Until That Moment I Thought I Could Pretend {Book Club}

I cried. If you haven’t finished reading our section for today in The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver and you don’t want a spoiler alert on a significant event, stop reading.

I won’t spoil it right away. But seriously, stop :).

Okay, now that those who just read these posts or have read the book are here, I’m going to say it again. I cried. Before we get to why (but I bet you can guess!), let’s talk about that hunt.

Part of me cheered for the ways Leah was differentiating herself from her dad. Another part of me was sad for the ways voting had negatively influenced the tribe taking the time to come to a decision. I also found it humorous that voting–not just in this instance–took an African turn. I’m sure you’ve got examples too of something either you’ve introduced or that culture you’re living in has taken from the outside world and adapted. So, yes, they were voting; but no, they were not voting in the way we might think.

Have any of you been a part of this kind of hunt? Honestly I’ve never participated in any kind of hunting (I did fish with my grandparents when I was a child) and I have friends who are duck hunters. There is a communal nature to hunting, especially in this case when the tribe was starving together. But then there was the fighting over whether Leah had actually killed the antelope or not, which lead to more fighting.

“What was surely the oldest celebration of all, the sharing of plenty, had fallen to ruin in our hands.”

That line.

That line could be said for so many situations. Adam and Eve could have murmured it as they left the Garden of Eden. The prophets repeated this message. I love the beauty of the phrase and idea of “the sharing of plenty.” While I know this was an extreme case, I imagine you’ve seen parts of the land where you live “fall to ruin.” In this week where we focus on health, this is about as far from it as you can get. Sadly, the influence of those who came to “bring good news” was anything but.

And then.

Until that moment I’d always believed I could still go home and pretend the Congo never happened. The misery, the hunt, the ants, the embarrassments of all we saw and endured–those were just storied I could tell someday with a laugh and a toss of my hair, when Africa was faraway and make-believe like the people in history books. The tragedies that happened to Africans were not mine. We were different, not just because we were white and had our vaccinations, but because we were simply a much, much luckier kind of person. I would go back home to Bethlehem, Georgia, and be exactly the same Rachel as before. . . . I think Leah and Adah also believed these things, in their own different ways, and that is why none of us moved.”

Though Rachel expressed it in her self-centered way, I can imagine she did think somehow she could shake the dust off of her and move on when her time in Africa was over.

As long as I kept moving, my grief streamed out behind me like a swimmer’s long hair in water. I knew the weight was there but it didn’t touch me. Only when I stopped did the slick, dark stuff of it come float in around my face, catching my arms and throat till I began to drown. So I just didn’t stop.”

Hauntingly beautiful. Later in that chapter, Orleanna talks about how women like her live in the middle ground, not the beginnings or the endings. What do you think of that idea?

I say this every week, but this is getting long (this is just so rich!), so I’m going to bullet point my thoughts on the rest of this section:

  • Why didn’t Axelroot rescue all of the females? Why only Rachel and not come back for the rest (and if it’s because Leah was sick, why not wait until she was well)?  This way this family fell apart spiritually and relationally from each other was heart breaking.
  • Still some great Rachelism: all the teeth in China and we Christians have our own system of marriage, and it is called Monotony.
  • When Orleanna and Adah left it made me think of Naomi and Ruth. Naomi left Israel with a full family and returned with a shattered one and calling herself “Bitterness.”
  • “It is impossible to describe the shock of return.” Adah.
  • “The conditions of his [Nathan’s] discharge were technically honorable, but unofficially they were: Cowardice, Guilt, and Disgrace. The Reverend the sole survivor in a company of dead men who have marched along beside him all his life since then. No wonder he could not flee from the same jungle twice.” I have more compassion for Nathan this time than I did the first time I read it, but still to abandon his whole family…
  • Adah is so clever!  Carry, Marry, Ferry, Bury
  • And what about Adah not needing to limp? Makes me wonder what I have unintentionally adapted into the ways I see and define myself that simply are not true.

Your turn! What have you been noticing and enjoying (or being super frustrated over)? We’re rounding the corner and I’m a bit sad we only have one more week. Can’t wait to chat in the comments :)!


P.S. Here’s the reading plan for The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver:

July 7 — Roughly 40% (or 220 pages) — includes the chapter titled Adah and which with the line “God works …”
July 14 — Roughly 60% (or 330 pages) — includes the chapter titled Leah which begins with the line “You can’t …”
July 21 — Roughly 80% (or 440 pages) — includes the chapter titled Adah Price, Emory Hospital, Atlanta, Christmas 1968
July 28 — Roughly 100% (or 543 blessed pages!)

