Each time I pick up a new novel, I am struck by how difficult it can be to acclimate myself to the unaccustomed literary landscape. Familiarizing oneself with new characters, settings, and themes can be challenging. Additionally, writing styles can be jarringly different from one author to the next, and the dissimilarities can leave us feeling dizzy, confused, or disoriented. As I trudged along through the sleepy and slow-moving opening chapters of Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop, I felt disengaged and subsequently unmotivated by this selection—so foreign to my literary sensibilities and typical longings for witty banter and intriguing plotlines. Yet, as the novel serenely unfolded, I realized that this series of quiet, almost picturesque vignettes was a disarming invitation to examine the unforeseen depth of a simple yet moving, all-encompassing surrender to the Divine Will.
Anne Bronte and Charlotte Mason were near contemporaries. When Mason was six years old, Tenant was published, so it isn’t surprising that the two would both be concerned with character formation in the same Victorian British way. Bronte doesn’t shy away from exploring the ideas of virtue and vice and even tells us in her preface, “I wished to tell the truth, for truth always conveys its own moral to those who are able to receive it” (5). As she warned, this statement made the book a bit heavy-handed in parts and detracted from my “immediate pleasure” in reading. Yet the characters are so beautifully drawn that they come alive on the page. Examining this book through the lens of Mason’s “Way of the Will” gives us two characters who perfectly embody each side of the line.
One of the most cherished aspects of the Well-Read Mom is how it continually introduces me to new books. Not only have these works increased my own understanding, but they have also provided me with invaluable wisdom to bequeath to my children. What a joy it is to discover an ever-growing treasure trove of literary works that will serve my daughters (and sons!) as they navigate young adulthood, discern vocations, consider marriage, and examine a host of other weighty life questions!
There is great beauty in Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop:
The striking landscape of the Southwest
The culture of the native peoples
The devotions of the Catholics and the relationships between the characters
This last, specifically, the relationship between Bishop Latour and his dear friend Father Vaillant, struck me as the most profound part of this boo
How Reading Literature Benefits Leaders By Marcie Stokman, Well-Read Mom Founder and President “I never set out to run a business; Well-Read Mom is a ministry to help women, including myself, read literature.” I let Matt know that running a business was not my original intention. He countered, “If you’re serious about helping women read…
Three years ago, I decided enough time had passed, and I would do something entirely for myself. I was going to go after something I had wanted for five years. I yearned to join my friend’s Well-Read Mom group. It wasn’t an easy decision. I am a mom of many, and I have a keen awareness of time, a sensitivity toward being present to those around me, and the need to be intentional with my own time. Also, I become consumed when reading a book and usually dive so deeply beneath the surface that I barely come up for breath. So, it feels (dare I say it) selfish to read. Plus, free time is precious. But as we know, discerning when to do something or not do something comes with much thought and preparation.
My intention is not to cover every difficult aspect of this book but to offer a few insights that might prove helpful. Each woman has the power to discern her comfort level when it comes to reading. Every book might not be for every person. That is okay! But this is a worthy read, and I hope to illuminate why we chose it.
As nearly any mother will tell you, a mother’s life is certainly not easy. It’s filled with errands to run, chores to complete, emergencies to address, unforeseen “disasters” to navigate, and people to comfort, assist, and love through our words, but most discernibly through our actions of continual service. Even when our children move away from home, and we are no longer wading through toys or tackling mountains of laundry, we still offer loving assistance and care. From traveling to college games and events, answering late-night phone calls, and watching grandchildren, we make our support readily available. And this life of heroic motherly action often prompts us to frenzy: we forget the significance of rest, prayer, contemplation, and meditation in favor of accomplishing tasks—many of which are undoubtedly important—and adopting the mindset that only action is of merit.
To incorporate my family even more into my WRM reading life, I invited my nine-year-old son to have a mother-son book club about the WRM Family Supplement’s November selection: The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict.
Human beings were made for stories. From our earliest moments, nestled in the comforting arms of our family members, we delight in the telling of age-old fairytales and silly rhymes. We are fascinated by retellings of our birth, how our parents met, and other family lore. We gravitate toward stories, whether expressed through written word, through a movie screen, or within the lyrics of a song. We enjoy hearing the entertaining anecdotes of friends and recounting moments from our past. We empathize with each other through the sharing of our life experiences.