just ordered: the land of steady habits

debutnovelistI’m on the hunt like a shipwrecked sailor who just washed up on shore.  Where are all the funny books because I am dying of thirst?!

Luckily this morning while sipping coffee and mingling in my social networks I stumbled upon this author’s hilarious platform he and his publisher have trotted out to help sell his new book, The Land of Steady Habits.  The Tumblr site hitched up to Little, Brown’s flagship site is called “Ask the Debut Novelist,” and the blog reads like a Dear Sugar for writers.  You know, the struggling to publish write in with thoughtful industry questions, and he heaps gobs of witty advice back at them.  Well, he made me laugh.  He writes wicked good sentences, and I think this clever gimmick just made me order his book.  I can’t wait to read it.  Here’s the blurb from his website:

Coming of age can happen at the strangest times. For Anders Hill, long ensconced in “the land of steady habits”—the affluent hamlets of Connecticut that dot the commuter rail line—it’s finally time to reap the rewards of a sensible life. Into his sixties and newly retired, his grown sons’ college tuitions paid in full, Anders finds the contentment he’s been promised is still just out of reach. So he decides he’s had enough of steady habits: he leaves his wife, buys a condo, and waits for freedom to transform him.

But as the cheery charade of Christmas approaches, Anders starts to wonder if maybe parachuting from his life was not the most prudent choice. Stripped of the comforts of his previous identity, he turns up at a holiday party full of his ex-wife’s friends, and sets in motion a series of events by turns comic and catastrophic. Before the year has turned, he has to face the startling possibility that the very world he rejected may in fact be the only one he needs.

Charting the arc of a forty-year marriage this finely observed novel about a man deep in conflict with his community and his past brings into sharp relief the powers of memory, miscommunication, routine, and disappointment to shape and define a family’s mythology. The Land of Steady Habits introduces Ted Thompson as an auspicious talent with striking compassion for his characters and new insight into the American tradition of the suburban narrative.

David Daley of Salon says of the novel and its protagonist, Inside the ruined heart and soul of Anders Hill is a warning: even the life you think falls short of your dreams must not be taken for granted.

Ted Thompson is being compared to Cheever and Updike, and for more gracious blurbs and to order his book, click here.

POST SCRIPT: Ted Thompson follows me on twitter, and you should, too!  Scroll down for latest tweets and click button to access my profile.

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make lemonade

Some of my readers might recall the story I once told of how littlest love and I discovered our beloved iced lemon pound cake had disappeared from Starbuck’s.  The legend of this tale of woe has grown such that our relatives living in Costa Rica have (rudely) taken to rubbing it into our lemon lusting noses that all the Starbuck’s in Central America still carry this beloved delicacy–they send me digital photos along with their invitations to come visit.  Yet another reason, I’m sure, for me to swing with monkeys from the trees and lay awake at night worrying about scorpions crawling into my bed.  Well, luckily I am here today to tell another story because littlest love and I have finally found our replacement.  She made these iced lemon brownies for a class party, and there was even one left over for me.  They are delicious and very easy to make.  We sliced them into mini bites and served them in muffin cups with cute little flags perfect for celebrating her class’s “Homework Hall of Fame.”  But if you’re like me, next time you’ll just grab a fork and sneak off with the whole pan.


iced lemon brownies


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for the recipe, see baker Becky Charms

Out of lemon flowers loosed on the moonlight, love’s lashed and insatiable essences, sodden with fragrance, the lemon tree’s yellow emerges, the lemons move down from the tree’s planetarium: Delicate merchandise! ~ from Pablo Neruda’s poem “A Lemon

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i’m planning a lent party and you’re all invited

journeythroughlentIf you’re in California and desperate for more rain, clouds, and cold weather, have no fear because Lent is almost here.  You know, that dreary season of penance and abstinence when you can finally put those tank tops and flip flops you’ve been wearing away because it’s time to squeeze into that itchy sackcloth and stand in a long line heads down for your annual dousing in ashes.  Woe is me!  It’s LENT.  Boo hoo.  And if you haven’t been blessed by a winter of balmy weather and are stuck somewhere else where it’s seasonably freezing, guess what, forty more days of cold for you!

You know it’s always struck me as odd, being a convert and all, how many people struggle with this annual need to “give something up” for Lent and then complain about it to everyone they meet.  For many it’s an opportunity to put aside a vice like drinking or going out to eat or only checking Facebook once a day instead of every fifteen minutes.   Oh I can’t eat that buttery gooey slice of cake dripping in caramel sauce . . . I gave up dessert for Lent.  But you go ahead, that’s alright.  Woe is me!  While I don’t dispute that these temporary denials open up space for God, it’s hard for me to believe they’re that transformative.  And isn’t that what Lent is all about?  In his introduction to the wonderful anthology God For Us, Ronald Rolheiser OMI tells us that Lent comes from an Old English word for springtime, and that in Latin, lente means slowly.  For me, Lent is akin to pushing though the cold muck of winter, stretching my arms heavenward, and opening to beauty.  It could be that way for you, too!  Certainly we must have the ashes to remind us the house needs sweeping, but don’t dwell there too long is all I’m saying.  Instead of giving something up and then being grumpy about it until you get it back — instead of temporarily taking something out of your life — why not make room for something new.  Where in your life can you clear more space for the sacred . . . and be permanently transformed?

This Lent you can keep your chocolate and drink your wine

If you’d like to make more room in your busy life for spiritual fellowship, prayer and JOY, then you should come to my Lent party!  I’ll be leading a group through Sarah Parsons’ A Clearing Season: Reflections for Lent, and while this group will meet in person, I have a a series of reflections posted at The Province of Joy.   Join me there where we can share our Lenten stories and engage in an online discussion about the book.  In her nifty little tome, Parsons reminds us that Lent is not all about penitence and fasting.  It’s a clearing season.  A time for introspection.  A time of transformation and renewal.  I don’t know about you but sometimes there’s a lot more standing between me and God than a box of See’s candy or a good cabernet!  If you think you might like to carve out space in your busy life for spiritual fellowship, prayer and JOY, join us as we journey through Lent together!  You can purchase the book, follow the blog posts, and hopefully share your stories in our online community.  Stay tuned or subscribe to this blog for scheduled updates.

It seems that we need beginnings, or everything eventually devolves and declines into unnecessary and sad endings.  You were made for so much more! . . . You are the desiring of God.  God desires through you and longs for Life and Love through you and in you.  Allow it, speak it, and you will find your place in the universe of things. ~ Fr. Richard Rohr


These are also great books for Lent  . . .

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