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


  1. Elizabeth July 21, 2015

    Amy, I’m not reading along with you (though I’ve thought about getting the audiobook from the library on our upcoming Stateside service), but those thoughts on grief, wow. Just wow. To quote Dory from Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming just keep swimming.” Ouch, don’t so many of us do this? And not just people living cross-culturally. Keep moving, keep running, keep working, just so we don’t have to deal with the grief.

    1. Felicity Congdon July 21, 2015

      So true Elizabeth! I’m guilty for sure. And wow that really changes Finding Nemo for me! Never thought of it that way but definitely she does sing that in the midst of Marlin’s grief over losing Nemo, huh?!

    2. Amy Young July 22, 2015

      Oddly (or not!) I’m working on the chapter in my upcoming book (Looming Transitions: finishing well on the roads to and from the field) on the chapter about grief. This section of the book has reminded me how big it is in our lives (even when no one “dies”) and I want to handle this subject well! I might need to work this line in … and you’ll all know when it got introduced to the book 🙂

      1. Elizabeth July 23, 2015

        Just wanted to pop back in here, Amy, and say I’ll be dealing with this grief stuff for the foreseeable future, so if you have a moment, please pray for me. My mom called me last night to tell me my Grandma (her mom) had just died, and rather unexpectedly. I can’t make it back for the funeral. We’ll be back on American soil in 2 months for our home assignment. It’s sad this happened so soon before getting back there! I wish the timing weren’t so awful. . . It’s my first family death in 3 1/2 years of living overseas, so this is all very new to me.

        1. Amy Young July 23, 2015

          Elizabeth my heart sank when I read this (as I imagine did everyone who read it). I cried a bit and just feel BLUCK for you. I need to run  and have a call in two minutes, but I will come back. I think what I’m so sad for is all of the family time you will not get to be a part of … the remembering your grandma, the people who will come to her service. AND that your kids won’t get to build more memories with her. If you find yourself not able to do anything in the upcoming days, don’t be too surprised. Shock and grief slow us down big time. Let others carry you. I’m praying now, as I’m sure are others. Oh for the day when death is not our story. Until then, we mourn with you.

          1. Elizabeth July 24, 2015

            Whew! I was able to get some time by myself after the kids went to bed, and I was able to write something for my family to read today on the other side of the world– some 500 words’ worth. But it was a grueling endeavor! So tired now. Love you all, good night.

          2. Amy Young July 24, 2015

            Grateful for each of those words 🙂 and trusting that you’re sleeping now and The Spirit is ministering to your spirit.

        2. Michele Womble July 23, 2015

          Oh, Elizabeth, I’m so so sorry.  It’s a hard place to be, and one of the things, like Amy said, is missing grieving together with family.  A friend of ours wrote us when my husband’s father died (he had been here for five years, I had been here for 2 years) that it’s one of the big things we all dread being so far away, and now it has happened to you. We WERE able to go back for his father’s funeral (they waited it for us) but his dad died on a Friday – we couldn’t start paperwork to get exit VISAs until Monday.  In a sense we missed an important time of grieving with family in those first days – and when we got there late Tuesday night we were in a very different place of grieving than everyone else.

          But.  The weekend that we were “stuck” ending up being a very precious time for us.  Our friends here in Russia (mostly Russians) drifted in throughout the weekend and sat with us,quietly, listening to our stories about him, praying with us, singing with us.  Sometimes just sitting in silence.  Being there with us.  They walked with us through it, and I felt (and still feel, remembering it) so loved.

          I don’t know what your situation is there, but make sure you take the time to grieve, and let your friends know and be part of your grief.  I wonder if you could have your own sort of “memorial service” – invite some of your friends to come over and sit with you and eat your Grandma’s favorite meal with you and listen to stories about her….maybe sing her favorite songs with you…

          Since then we’ve missed 2 more deaths (didn’t make it back for those funerals).   It’s still hard but we’re learning to grieve where we are.

          Praying for you.

          1. Elizabeth July 24, 2015

            That’s a good idea Michele, I had let the Saturday group know, but it hadn’t even occurred to me to let the Sunday group know. The funeral is Saturday morning Central Time, so my Saturday evening. I’m not sure if they could stream it, and I’m not sure how I feel about doing it live anyway. I think I might rather watch it when I’m ready for it. . .

