a row of old tattered books

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They say that life doesn’t give you more than you can handle. But sometimes, it seems like everything goes wrong all at once. And sometimes, when that happens, you can’t concentrate on reading or don’t have time to read. That’s where I’m at right now.  I’ve started several books, but haven’t made much headway in any of them. 

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There are a few books that I keep coming back to, though, that I have read before with Jewish themes by Jewish authors:

When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner

As bad things have happened in my life, I keep coming back to this book. Harold Kushner writes about his young son who was diagnosed with progeria, a genetic disorder that causes children to age rapidly. The book explores why bad things happen and Judaism’s beliefs regarding G-d. People often wonder what kind of G-d can seemingly punish good, kind people for unknown reasons. When bad things happen, many of us bargain with G-d, only to break our promises when things get good, only to revisit them when something bad happens.  

The Magic Room by Jeffrey Zaslow

The Magic Room chronicles Michigan’s own Becker’s Bridal and the stories of many of the brides who have shopped and found their wedding dresses there. Zaslow, the husband of local news anchor Sherry Margolis, was killed in a car accident the same week my uncle died in 2012. I felt for Zaslow’s daughters then, and the irony that their father would never get to see his own daughters’ weddings after writing about so many others. And I feel for them even more now that I will get married without my own father.

Courtney’s Legacy by George Cantor

Courtney’s Legacy, written by George Cantor, a former writer for the Jewish News, tells the story of his daughter Courtney and her death after falling from a window in Markley Dormitory at the University of Michigan in 1998. The book is extremely well-written and explores what it means to be a father and a Jew in the face of grief over losing a child. Honestly, I don’t know what it is about this book that has me so enthralled, but I have read it several times. Maybe it’s that Courtney went to U of M, so I feel connected to Ann Arbor and the dorm experience, and that attending five years later, it could have been me. Or maybe I feel that the story of loss is universal and I empathize with Mr. Cantor.

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We all have stories. Some people get to tell their own stories, and for some, their stories get told by other people. I think that is part of what keeps me coming back to these books. Not only do the authors tell their own stories, but they tell other peoples’ stories, as well. And they make me think about my own story and the tapestry of my life, the good and the bad.

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