My Brilliant Friend

I was looking for a book to take on a trip, when I stumbled on this carefully crafted novel at our local warehouse store. It caught my attention because it is about two girls growing up in post-war Naples. It is written by one of the hottest Italian novelists and translated into English.

Click on the photo to head over to Amazon and get your own copy!

Click on the photo to head over to Amazon and get your own copy!

The most significant accomplishment of this novel is it’s ability to portray the weight of life in Italy. Sixty years after the setting of the story, the weight still exists. It’s something we found really hard to put into words for our American friends when we lived there. . . the lack of hope most Italians feel in ever expecting life circumstances to be different. Our country was built on the “American Dream”–put your mind to it, and you can do anything. It’s hard for us to fathom anyone not having the same mentality.

Italians don’t. For the most part, they are resigned to their lot in life, without regard for whether it is what they want or don’t want. Change, though technically possible, is not probable.

My Brilliant Friend begins current day, to paint a picture of the result of the story to be told. It’s a short introduction before spending the rest of the novel following two friends as they navigate growing up in a neighborhood of Naples, just after World War II. It does a phenomenal job portraying the sense of family that exists in neighborhoods in Italy. Life does not exist beyond the boundaries of one’s neighborhood.

These two girls wrestle with what friendship looks like. Can friendship exist when it’s always unbalanced? How much can a girl determine her future in a society driven entirely by the men?

The novel ends with no grand closure, and yet I found myself missing Elena and Lila. I wanted to know if they ever experienced happiness. The cover of the book indicates there will be more to this story, but the author is so elusive, who knows.

This was a great book. Not action driven, but the depth of portrayal of the characters was that of an incredibly gifted writer. If you want to feel the weight of what life is really like in Italy, this book is a must read.

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A House on the Rock

I have been thinking about Matthew 7 again. . . that little part about the wise and the foolish man.

I think about the rock. So strong. Unmovable. Where it stands is where its always been. Its history goes back for  perhaps thousands of years.

But the sand, not so much. It’s always shifting. Where it is undoubtedly is not where it began.

Ironically, it’s not the rock that captures me. Nor is it the sand, for that matter.

It is the storm.

This is what it says about the house built upon the rock:

The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”

And this is what it says about the house built upon the sand:

The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

The results were drastically different. But the storm beat against both houses. Rains came down. The streams rose. Winds blew.

Every time I read these six verses, I keep hoping I’ve missed something. . . where is the part that says the storm never beat on the house built upon the rock? Where are the words that bring comfort in knowing I’ve built a house that protects me from the beating wind? If I’m striving to be the wise man, where is the reward of calm and gentle rains? I look and I look, but it just isn’t there. The storms come any way you look at it. I don’t get to make a choice that avoids them all together.

There are days that feel like there is a hurricane swirling around me. The winds are beating so hard I wonder if healing could ever be found from the battering. Streams rise and leave ugly water marks. My spirit feels like its drowning.

But every time a hurricane blows, it is eventually followed by another day where the sun shines.

And I’m still standing.

Though I wish Matthew 7 said something different, I’m experiencing its truth. My Rock is strong and unmovable. He has proven His steadfastness to me for years and years and years. He has never moved. We have history that gives comfort as the rains pound down.

There is no way to avoid the storms. But the longer I stand, the more I trust my foundation. It’s another paradox of the Upside Down Kingdom. It’s the storms that prove the foundation. There is no other way to know its firmness.