          2. Elizabeth July 24, 2015

            And thank you all for your prayers, ladies. It feels good to know other people understand how strange this is — how hard and also how strange. I will really try to make the space to grieve on Sunday morning at church during the prayer and worship times, and on Monday morning by myself. And then, we’ll go from there and figure out what else I need. . .

          3. Michele Womble July 27, 2015

            Elizabeth, were you able to have the time on Monday (today) and how did it go?  Still praying for you…

            When I said having your own “memorial service” – I didn’t mean watching it (although that’s not a bad idea, too, but I hadn’t thought of that) – I just meant inviting some friends over for a special time of remembering your grandmother, a few friends who would be able to go there with you and wouldnt’ feel threatened or uncomfortable if you cry – who might even cry with you even if they didn’t know her.

          4. Michele Womble July 27, 2015

            I guess this particular post is so appropriate to what you are going through right now, too, because of the grief theme but also because it is truly one of those “Until that moment” moments.  There is a death – and you realize (even though you knew before but you didn’t KNOW know) what being in another country – far from family – means, what it costs, and how it changes everything.

          5. Elizabeth July 27, 2015

            Oh my, YES, Michele, “until that moment” for sure. I “knew” somewhat before I left and really grieved my last goodbyes with my cousins and aunts and uncles at a providentially-timed family reunion 6 months before I moved overseas. So I grieved some then, the loss, but to truly know what it feels like? Yeah. Now I know for real. There are a lot of losses I’m feeling more acutely now, losses that are always there but that I tamp down and ignore.

            And my time this morning was SO GOOD. I cannot even tell you. An unrushed time with God. Catching up on my journal, re-writing the songs and prayers from yesterday’s worship service (which seemed handpicked for me in this season), reflecting on the losses and the graces, declaring He is still my God and I love Him, finishing my pioneer-days fiction book, starting a new devotional book where I underlined practically the entire first chapter, then walking among the trees. Wow. So refreshing. Plus a real latte and a fancy omelet at the cafe. 😉 It’s so amazing what such a short amount of uninterrupted time with Him can do.

        3. MaDonna July 23, 2015

          Elizabeth, I’m so sorry to hear about your grandmother. I lost my dear grandmother while living overseas. My father died four years ago and a dear aunt just last month. So, when I say I know what you are going through, I honestly do. I was overseas for all of those deaths, but I was able to go back for my father’s funeral.

          This maybe morbid, but my family videoed my grandmother’s funeral service so that I could watch it. It was actually healing for me to hear some of the stories shared during her eulogy – to remember the fun times and the kind of lady that she was. This was helpful because my family had already grieved while I was gone. They were at a different stage of grief and onto healing by the time we arrived in the US. So, I spent sometime at the gravesite just to reflect and grieve on my own.

          I found it hard to grieve where we were living because I was really the only one who knew her. My husband had met her a few times when we were there for visits, but there wasn’t any connection. It was really like a delayed grief for me – I found the same to be true with my father’s death and now again for my aunt’s.

          I share this with you, not to tell you how it is going to be – because I don’t know how grief will come for you. I share, so that if you don’t feel anything but shock and wondering why nobody else is grieving around you, that life just keeps going on around you and it is a bit frustrating …it’s normal.

          I pray that you are able to grieve at some point. I pray that these next few days that God will comfort you and your family back “home” in such a huge way. I’m so so sorry for your loss.

          1. Elizabeth July 24, 2015

            Thank you MaDonna (and Amy, and Michele), I am still VERY much in the shock stage. I found out at midnight on Wednesday, and Thursday at 2 pm my husband had to leave town for 2 days. So I’m taking care of the kids as usual. As soon as he gets back on Saturday we have one team meeting, and then on Sunday, another team meeting (we are a part of 2 teams). But my husband has arranged to watch the younger kids Monday morning while the older ones are at VBS, and I was already planning a retreat morning at a coffee shop, to read by myself. Now I’ll probably add journaling about my Grandma to that, since I haven’t had time to process this AT ALL. It was a huge shock. She was 90 but in good health, and in the pictures of her and all my extended family from 2 weeks ago, she’s looking so healthy and happy. Tired, but looking and feeling good.

