1. God's Echo, by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, is a lovely and profound little book all about the ancient practice of interpreting scripture with midrash. Sasso shows us some of the rabbi's stories about some of the most famous stories in the Bible, interspersed with more contemporary stories, and some examples of how she has used midrash in her own life and in her congregation.
One of the stories in this book is the story of the binding of Isaac, and is called "What if the angels should come too late?" She writes:
Abraham Joshua Heschel, the renowned twentieth-century philosopher and rabbi, remembered being taught the story of Isaac's binding when he was a child. Upon hearing the angel tell Abraham not to lay a hand upon Isaac, Heschel began to weep. despite his teacher's reassurance that Isaac was saved, the young Heschel was not consoled. He asked, "But rabbi, supposing the angel had come a secon too late?" The rabbi explained that an angel can never come late. But Heschel concluded, "An angel cannot be late, but man, made of flesh and blood, may be."
She concludes the chapter with a meditation on the difference between wishing and hoping: "Wishing leaves the work up to someone else; it is passive; it asks nothing of us. Hoping demands that we make a commitment to work toward whateer it is we hope for." (p. 93).
2. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate Dicamillo, is an adventure story about a proud and hard-hearted china rabbit (Edward) who is thrown overboard during a sea voyage, and is found and loved by many people: an old woman and her husband, a hobo and his dog, a little boy and his sick sister. It's an exciting adventure story for children; but it has enough depth to please many adults. And of course, I couldn't help noticing the baptismal imagery involved in Edward's involuntary drowning.
3. A Three Dog Life, a memoir by Abigail Thomas. This is not a dog book, although it has dogs in it. It's a book by a woman whose husband was hit by a car and suffered a traumatic brain injury, about how she lived learned to live with this new reality, trying bring him home to live, visiting him in the nursing home, and dealing with his loss of memory and ability. She's a wonderful writer. One section of the book tells about how she became fascinated with "outsider art", which is art drawn by prisoners, patients, the mentally ill, illiterate: generally anyone not considered an "artist" by the arts community.
From the book: "...I was never consumed with a passion for any one thing until two years after my husband's accident when I walked through the halls of the Northeast Center for the first time and saw all those amazing painting. The art was made by the residents of the facility, and one painting in particular knocked me out. It was red houses and blue sky and orange hills and green grass and white clouds. In the upper right-hand corner, a yellow sun with a smiley face. I used to stand in front of this painting before I went upstairs to see my husband and then again before I went home because it cheered me up. After a couple of weeks I got up the nerve to ask if the artwork was for sale, and if so, could I please buy the painting above the drinking fountain." pp 141-42.
Again, full credit to Besomami for this idea.