pond growing up, read it again a few years ago as a read-aloud with my kids – I loved it so much I’ve read it over a few times since then on my own.  I never really thought of it as a TCP book, but that actually makes sense.  I’m looking forward to reading it as part of the book club!  Unfortunately, my copy is on the other side of the world right now.  I’m trying to decide if I should just read the pdf or buy it again on kindle…(I don’t know if I want to read it on my computer…)

    1. Amy Young January 31, 2016

      I understand not wanting to read on your computer!!! (But for those of you for whom money is super tight, I was happy to find a free version!). Michele, I love how many have read this book already. It’s a treat for me to feel you all will do the heavy lifting and I get to “just read.” :)! I realize now, after seeing how many of you have read it, I should have read this ages ago! Better now than never 🙂

  7. Anna January 27, 2016

    I marked a lot from this section, too.  I want to go back and reread the beginning in light of the ending.  I have it on audiobook, too, so my plan is to do that while traveling.  (conference in Thailand, which means long plane rides.  I can’t do movies, etc, due to motion sickness, but I can read some & listen to music or audiobooks.)

    One of the things that really resonated with me was how she needed to step outside her usual sphere to really see her life.  I have to do that, too.  Living overseas does that in some ways, but then I need to get out of my sphere there, and see that with outside eyes.  Sometimes, I can do that by thinking about what I would tell someone in the same situation.  That gives me some detachment.

    I loved this line, too, “It was all broken, but there was art at every turn.”  How many times have I had similar thoughts.  The beautiful AND broken.

    More thoughts, but this has been a crazy week that just keeps going.  🙂

    1. Michele Womble January 27, 2016

      I love reading on planes.  🙂

      “…but then I need to get out of my sphere there…”  yes.  I was thinking about that, how the stepping outside becomes the new usual sphere and then you have to step outside of that as well…so I wonder what I need to/could do to step outside of where I am right now…

      Yes, Anna, I so need to re-read this book from the beginning in light of the end.  (that’s kind of a stepping outside, too.)  And to read it slowly this time.

    2. Amy Young January 31, 2016

      I love, Anna, how you mention you’re going to do just that … step out of your normal setting and get to reread and relisten to this. I think Amber and this book are a lovely way to reflect on your life. And here’s to prayers for the peace of God that passes understanding to descend on you as you travel and reflect. xox

  8. S January 29, 2016

    I have been reading this book and lurking along this month for book club but havent yet commented….I love memoirs, books about personal life stories and amber’s was written so personally and beautifully, it was hard to stop reading the first chapters. I enjoyed reading her experiences and insights on marriage, community especially.  But i have to say the last few chapters were disappointing for me.  Maybe it was bc I more enjoyed the story of her life and the end felt more preachy or expository.  I found the haiti chapter kind of annoying…maybe it is bc after living in the developing world, life is so much more than that first impression newcomers have of///wow everyone has so little stuff but they amazingly still are happy!//Maybe that is a cynical view but i felt that way when i read it and never could quite be so absorbed in the book after that.

    1. Amy Young January 31, 2016

      S, I can’t remember now if I read this just before or just after going toe-to-toe with someone in my small group over some aspect of food in China. She’d been on a two week tour and I lived there for YEARS. You can already probably guess where this is going :)!!!!! We disagreed on a point and I wanted to say, “You were on a tour! Your experience is valid, but can you not see it was a tour experience. And a tour, in any country, is going to be a certain kind of experience. You did not have every possible food experience and that is okay, but I am telling you, they also have xyz that you are insisting they do not.” We went round and round and I finally got up to refill my water and said, “I am not going to argue with you about food.” (what I meant was I am not going to KEEP arguing with you since, obvi, we had been arguing :))!

      Anyway, I can see what you are saying about Haiti. For me, what helped was that Amber put herself in the position of learning from the Haitians and quoted the pastor extensively. She didn’t come to teach him, instead he taught her. But I do get your point!

      What are some of your favorite memoirs? I’m a memoir junkie. I just finished Coming Clean by Amber’s husband Seth. Titus’ medical situations was the gateway to alcohol abuse/coping for Seth. A good read. Very different style than Amber’s :)!

      1. Susan February 1, 2016

        I inherited a dusty stack of books from a friend who was retiring and so read biographies about Lilias Trotter, Ruth Bell Graham, Joni Erickson Trotter, and Hudson Taylor that she had given me.  Hard copy books are so precious here and her late husband had been a librarian.  They had a great little library….in the middle of the rainforest…and we were able to take out a couple of boxes of books on a small plane. Also lately read Unbroken and two books about moms who had kids born with differences…one mom whose son was blind and another whose son was born with one arm.  Also read “The Vow” which is not super well written, but an inspiring story nonetheless.

        I get your frustration with the whole food conversation you had;/.  I guess some of my irritations expressed in the above comment…I have a real aversion to the (what’s it called?) travel blogging thing where good writers get transported to a culture they have never been in before and write about it, usually about the “poverty” and how everyone is smiling all the time or really needs our help.  I guess bc I have read so much stuff like that in the past (not saying that’s what Amber was trying to do in her book), maybe I am predisposed to clamp my ears/eyes shut when something starts looking like it might be heading in that direction….

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