            So it still seems so unreal. I was able to get by myself and cry Thursday morning before my husband left, but mostly then I was grieving the UNFAIRNESS of it. Two more months. I just needed two more months. Now even as I type this I’m sad all over again. And all my cousins and aunts and uncles there, with whom I was so close growing up. It was a Catholic family, which was large and close knit anyway, but since I was a TCK and moved a lot, my relationships with extended family were even more important to me, with one of my cousins especially being more like a sister. Anyway it all is just so upsetting and numbing at the same time. I don’t know quite what to think yet. And I couldn’t have made it in time even if my husband hadn’t had to go out of town. The turn around from death to visitation was super short (most of the family lives in state, even though my immediate family doesn’t). Anyway like I said, just still so upsetting.

          2. Elizabeth July 24, 2015

            Oh and yes, Mom had already agreed to film the service for me. She also wanted to know if I wanted to write something that could be read, but I don’t know if I can put my thoughts together in time. We’ll see. It’s happening so fast.

          3. MaDonna July 24, 2015

            Oh dear, I’ll be praying for you this week for sure!

            Journaling….so good for the soul. I did that on the plane ride to my father’s funeral….it was so healing. I pray that your time (when it comes) is that for you! YEAH for understanding parents! Glad your mom is willing to do that.

            Praying for you and your kids this afternoon! May they be understanding and super helpful in the way that littles can be. 😉

          4. Michele Womble July 24, 2015

            I wrote something that they read at my grandfather’s funeral, and I think they read the same thing at my grandmother’s funeral because I wasn’t able to write anything for that.  Sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t, but that can really help with the grieving process, too, when it works out.

            Those meetings you have on Saturday and Sunday…make sure they all know you’re grieving and why ( I guess probably they already do, but just in case).  I didn’t have as much space to grieve my grandfather’s death and it really affected how I handled some things for awhile.  It helped for people to know that my REAL problem was my grief, and not any of the things I seemed to be irritable about.

            Wish you had more space for grieving in the next few days – and praying that in the midst of “no space to grieve” God will make room for it for you.

            When is the funeral?

          5. Amy Young July 24, 2015

            Putting your thoughts together seems like a lot of pressure :). If you can, great. But even if you can’t, a simple message with a memory could work. It’s okay to lower the bar :). You loved her and will miss her.

            Or a flower in your honor as a physical representation of you being there in spirit too is another way to “be present.”

            xoxo to you Elizabeth, I remember wandering my apartment for FIVE days (and I HAD to get a professional conference presentation pulled together) when my dad fell and broke his hip about seven days before I got home for a two month Home Assignment. Because of his health it took forever for the doctors to figure out what to do and we all knew death was more an option for him than in other cases. I could not focus. Could not. I just wandered and wondered and worried. For real? God? This close to when I’ll be home? Let’s just say it totally changed the tone of what I thought those two months would be :). Of course it did.

            I picture you wandering … even if it’s metaphorical because it’s too hot to wander.

        4. Danielle Wheeler July 24, 2015

          Oh, Elizabeth… hurting for you.  I’m so sorry for your loss, for the lost chance to say goodbye, for the pain of separation from family during the grieving.  I know the feeling.  I lost my grandpa five years ago JUST before we were going to be back in the States.  So I totally understand the “if only” feeling.  Praying for Him to sustain you and then to give you the space to grieve.  Love and hugs and prayers.

          1. Elizabeth July 25, 2015

            Thank you Danielle. It is comforting to know I’m not the first (nor will I be the last) woman to deal with grief from afar. Thank you for your prayers. <3

        5. Felicity Congdon July 25, 2015

          Elizabeth, I’m so sorry about the loss of your dear grandmother. I’m so glad you were able to reflect on her life and write something in her honor. I am praying with everyone else here that the Lord would open up space for you to grieve in the midst of your busy schedule and responsibilities.

          1. Elizabeth July 27, 2015

            Thank you. Felicity. It was a tearful thing to do, but my mom said that all my cousins and aunts and uncles were crying at the reading, too, which is very comforting to me, because we all share the same memories. We are all in them together, and we are all happy in them.

  2. Felicity Congdon July 21, 2015

    Amy, I too love the beauty of the “the sharing of plenty.”

