Strange New Things

strange

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There are questions, and there are Questions.
Questions are things like “why the hell are we here?” “where are we going as a species?” “what do we have to offer the universe?” And, of course, the perennial “Is There A God?”
questions are things like “how do I deal with this crap?” “why are these people like this?” “how do I deal with this?”

“The Book of Strange New Things” interweaves these questions with incredible skill. The problems of the long distance relationship echo the problems of different lived experiences, the privileged and the unlucky, those whose lives are about loss and those whose lives are about gain.
new things

Faber does this by sending a generic Christian missionary to a race of aliens. The aliens are beyond eager for Christianity, and thus the central question of the book is “why the hell do these people want Christianity so badly?” The answer is brilliant and I absolutely refuse to spoil it.
In the end, like so many novels about the Western individual experience, the book is less about the questions and their answers than it is about the small choices we make in the face of these questions. Our moments of despair, of disconnection or connection–of weakness and of strength.

The Hidden Stories

enchanted

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They’re all around us. In the broken down car that passes our house at 10 o’clock at night. In the eyes of the woman paying for her milk with food stamps. In the shaking hand of an old lady.
But then again, they’re hidden from our eyes. We see only the barest bits of lives lived on the margins, in trailer parks and public housing, in isolated cabins and, most of all, in prisons. The magical world of the prisons, where things acquire different meanings, where bodies become something new, where lives are formed and re-formed in ways those of us on the outside cannot recognize or understand.
Most of us never hear the stories, and even more rarely can we bring ourselves to understand them. These stories get lost in conversations about “crime and punishment,” “state-sanctioned murder,” “prison rape crisis.” The people are just wanderers in a world far, far from our own.
But in this book, we are shown the inside of this enchanted land. We are shown, from the mind of one who has done the unspeakable, what lives are lived behind walls–walls of poverty, walls of abuse, walls of ignorance, walls of prison.