Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A More-Than-One-Word Book Review: The Waiting Place by Eileen Button

In The Waiting Place: Learning to Appreciate Life's Little Delays, a collection of essays by talented and lovely Eileen Button, motivated Eileen tries hard to dispose of an 185 pound statue of the Virgin Mary that came with the house her family has just moved into. After all, she is a Protestant pastor’s wife, and Mary really doesn’t fit into her garden d├ęcor.

Unfortunately, and I didn’t realize this until I read the book, it is rather difficult to unload the Virgin Mother. (I mean this in the literal, not symbolic, sense.) She recruits and leaves her father-in-law to break the statue into pieces and then haul it off, only to come back and find he has superstitiously buried Mary in the ground.

“Shouldn’t she be buried a little deeper?” I ask, kicking the protruding piece of concrete.

“Trust me, kid. She’s fine.”

After the dog digs Mary up, Eileen stores Mary in the garage, tries donating her to the local Catholic church, and attempts to have the man who hauls away their junk take the statue.

“Listen, I’ll take just about anything, but I don’t mess with the Blessed Virgin Mother.”

So Mary gets a new paint job and is replanted back into the garden. Eileen's Baptist neighbor is perplexed.

The statue is closer to her property now, so I add, “Hope it’s okay with you.”

“Well…,” she says, hesitantly. “I guess it’s all right. As long as you don’t pray to her or anything.”

“Hey, you never know. I just might.” This is the part of my personality that always gets me into trouble. I like to shake things up.

And this is what I love most about Eileen: her willingness to shake things up. (And it’s possible that the part of her personality that gets her into trouble is the part of my personality that always gets me into trouble.)

The Waiting Place is for “those who wake up one day and find themselves repeatedly sighing and thinking, ‘this is so not the life I dreamed of living.’”

No one who has these thoughts is alone; however, they are the thoughts we don’t like to admit having- the ones that fester within us and make us bitter and resentful. While we wait for the next part of our lives (which will surely be better than whatever we’re living now), we miss out on what the present has to offer. With humor and honesty, Eileen lets us have a glimpse into the waiting places she has lived in. Whether waiting for her grandmother to take her next turn in Scrabble, waiting for an important letter to arrive in the mail, or waiting for her newborn baby to either live or die, Eileen ultimately reconciles herself to waiting, and not only to waiting, but to learning how to “live life deliberately” while caught up in the waiting place.

I think we might actually be the same person. I’m looking into this. She grew up in East Rochester, I in Rochester and then Greece. (Which is a suburb of Rochester and not the land of Socrates. It’s shocking how many times I’ve had to explain this to people.) Our parents broke up around the same point of time in our lives. Our fondest memories with our fathers are our childhood trips to the Adirondacks. We both made out furiously with our (respective) future husbands on the same college campus. We each purchased a house with a chain-linked fence in the backyard, guaranteeing the eventual acquirement of a puppy. Our youngest children were each born with physical malformations.

We both like to shake things up.

Despite all of the parts of myself I found in this book, I know I am hardly alone. Though Eileen has an unmistakably fresh take on this thing we call “living," she waxes eloquently about universal experiences anyone- male or female- can connect with.

Eileen is a Christian who is a writer. (A writer who is Christian is different than a “Christian writer.” How? It just is. We had a discussion about this.) I only mention this because, while her faith plays an integral part in her stories, Catholics, agnostics, and Jedis are encouraged to pick up a copy. You will be blessed by it.

Eileen is a friend (well, we’ve never actually met, but we’ve talked on the phone, so I don’t think she’d mind me calling her a friend) who shares the same alma mater as I do, though she graduated a bit before I did. Well, a long time before I did. Because I’m much, much, much younger.

She is a columnist for the Flint Journal, a mother of three, and is currently busy working on her next book. Also, she’s a fan of my blog. Just thought I’d throw that in there.

This is my very first “More-Than-One-Word Book Review!” Only a truly exceptional book could pull me away from my lazy one-word book review ways. So, please buy a copy, buy one for a friend, and preferably do this through a link off my site, because I am an Amazon affiliate. (I am also just the type of person to ride the waves of my friends’ successes…)

And check out Eileen’s weekly column. That’s good stuff, too.


Elizabeth said...

Did you see me talking up your one word reviews on Amanda G's blog??? I love me some one word reviews.

But I really like your long ones too. I am going to track this book down because I know I will relate to a lot of it (imo). Maybe its because I am looking down the barrel at 40 (gasp) but I just cant shake the feeling that I am suppose to be further along than this in life...
Oh well thanks for the review (keep em coming).

Amanda Gibson said...

Hey, thanks for the review - just in time to be added to my summer/fall/spring/whatever reading list!