Sunday, January 30, 2022

"Loving Isaac" by Heather Kaufman (again)

This was a lot easier to read the second time.  The first time I read it, I spent a lot of time pondering it.  And worrying about the characters.  This time, I could just remind myself I already knew (and liked) how it ends, which let me enjoy it in a very different way.

It was also cool to reread because I could spend some time enjoying how Kaufman wove everything together.  The main character, Hana, makes some hasty judgements throughout, and it was neat to be able to recognize when she was making a mistake and try to learn from that myself.

One of my favorite things about this book is how familiar it all feels.  I grew up Lutheran, first in the LCMS, now in the WELS, and it's just so cozy to read about people worshiping in the same manner as I do, having Sunday school, liturgical services, hosting Vacation Bible School, and just... having the same kind of church life as I do.  This takes place in Oklahoma, and I've never lived farther west than Iowa, but it still felt homelike.

The story revolves around single mom Hana and her autistic son Isaac.  They move in with her sister's family in Oklahoma for the summer, while waiting to settle into a new home in Richmond, Virginia.  Hana is dealing with a lot of guilt, anger, and confusion over recent events in her life, as well as over having to parent Isaac alone in a new environment.  She's quick to feel judged by others, which leads her to quickly judge others in return, and it takes her a long time to start learning to trust and accept new people.

Hana develops feelings for the single pastor at the church her sister's family belongs to.  Pastor Matt is wonderful with Isaac, kind and patient with Hana, but also carries a lot of his own emotional baggage that he needs to unpack and sort through as well.  And Hana's ex-husband Zeke is a threatening presence in the background who complicates matters in many ways.  But I promise it ends happily!

My book club at church chose this as our first read for 2022, and we had such a great time discussing it today!  

Particularly Good Bits: 

Hana swallowed the sadness filling her chest.  Why was it that she couldn't just enjoy good things without sadness coming along and ruining everything?  Or worse, envy rearing its ugly head?  She felt like she was always mooching off of other people's happiness, picking up scraps wherever they could be found, grasping at the crumbs in a scraped-clean dish with only a hint of the flavor to satisfy (p. 55).

"Hate is too heavy to carry, so don't.  Even if someone never seeks forgiveness, give it.  For your sake, give it freely" (p. 234).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for flashback scenes of physical and emotional abuse toward a woman and a child.  No bad language, love scenes, or other iffy content.

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