Book Review: Tobit’s Dog

Disclosure: I received a free digital copy of this book from Ignatius Press in exchange for the review you see below.  I wasn’t compensated in any other way, and the thoughts you see are completely my own.  

I’ll admit that I don’t read very much religious fiction.  Generally, I feel about it the same as I do about Christian rock music — it’s okay for some, but I find it a little heavy-handed at times.  A little too much, “God is everywhere!” for my taste.  I would rather find where an author might have included some religious aspects in a secular work.  I like to work for it a little bit.

You can understand, then, why I was excited but a little wary about taking on a “Catholic” novel like Tobit’s Dog by Michael Nicholas Richard.  But, I do like to read and I am Catholic… so I gave it a whirl and I was pleasantly surprised.

While some of the Catholic imagery and symbolism is a little heavy-handed, I felt myself genuinely caring about the characters.  The title character (kind of), Tobit Messager, is an African American man living in the South during the Great Depression.  He’s a good, hardworking man, but many of the local white folks are distrustful of him because of something that happened with his dad a long time ago.  Despite the poor way he’s treated, Tobit takes extra care to always do the right thing and live as the Lord would like him to.

There’s a very moving, racially-charged event that occurs (I won’t spoil what it is for those that are going to read the book, as you should!), and, through some interesting consequences, Tobit is rendered blind afterwards.  One of the ways he’s able to deal with his new blindness is through the kindness of a number of members of the community, including his wife Anna, son Tobias, and Tobias’s boss.  In addition, his intuitive dog, Okra, serves Tobit faithfully.

Okra, the real title character I suppose, is able to sense his master’s needs and judges many of the characters coming through the story.  In fact, Tobit’s family is visited by a far-flung relative who takes Tobit’s son and Okra on a journey to settle a debt that another family member has to Tobit.  I told you — lots and lots of characters!

It’s this journey where we see much of the Holy Spirit, God, and Devil symbolism and metaphors in the story.  As with many novels, the young man on the journey runs into many obstacles and is able to overcome them with help from varied sources.

I won’t sum up more of the plot than that.  One of the things I most enjoyed about this story were the characters and the few twists and turns along the way, so I don’t want to ruin them.

While Richard, the author, does hold our hands a little bit to help us see his ideas of God’s impact in our lives and why our treatment of others (no matter how they compare to us) is important, it’s for a good cause.  Ultimately, it’s easy to see how things haven’t changed much in the last century or so — we’re still hurting others for no reason other than our own prejudices, and that’s not what we’re called to do.

Through Tobit’s struggles, the journey of Tobias, and the interactions of the cast of characters, this story serves as a much-needed reminder of our calling to treat others like Christ.

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Five Faves: Summer Part 1

It’s only the first week of summer, but already I have several faves.  They run the gamut, so be warned there’s no real rhyme or reason other than it’s SUMMER!

1. The free section of Craigslist!

We’ve been searching for a play structure for Mark for a few weeks now.  Most of the ones we liked online that were new were SUPER expensive, or they were the wooden ones that would take up literally our entire yard.

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When I was searching Craigslist the other day, I found one of those really sketchy listings where it doesn’t show the picture of the “free” thing; you just have to come and check it out yourself.

Naturally, I sent my husband.  🙂

After it got the Ryan seal of approval, he brought it home, employed the power-washer from the farm, and voila!  This will be where he plays for the whole summer, I think.

2. Sunriver Resort, OR. 

Recently, my mom came to visit, and she watched Mark while Ryan and I went and stayed at the beautiful Sunriver Resort just South of Bend, OR.  It was the first time that we have been away from Mark, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the trip.  There were some rough times where I missed Mark tons, for sure, but it was really nice to be able to connect with Ryan as just a couple instead of couple-but-mostly-mom-and-dad.  Here are some photos (and if you ever find yourself in Oregon, you should definitely check out the resort):

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We were playing bocce.  He’s explaining something about triangles and geometry, but all I can hear is that I didn’t score any points this round.

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This is Tumalo Falls just outside of Bend.  Beautiful hike!

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The marina at Sunriver.

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While we were playing bocce, there was a deer not ten yards away from us. So cool!

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Mark obviously had a great time with his Grandma while we were away.

3. All the delicious green things.  

I know I said green things, but I LOVE salads with berries.  This is the first one I made this year (baby greens, berries, almonds, olive oil, and white balsamic vinegar).  Why, yes it was as delicious as it looks, thanks for asking!

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4. This yarn.  

I’ve been trying to de-stash my yarn by making baby hats to donate (to the hospital? a maternity home? I’m not sure yet), but I’m swooning over this yarn that I found on Etsy.  You should totally go check out this girl’s store.  It’s amazing.

