I just finished reading two short but impactful books about family and role redemption plays in our lives. The first book The Deal of a Lifetime is by one of my very favorite authors, Fredrik Backman. The second book is by Courtney Miller Santo and is entitled The Roots of the Olive Tree. Both books are centered on family relationships and human frailty.
Backman’s book is told from the perspective of an highly successful, emotionally and physically absent father who is far too self-absorbed to have any kind of relationship with his son. After meeting a brave little girl suffering with cancer and the woman in the gray sweater with the folder, this man questions his legacy as he receives a diagnosis no one ever wants to hear. The woman in the gray sweater is not Death, she says it’s not her job to determine who lives and dies. She tells the man, “I’m not death. I just do the picking up and the dropping off…It’s not down to us who goes and who stays.” Obviously the woman is here to pick up someone, and the man begins negotiating the deal of of his life. He finds the terms of this deal are bigger than he expects. The woman in the gray sweater tells him the terms are a life for a life. The woman says, “it’s not enough for you to die. To make room for the girl’s entire life, another life has to cease to exist. I have to delete it’s contents. So if you give your life, it’ll disappear. You won’t die, you”ll never have existed. No one will remember you. You were never here.” As the man and the woman in the gray sweater visit his son on Christmas Eve, he has to decide if he will make the ultimate sacrifice.
The Roots of the Olive Tree is about five generations of Keller women, most of whom live under the same roof of Hill House in the olive grove. Anna Davison Keller, the matriarch is 112 years old and wants to be in the record books as the oldest living person. She is patiently waiting on an old woman in France and an old man in Japan to die so she can achieve her goal. Enter into the plot, Dr. Amrit Hashmi, a geneticist who is interested in longevity as related to genetics. As Dr. Hashmi begins blood work on the extended Keller family, both males and females, family secrets begin to spill forth about parentage. Genetics do not match the names on birth certificates. How do we look into the murkiness of childhood and see uncomfortable truths? How do we reconcile our ideals and our realities? How do we extend understanding and compassion when we are all hiding secrets? These incredible women move through the secrets with redemptive grace as they begin reconciling what they have always believed with what they now know to be the truth.
Redemptive grace- something to remember and practice this holiday season with family and friends. Both of these books will speak to this in a worthwhile way.
I’ll see you back here on Saturday, January 5, 2019. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and all that jazz!