C.S. Lewis, Housekeeping, and the Book NFP Couples are Missing

Have you heard? It’s Read More Books Month!

 

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

I began talking about Till We Have Faces this last week, but I finally finished it over the weekend, so I wanted to give a complete review this week.  This  is a retelling (reinvention) of the myth of Psyche and Cupid.  (I chose to go read a synopsis of the myth beforehand so that I could compare as I read, although I don’t think it’s necessary.)  The narrator is Orual, Psyche’s oldest sister.  They, along with their other sister Redival, are raised by their father, a cruel and petty king in the country of Glome.  Their main teacher is a Greek philosopher/slave whom they call the Fox.  He is a kind and intelligent man, and teaches them the ways of Greek thought and logic, which are otherwise foreign in their barbaric land.

The story follows the myth, but loosely.  (I guess I should say now: SPOILER ALERT, but since it’s a retelling of the myth, maybe you won’t care?  If you do, just skip down to the next paragraph.) The Fox, Orual, and Psyche form close bonds and share everything with each other.  When she is older (a teen, perhaps?) Psyche is offered up as a sacrifice to appease the local god (Ungit). Rather than die, she is taken as a wife by Ungit’s son.  Orual (who thinks that the being Psyche believes to be her god-husband is either a demon or a cruel vagabond) convinces Psyche to break her vow and light a lamp to look upon him one night while he is sleeping.  Psyche is cast out of her blissful home and happy life and sent to wander the earth, trying with all her might to complete the impossible tasks that Ungit has set before her.  Orual has to live with the knowledge that she set her sister on a path of sadness and despair, although she doesn’t truly understand what happened.

I found this book immensely moving (at times I was almost in tears) based largely on the relationship between Psyche and Orual, and the aftermath of Orual’s betrayal.  There are moments in the book when the exchanges between the two are so insightful, so complicated, that I couldn’t help but see my own flaws in my own relationships.  I also found the struggle between belief in the gods and the path of rational philosophy to be very interesting.  Ultimately I think this book was about choices, about what we choose to believe and how we choose to act, and the effects on both of those decisions throughout our lives.

This isn’t a happy book, but it is hopeful, and it gives the reader a lot to think about for being so brief (about 300 pages) and readable a book.  I may be the last adult alive to have read this, but if not, I highly recommend it.

 

The House That Cleans Itself  by Mindy Starns Clark

I am mildly house-keeping challenged.  And by mildly, I mean majorly.  It’s not that I don’t care how my house looks, as I used to think, but that I am such an easily distracted person that cleaning and organizing are major chores for me.  If I had to paint a simple picture of my home, I would say it varies between moderately tidy (usually in the morning) and disastrous (usually by early evening).  It’s not that it’s dirty per se, but more that I can only achieve a certain level of neatness before I run out of steam.

This is the housekeeping book for me, I’m convinced.  Clark describes her cleaning behavior as so similar to mine, it’s uncanny.  I have a great desire (I’d go so far as to say a need) for order, but my thoughts and thought processes just don’t make for an orderly home.  Clark suggests that rather than berating myself for not being able to overcome this flaw, it’s better to look at what I can change about my house. I should mention that I had already begun thinking this way recently, but she really helps flesh it out.  One exercise from the book:  go around your house and “investigate” the cluttered/messy areas.  Take notes on this handy dandy PDF she has for free on her website.  Look at what’s in each pile.  Then try to figure out the root cause and determine what system would help that area stay organized.  She says we have to make the neat thing easier to do than the messy thing.  For you born-organized people, maybe this sounds stupid and trivial, but I assure you, for me, it is not.

Maybe someday I’ll do a whole post on this when I’ve made a few changes and can better determine how effective her techniques are.  But for now I’d say they make complete sense to this ADD mama.

 

The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning by Simcha Fisher

One unexpected read for this week was Simcha Fisher’s new book, The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning.  (As I understand it, it’s even a surprise to Simcha that we’re reading it this week!)  This book is not about charting or fertility, but rather how to make NFP work in the everyday trenches of your marriage. It was written for people who are committed to staying true to their marriage and the Catholic Church in regards to chastity, but who perhaps don’t always love everything about it.  I zipped through this book in just a couple of hours and highlighted quite a bit of it.  Simcha, as most of you know, is funny and witty and even a bit sarcastic (all of which I love).  But this book presents a gentler side of her, too.  She knows from personal experience how heavy this cross can be and wants to help others make their marriages happier and healthier.  If I could be so bold, I’d say this is the book that the NFP niche market is sorely missing.

 

On top of those reviewed above, we’re reading more Andrew Lang Fairy Tales, the second book in the All-of-a-Kind Family series, listening to Anne of Green Gables (again) on CD, and Gianna is just starting to read Little House in the Big Woods.  On her own! (Cry!)

Whew!  A lot of reading this week, though, which makes my heart happy.

Head on over to Jessica at HousewifeSpice for more scintillating reviews.

Comments

  1. Your the second of third blogger i’ve read to recommend “The House that Cleaned Itself” I think I need to definitely get that book!

  2. I think your assessment of “Til We Have Faces” is spot on. Not happy, but hopeful. And packed in a small space.

    I’ve got Simcha’s book next on the lineup. Can’t wait to read it.
    Cari recently posted…WWRW: I Can Haz Saints?My Profile

  3. At some point C.S. Lewis called myth “the truth that always is.” I thought that was so truly beautiful and offers a profound understanding of what it is that draws humanity to storytelling. Lewis loved the ancients and saw them as a people in a Great Darkness who were reaching forth for the light, but without the pure understanding that Christianity offers. He saw that within their stories were contained bits of absolute Truth, Truth that doesn’t evolve with the ages. I agree, he did reinvent Cupid and Psyche from a Christian perspective, but he also dug deep within the myth to see what it was it was trying to say in the first place.

    And totally agree, not happy but hopeful!

    • I think that’s a beautiful description of the Greeks. When I said reinvention I was referring to the fleshing out of Orual’s character. In the myth the sisters seem vain and petty, but in this book we get a clear picture of Orual’s humanity and her depth. It therefore makes it impossible to think of her as a stereotype. Lewis = genius.

  4. We loved “All of a Kind Family”. I’ll suggest “The Saturdays”, and “The Penderwicks” and the first few boxcar children books (the ones written by the original author). Great memories!

    Flylady’s timer is the only thing that keeps me focused on housekeeping. A big plus is the kids love being timed and will even pick up if it is timed and it is a race.

    Keep posting what you are reading… I have too much time just waiting.

    • Oooo, thanks for the recs, Nina. I gave the Penderwicks to my goddaughter a few years back, but I had completely forgotten about it.

      I did FlyLady a few years back and really enjoyed it for awhile. I still shine my sink and use a timer. Nothing would get done otherwise!

  5. I’ve read Till We Have Faces twice now, and listened to Peter Kreeft’s lecture on it (available on the web somewhere), and discussed it in book club . . . still not exactly sure what it all means but it moves me to tears. . . . Now I want to read the housekeeping book. It sounds similar to Organizing Solutions for Ppl with ADD , which I loved. I don’t like cleaning, but I like books about how to minimize the need for cleaning!
    Laura @ ThisFelicitousLife recently posted…Truth, Quakers, Rats, and FatsMy Profile

  6. I have Till We Have Faces on hold. You and Laura with all the Lewis should come out my way so we can visit his real wardrobe and desk not far away from me at Wheaton College.
    Jessica @ housewifespice recently posted…WWRW: Winners for the school age set.My Profile

  7. Abby Soejoto says:

    Thanks for the recommendations! I read TWHF ABOUT 2 decades ago but picked it up again last week. So good!