Book Review: Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas

sculptures in glass by Dale Chihuly, Denver Botanic Gardens installation, photo by Moriah

I’ve been promising this review for almost two years, ever since I started the book on vacation.  It’s a perfect vacation book: big enough to get you through several weeks of reading, engaging, thought-provoking.  Alas, I started it at the end of vacation, only made it through the first 250 pages, and then put it on my bedside table for another 21 months before picking it up again.

Why did I put it down?  Several reasons, probably.  One, it was big enough to make my arms hurt when I read it lying down.  Two, as a non-German speaker I had a hard time keeping some of the names straight.  (Sam listened to the audiobook, which solved both those problems for him.)  The bigger reason was that the first half was the set-up: Bonhoeffer’s early life and training, which were both essential to the man he became.  But then Hitler arrived, and I knew where that was headed.  I needed another year and a half before I could face the Holocaust.  I started it again a few weeks ago and, as my children can attest, couldn’t put it down.

Bonhoeffer’s own writings are woven throughout the book; his friends’ recollections and other historical material provides the historical context.  This book is an amazing biography.  Bonhoeffer’s actions during the war were complex, and his life and writing has been frequently misinterpreted.   But taken as a whole, he was entirely consistent in his whole-hearted obedience, not to a set of dry principles but to a living God.  Metaxas’s account of Bonhoeffer’s life is clear, compelling, and challenging.  After reading it, I am looking at my own life through a sharper lens and am asking myself what it means to be faithful today, in this place.

Highly recommended.


Twitterature June 2014

Me Before You (JoJo Moyes)
By page three, Lou had me hooked. She’s a quirky, funny narrator with a great story to tell. By halfway I was skipping meals to keep reading. Every character was well-drawn. Add this to your summer reading list.

Regency Buck (Georgette Heyer)
Judith Tavener, a headstrong young heiress, finds her new guardian to be as implacable as she is. Their antagonism rides the waves of her brother’s folly, fortune-hunting suitors and her own foolishness. This one is fun.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (Amy Bender)
Bender’s depiction of a family with special talents takes place within a perfectly ordinary house on an ordinary street. The details of the narrator’s world are so clear you think you are sitting in their living room. As the magic in this story developed, I was reminded of two other amazing books: When You Reach Me and The Bee Season.

Sprig Muslin (Georgette Heyer)
Heyer perfectly depicts the self-absorption of a teenager and how it affects everyone around her in a tumble of unintended fallout. The love story here is quiet and sweet.

What’s the Worst that Could Happen? (Donald Westlake)
John Dortmunder’s luck changes for the better, though he can’t see it. Luck appears in many forms in this hilarious caper.

Heist Society (Ally Carter)
I love heists, and this one doesn’t disappoint. Katarina has a full back story, though we only glimpse pieces of it, and while her world is fully crafted I felt sometimes like it peopled only by teenagers.

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