Reading for a change

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been doing a lot of writing as of late, and frankly, I’m all poemed out. For the time being. I am tired of reading and tired of writing poems. Give me something book-length!

So I read Patricia Hampl’s The Florist’s Daughter this weekend and started in on Letters to Malcolm by C.S. Lewis. I had forgotten how much I LOVE C.S. Lewis. But before that, let’s talk about Hampl.

I’ve heard it said by someone (Joe Mackall, I think), that Patricia Hampl is the only writer who can write about nothing in particular for 250 pages and succeed. Which means he thinks midwestern life without crises equals nothing. I loved this book. Set during the days and hours prior to the death of her mother, Hampl describes and explores her lifelong relationship with her parents leading up to their deaths, effortlessly gliding back and forth across time and space to accomplish a beautiful narrative. The reader is allowed to experience the love for father and changing appreciation for mother that evolves into deep love throughout the book without feeling sentimental. Her style is simply delicious. I like the word delicious. I think I use it to describe literature more often than I ought.

So, Hampl was amazing. I’d like to read more of her in the future.

We’re at my in-laws’ house this weekend, and I finished The Florist’s Daughter around 2 yesterday, which means I was in a reading mood only half-way through the kids’ naps. I found a book by C.S. Lewis called Letters to Malcolm, which, as it turns out, is about prayer. I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer the last few months and this was exactly the sort of book I was looking for. It is really quite fabulous. I’m only 50 pages in, but it is a short book, something I should be taking slower. C.S. Lewis is one of those writers whose pages end up ear-marked every other page, there’s just so much good going on. A few favorites:

“…no one in his senses, if he has any power of ordering his own day, would reserve his chief prayers for bed-time – obviously the worst possible hour for any action which needs concentration. The trouble is that thousands of unfortunate people can hardly find any other.”

And this, talking about praying for things or desires:

“It is no use to ask God with factitious earnestness for A when our whole mind is in reality filled with the desire of B. We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us. Even an intimate human friend is ill-used if we talk to him about one thing while our mind is really on another, and even a human friend will soon become aware when we are doing so.”

And further down the same page:

“If one forcibly excludes them, don’t they wreck all the rest of our prayers? If we lay all the cards on the table, God will help us to moderate the excesses. But the pressure of things we are trying to keep out of our mind is a hopeless distraction. As someone said, ‘No noise is so emphatic as one you are trying not to listen to.'”

And still more, of course. There’s a reason for a volume entitled, The Quotable C.S. Lewis. He’s just that good. I haven’t read C.S. Lewis in a while so it is nice to get back in to that voice and reflection, especially on a topic I’ve been thinking about a good deal. I’m not really a very good pray-er — I’m the sort who waits until the end of the day to pray or rattles off something here and there throughout the day, which is the rarer sort. At any rate, it is an area of my spiritual life in which I’d like to improve.

Happy reading!

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). My memoir, American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation, and the second volume of devotionals, The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others, will be released in 2022. Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

3 thoughts on “Reading for a change

  1. I hear you about prayer (you ended with)..sometimes for me, it's that or 3:00 A.M. (actually better)if woken?
    This really hits home huh..
    “It is no use to ask God with factitious earnestness for A when our whole mind is in reality filled with the desire of B. We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us.
    “If one forcibly excludes them, don't they wreck all the rest of our prayers? If we lay all the cards on the table, God will help us to moderate the excesses. But the pressure …a hopeless distraction”
    Just wanted to say I really like this. Go for's good to sink into quality books. By the way, I picked up a C.D. some time back called ” A musical Tribute to C.S.Lewis” ..2 faves are (I Will Arise & Go To Jesus by Ruut Sallinen) & the other is O Lord of Hosts, How Lovely by Rochelle Hickman)..all I can say is, it's like something from heaven! If you haven't heard, it's a treat..Have a great weekend Sarah- thanks for stopping by too-


  2. “The Florist's Daughter”: a gorgeous book. I'm thinking of Hampl's description of her father at work, arranging a bouquet, knife in hand. How in the world she was able to make peace with her difficult mother–a wonder!


  3. Sorry I haven't stopped by in awhile, it has been busy around here.
    These are some very good qoutes, it definitely made me think about my prayers.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog and for your nice comments.
    Have a good weekend.


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