The Paris Wife by Paula McLain…..

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(There is always the chance that a any book discussion might reveal too much about an unread story – if you haven’t read the book and want to, you might want to wait to read what is written here – just in case.)

The Paris Wife is a novel but, in the epilogue, Paula McLain tells her readers that she tried to mirror the true story of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley, as much as possible. The story takes us through the first marriage of Hadley and Ernest and their exciting beginnings in Paris.

The story is very well-written and the characters are entertaining. Wonderful literary personalities like Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald dance across the pages. We learn about Paris in the 20’s and the artists who journeyed to the city to hone their talents with like-minded souls. And we learn, maybe a little too much, about the famed Ernest Hemingway.

There is a lot to really like about this book, however, the story is just sad. Hadley tells us in the beginning that things won’t work out – but I wanted to believe I read it wrong – that I had confused myself with the silly truth of it all. But she did tell the truth and so the whole journey has a melancholy overlay that never dissipates.

Reading this book is a bit like watching sugar dissolve in clear water. There is the promise of sweetness, but we realize the crystals canĀ  mostly only sink, their load too heavy for the frigid water to gracefully absorb it. In the end, we are just left with a cloudy, murky mess.

If you are mad at your spouse, wait to read this book. Otherwise, dive in. You’ll will be glad you read it.

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz…….

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(There is always the chance that a any book discussion might reveal too much about an unread story – if you haven’t read the book and want to, you might want to wait to read what is written here – just in case.)

The Four Agreements is not a new book. In fact, it debuted 15 years ago and has been on the New York Times Bestsellers List for over 7 years. The author is celebrating the book’s fifteen-year anniversary by publishing an illustrated version. And it is lovely.

This book would be a wonderful gift for anyone on your gift list this season. The pages are beautifully illustrated and even their colors are soothing. The message of the book is timeless. Don Miguel Ruiz encourages us to make four agreements with ourselves so that we can each find peace and live joyfully. He calls his book “a practical guide to personal freedom.”

The book is based on the teachings of the ancient Toltecs of southern Mexico who were known as the women and men of knowledge. The lessons in the book are actually quite simple and as I read the words, I kept thinking, “well, yes, that makes perfect sense. I should start doing that. right. now.”

The author reminds us of fundamental truths that can change our perspective and increase our satisfaction with our lives. Perspective is everything. He encourages us to stay away from gossip, which he poetically calls poison, and not to worry so much about what others think of us. He reminds us that very often what people think of us is truly just a reflection of how they view themselves.

Don Miguel Ruiz spells out the agreements right on the inside of the cover of the book – so I don’t think I am revealing a secret when I share them with you. They are:

  1. Be Impeccable with Your Word
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions
  4. Always Do Your Best (and here he reminds us that our best is different under different circumstances – he in not encouraging perfection, just sincere effort)

The gentle ideas in the book are so basic but are also easy to slip away from.

Honestly, there were a few places in the book where I felt like I was reading in circles. But I think that is because the ideas are so important and simple that the author wanted to stretch them out for emphasis. I will absolutely re-read this book periodically to remind myself to keep things in perspective and to not take things personally. And, seriously, this book would make a fantastic gift.