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ESCAPE with a GOOD BOOK: The Pale Surface of Things

Posted Feb 10 2009 10:57am
If you're like me, you have little time to read; yet, you'd like to squeeze in some reading time when you can.

Here's what I do. As I lay my head down to sleep each night, I grab a good book. Using a clip-on book light; so, I don't disturb my husband (the lights are about $10 at Target or Wal-Mart), I read for five to fifteen minutes.

If you're a worrier who can't rid the day's events from your thoughts, you might be able to escape with a good book.

Here's one I recently reviewed for It took several weeks of reading a few pages each night (some nights, I was so exhausted, I didn't read). Other times, I read while waiting for appointments.

The Pale Surface of Things —a novel by Janey Bennett.

Wonderfully written, compelling, and hard to put down.

Begins slowly as the scene is set with exacting architectural and cultural details about the island of Crete. If you’ve never been to Crete (neither have I), try not to get bogged down in the details. Keep reading. You’ll be rewarded. Bennett speeds up the action and all you want to do is turn the next page to find out what happens next without getting a paper cut. (I’m surprised I am writing this! Each month my book club gently persuades me to leave my bookshelves filled with nonfiction books to enjoy a book of fiction from time to time. I’m glad I chose to read The Pale Surface of Things.)

Each chapter alternates among key characters—Douglas, a young man, who runs away from his wedding and learns about living after nearly dying; Fr. Dimitrios, a third-generation priest, who gently provides guidance to the villagers while coming to terms with his own love lost, a young boy, Aleko, who keeps his integrity while others compromise theirs, Aleko’s evil uncle, and more.

Bennett skillfully weaves lessons of life in her debut novel. After Douglas relinquishes his passport while waiting to appear in court, he settles into the day-to-day activities of Crete--learning the value of simplicity of presence in a land he has temporarily adopted. While he helps others and works to earn his keep, he learns life lessons (and so do we).

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