Hand Dyed Yarn-DK weight MCN-"Glacier"

5. This guy.

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Today, I’ve been married to Ryan for three whole years.  I know in the world (even the blogging world), that really isn’t too long.  But, it’s important to recognize our commitment and love to each other, so that’s what we’re doing tonight.  Soon, we’re headed out to our favorite dessert place and having something that is totally going to destroy my calories for the week.  Oh well.  🙂

If you’re up for reading some other faves, go check out Heather’s host-post.  

I know, I know… I fell off the planet again.

I promised it wouldn’t happen, and yet here we are again.  I’ve been absent for how many weeks now?  And so, so many important things have happened.  So much in fact, I’m going to go ahead and do the Seven Quick Takes a little early this week.  There’s much to fill you in on, but not much time in which to do it.

1. Mark can kick a ball (kind of!)

June 3rd (it was a Tuesday, I remember that), I was playing with Mark and we were rolling his mini soccer ball back and forth.  Then, he wanted to stand up and go do something else (which is what he always wants to do).  The ball happened to go in front of his foot and he managed to kind of kick it when he walked.  Can we call it dribbling?  Because, we’re totally going to.  Ryan said Mark’s training begins now!

2. He babbles and babbles and babbles…

Just this last week, Mark has been babbling more and it sounds more and more like actual talking (Ryan says he sounds like an Ewok, but I’m a little more partial to saying he sounds like a Jawa.)  Instead of just repeating the same sound over and over again (“A da da da da da”), he’s stringing different sounds together (“A da blu bla?”).  It’s pretty crazy, and it seems like it happened overnight.  I wish I had a video to show you, but he always manages to clam up right when I get out my phone.  Typical of a boy.

3. Final Finals.  

As I’ve mentioned already, I won’t be continuing at my current job in the fall.  While this is a good thing and I’m very excited for what’s to come, it does make me a little sad.  It was tough to say goodbye to some of the kids that I’ve had a few years in a row.  It was even more sad to say goodbye to some of the other teachers.  While I won’t be going too far (we aren’t moving or anything), it will be strange to not see their faces everyday anymore.

Here’s a few pics of some of my coworkers and Mark getting ready to read the Bible for Morality class.

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A few of my students gifted me with flowers and donuts from one of my favorite places.  Yum!

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Donuts… mmmmmmmm!

4. The Great Clean-Out of 2014

Since I won’t be going back to my school, I had to clean everything out of my classroom.  I had every intent of diligently going through all of my files and every piece of paper I have in order to make sure I didn’t lose anything of real value or manage to hang on to something that I should toss.  This was not the case.

Literally, I threw every file I have into boxes and said that I would deal with it later.  I opened up a Dropbox account (how have I managed to live without this?) and copied all of my school digital files in there.  I’ve managed to go through a fair number of the digital files, but I haven’t managed to do anything with the paper files.  They are currently sitting in the garage and waiting to be gone through.  We’ll see if I get that done this summer, as I hope to do because NO ONE needs this many boxes of paper.

5. Graduation

Ryan’s sister graduated from college and we are all super proud of her.  She’s going to be moving back one in a week or so, and it will be nice to have another babysitter around, er, I mean, see her more often.  🙂

The graduation ceremony itself was pretty long, but Mark did a great job looking at all the people and assuming that all of the clapping was for him.  I also was pleased to find out that if you feed a one-year-old one Cheerio at a time, they will sit and eat for an hour.  Lovely.

6. The World Cup

Ryan is also a soccer coach, so we’ve been watching lots and lots and lots of soccer.  If you like the World Cup (or just soccer in general) and you haven’t played this little game from the New York Times, you totally should.  It’s pretty fun.

Mark thinking everyone is cheering for him:

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Watching with Dada:

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7. My mom is coming for a visit (!)

This means that I’m cleaning like a crazy person.  One of the curses of having a mom who teaches you how to clean properly and that you should always clean for guests is that you feel obligated to clean for her before she comes.  Obviously, my mom is wonderful and wouldn’t care a lick if the house was in complete disarray.  After all, she and my sister both clean my entire house the day after I gave birth to Mark.  Really, if you’re looking to do something for someone who’s just had a baby beyond the whole casserole thing, clean their house.  It was amazing.

Because I’m cleaning everything, I’ve managed to conveniently mop myself into a corner.  Which, really, is the only reason that I have time to write this post, being as how she lands in less than two hours.  Hooray!  Now, to tip-toe around the wet spots and start on the dusting.

I know I’m a little early on the Quick Takes this week, but when the link is available, you can go over and check out everyone else over at Team Whitaker.