    It reminds me of Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly when she talks about our (America’s) culture of scarcity. I just listened to an interview with her and she discussed this idea and talked about the American media delivering stories all about the fear of “not enough.” That so often we wake up and our first thoughts are of “not enough.” “I didn’t get enough sleep, I don’t have enough time….” All the things we don’t have. A friend of mine told me recently that she has become so aware of her tendency to constantly be rushing around, she says to herself several times a day “there’s more than enough time.” So true, yet I so often panic about how much I’m not getting done.

    I highlighted Adah’s comment to her (maybe 3 year old?–but very articulate 3 year old!) nephew Pascal when he is asking about everything on the shelves in the store (like “stacks of lidded containers the same size as the jars we throw away each day”) and she explains “They’re things a person doesn’t really need.” So true! Yet I’m also reminded of the theme a few weeks ago of “what’s in our suitcase” and at the beginning of the book–things we carried. How much we think we need..how much is just the culture of scarcity and fear and how much is really necessary–it’s so difficult to distinguish. I am also reminded of the growing list I have on the side of my fridge of “stuff we need from America” for the next time we get a chance.

    I also listened to an absolutely fascinating interview with Seth Godin this week on On Being (it was from Dec though) and he also talked about this idea. He calls it the “Walmart culture” of wanting as much as we can get for as cheep as we can get it. And I found so much hope in his explanations of why he believes we are slowly beginning to shift from that mindset to a culture that is longing for meaning rather than comfort and entertainment.

    What a difference it would make if we really believed we were rich and had plenty!! I want to be generous with my neighbors, but believing resources are scarce kills that desire instantly.

    It makes me think of Orleanna when she began pulling everything out of the house and bringing it to the front lawn. I thought what in the world is she doing!? I even thought that at the beginning when she tore down all the mosquito nets. Thrifty me was thinking “You do NOT need everyone’s mosquito netting!! Why not just use Ruth May’s??! What are you doing Orleanna?! Now all of your girls are going to die!!” Amy, your reaction was to cry. Mine was panic over the mosquito netting. Sad.

    Yet how beautiful to see Orleanna give up her prized skillet to her closest neighbor (sad I can’t even say friend) and give away everything go back with nothing.

    I love your parallel between Adah/Orleanna and Ruth/Naomi. And I just realized that BOTH were going back to their hometown of BETHLEHEM… what?!?! In Hebrew it means “House of Bread” So interesting…I’ve been wondering what the significance of their hometown name was as it is mentioned so often. hmmmm…thoughts on that anyone?? I’ve also been wondering if it’s a real town. I just looked it up–it is! Population 601. I listened to Mark Driscoll’s sermon series on Ruth several years ago and he pointed out that although Bethlehem means house of bread, the book starts out with a famine and instead of trusting God, the family sets out to fend for themselves and find bread (and wives for their sons) outside of the Believing community, then of course Ruth comes home with absolutely nothing. There are so many parallels here.

    I love all your questions to reflect on Amy! Axelroot–not idea why he couldn’t fly everyone out, good point. That hadn’t even crossed my mind though because he is such a creeper I was really hoping nobody would have to go with him at all!

    And I have no idea what Orleanna means by living in the middle ground. I’m a bit confused by that. I’m not sure I believe her because all of the book is her reflections on the past not her present or what she is doing to live better today. I am so interested in where the book is going though with her new life and relationships with her girls.

    Speaking of parenting, one of my highlights was Rachel’s line: “The thought of going out there gave me the willies. But if the others went, I wasn’t going to stay in here with the shadows and lizards, either. I think our house gave me the worst willies of all. That house was the whole problem, because it had our family in it. I was long past the point of feeling safe huddling under my parents’ wings.”

    I remember having similar thoughts in my teenage years. And when I’m honest much of my parenting I think inevitably flows from fear that one day my children will think this about me. Is this more of the scarcity mentality–parenting from fear rather than from freedom, hope, delight in my own adoption and forgiveness from God? I’m also reminded of the St. Augustine quote, “The church is a whore, but she is my mother.”

    There is something so lovely yet heartbreaking about Adah’s continuing struggle to find her identity and how mixed up her mother’s perception of her is in that search.

    I continue to be intrigued by Anatole as the Christ-figure and seeing God’s grace on Leah though she doesn’t see it–in the care she receives from the nuns “The nuns are so patient.” and the sustaining hope Anatole gets through writing his friend Neto while in prison..there is the comment: “Neto is about Anatole’s age, also educated by overseas workers” Though she has lost her faith, how much the Church is still a HUGE part of sustaining her life and strengthening it’s quality…providing education for her husband and a good friend, providing shelter for her. And also her reflection on the Fowlers visit and how much that meant to her as well as the life brought to her by visits of other overseas workers who were so very different from her father.

    “My sweetheart, released after three years without formal charges, was waiting here to raise the dead.” How many gospel parallels are in that statement!? And “By Anatole I was shattered and assembled, by way of Anatole I am delivered not out of my life but through it.”

    And Adah’s thoughts on Anatole too as “an extraordinary kindred spirit…He was marked early on by his orphaned state,” Jesus being conceived by an unmarried woman…surely this “marked” him early on by his hometown community… “his displacement, his zealous skeptical mind, his aloneness.” …sounds like Jesus!

    This is getting long! I’ll stop here. Oh I will just add I’ve been surprised at how much further the book goes into the lives of these women! I wasn’t expecting to see them grow up. I am looking forward to seeing how their lives play out in the remaining pages.

    1. Michele Womble July 21, 2015

      I agree with you that Anatole is a Christ- figure.    I think I didn’t trust him entirely because of Ruth May seeing him training the boys in the woods (to fight), but when he showed up to take care of Leah, I got over that.

      1. Amy Young July 22, 2015

        Don’t know why this delights me so much, your comment, but I just grinned and grinned reading it.

    2. Amy Young July 22, 2015

      Oh the themes of scarcity and plenty! I love Brene’s naming of it so I can help find it in my own life. I just spent three days with a bff from college and her family — her kids are now 19, 17, and 13. Her kids love me and I love them. One thing living in Asia did to me was FREAK me out over who would take care of me when I’m old since I don’t have any children. Even as my father was dying I wept and wept thinking “I’ve so screwed this up as it is too late to have children.” as I saw how we advocated for him and loved on him as he left us. This is scarcity thinking that I had recognized as such — I see it now because last night as we were all drifting off to sleep the 17 year old boy mentioned once again how he’d care for me in the old folks home (it was full of laughing and joking). I have ten kids I have told they will care for me when I’m old :). And they all know I mean it :). While I think it’s okay to think about the future and be wise, I can also see how scarcity can even creep into that “responsible” way of thinking.

      I hadn’t thought about Bethlehem/Bethlehem! Other than noticing they mentioned the name of the town a lot. You ask a good question … ideas anyone?

  3. Felicity Congdon July 21, 2015

    There is something so lovely yet heartbreaking about Adah’s continuing struggle to find her identity and how mixed up her mother’s perception of her is in that search.


    **I say lovely here not because it’s a lovely thing to wrestle with, but because it’s true and I love that she is honest in her struggle and she is actively wrestling with it and seeking for the truth. I am really enjoying seeing Adah grow in these last few Chapters. And I love Amy’s question:

    And what about Adah not needing to limp? Makes me wonder what I have unintentionally adapted into the ways I see and define myself that simply are not true.

    Need to process that one.

    1. Michele Womble July 21, 2015

      Yes – the no more limp  thing was SO interesting…all this time she had been compensating for something she didn’t need to compensate for… and how and where do I do that myself?

  4. Michele Womble July 21, 2015

    This book is so “full” it’s a little overwhelming! Most of the things that hit me have been mentioned already and I don’t really have anything to add except that I don’t really get Orleanna letting her kids go out of Africa piece meal like that (or not go out, as it turns out).  Let one daughter fly away with a questionable man, take one with me and leave one behind? I would have been for sticking together.  I don’t get why they couldn’t all fly out together (unless he refused – but then would you send your daughter off with a man not willing to take all of you?)

    Unless maybe she thought that if they all went in different directions maybe someone would make it out?

    I would have tried to keep everyone together – but – maybe that would have been the wrong decision?


    1. Amy Young July 22, 2015

      I agree … I don’t get it. As much as I’ve said I have compassion for Nathan because of the war, I’m trying to have compassion for Orelanna because I think she has been starving, is exhausted, and now is in extreme shock. Extreme. Still, I do not get it. And I have to keep reminding myself these are not adults we are talking about! So much happened I sometimes forget how young they really are. These are still children we are talking about (albeit, teens who can fend a tiny bit better on their own than young kids, but still).

      1. Michele Womble July 23, 2015

        Yep, I guess Rachel was 17? And the twins were 16 at this point? Or almost?  And I realize that kids in Africa had been adults for a long time by that point, so maybe that skewed her thinking, too, (Leah, I think, said that there were two “ages” – baby that had to be carried, and old enough to fend for yourself – if you could stand and walk)

        But …

  5. Michele Womble July 21, 2015

    Rachel had some moments and thoughts that are deep and profound – but they fail to have a profound affect on her.  She said, “Until that moment I thought I could pretend…”

    …but then she goes on with life…pretending.

    She missed her moment to be deeply changed.  So far, at least.  Or…she was changed, but for the worse.

    Interesting to me the statement Adah made that Ruth May was the only one who had successfully crossed.  It’s also interesting that she was the only one who had not lost her faith – during the vote she had marched up and demonstratively plunked her pebble into Jesus’ bowl (or basket?).

    1. Amy Young July 22, 2015

      Good points! If Adah thinks and writes in palindromes, Rachel seems to live them. And Ruth May, she really was a huge loss to the whole family … if she would have lived, I wonder how she might have helped her sisters’ faith.

      (I know any child’s death is huge. So, having another child die wouldn’t have affected the family less, just differently.)

      1. Michele Womble July 23, 2015

        Or, if she had lived, would her faith have been negatively affected by her family?

  6. Danielle Wheeler July 21, 2015

    Hey friends,  I’m just now jumping in on the conversation.  I’ve been reading (and have finished the book) and have loved reading all your comments.  The book has been an escape for me in all our moving and traveling.  Like Michele, the story is SO “full.”  I appreciated everyone’s insights.  It helped my jet-lagged, transitioning brain cells to get more out of it than I would have right now on my own.  I loved reading the different voices of mom and daughters.  What skill for an author to write so well in such different voices.  You truly feel inside each of their heads.

    And yes to the culture of scarcity and the sharing of plenty.  That’s hitting hard right now as we go through another reentry.

    AND the thoughts on grief.  We have been moving, moving, doing, going for weeks now.  It’s been mostly all good and fun.  But today I went to the park with just me and the kids.  We were the only ones there.  It felt still and quiet.  And I think it was that still aloneness that made the emotions finally catch up with my daughter.  We had a good cry together about how America feels funny and we miss our friends and home in China.  You have to stop swimming to let yourself feel the grief…

    1. Amy Young July 22, 2015

      Danielle! We love having you (or anyone!) pop in as you can. Impressed you’ve been able to read this in the midst of packing, transition, and jet lag. Good words on grief. I’m thinking — and this is just me babbling now! — that all of us (individuals, marriages, families, organizations) need to start a mini revolution of creating space to slow down so that the grief and can catch up to us. Our lives demand so much motion. But our souls demand stillness. (and how scary that stillness can be)

      I mentioned above I’ve just spent three days with a dear friend. Yesterday we went rafting and I was super excited. I had not expected to cry (I really not a hugely weepy person, even though I mentioned it twice in the post :)) or even feel anything but the present fun day of rafting. I grew up rafting with my family and my dad loved to raft. Standing in line for the bathroom I just started to tear up. As long as I was moving, filling out forms and getting the gear ready, I wasn’t even thinking (or aware) of Dad. But darn a full bladder … and just standing there with nothing to do in the immediate. And the grief caught up with me.

      1. Michele Womble July 23, 2015

        ” a mini-revolution of creating space to slow down so the grief can catch up…”


  7. MaDonna July 23, 2015

    I, too, have so enjoyed the book – and cried..though you’ll find me crying at a movie. I haven’t been able to comment so much because we are in the midst of a move and guess what…5 days ago we FINALLY found a home to move to. It has seemed like an eternity of searching…and now God has finally given us that puzzle piece. *sigh* But, can’t do that for long as we have so  much packing to do and loose ends to finish us, YIKES!

    All I can say about the book is how it saddened me that all the relationships were so strained and distant. It makes me really think as a parent how my children interact with each other, how I interact with them….especially with this move going on. We seem to all be stressed and anxious. Can NOT wait to be settled…

    1. Michele Womble July 24, 2015

      I agree, MaDonna, I definitely do NOT want my kids to have the strained relationships that the sisters have with each other.  How do we be mindful of teaching them to handle the stress and the differences in how we each deal with stressful situations – to relate to each other’s quirks with grace and love and humor…so that getting together as adults will be FUN and Meaningful.  They’ve been through so much together – it ought to give them a bond…not drive them further apart…

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