Susan Felch and Gary SchmidtWinter: A Spiritual Biography of the Season
edited by Susan Felch and Gary Schmidt, Woodstock, Vt.: SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2003, 256 pp.

This winter’s frequent cold blasts forcefully reminded Michigan residents of the season’s power.

But for Calvin College professors Susan Felch and Gary Schmidt, winter has not only a physical force but also a spiritual impact. It’s a concept they explore in a new book of essays and poems they edited called Winter: A Spiritual Biography of the Season.

The book, from Skylight Paths Publishing, explores winter’s character—its cold, stark, dark and even deadly character. It also examines what winter does to those who endure it.

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Already in its second printing and featured in such media as the Boston Globe and Vermont Public Radio, the book brings together essays by Jamaica Kincaid, Rachel Carson, John Updike, Henry David Thoreau, E.B. White and a multitude of others on winter’s vicissitudes and joys.

The collection was the idea of Skylight editor John Sweeney, who wanted a seasonal book with a spiritual focus. Schmidt and Felch were happy to take on the challenge.

Their collection includes musings about dead gardens, winter fishing, winter burial, wood-splitting and whether or not a seagull will eat a smelt. Poet Donald Hall ruminates about how winter drives us into hibernation, saying, “We are partly tuber, partly bear.” Annie Dillard stalks a reticent coot along a frozen river. Jim dale Huyot-Vickery mourns over every dead deer he encounters.

Central to all these experiences of nature is the human response they provoke. Felch and Schmidt broke the book into sections that map out a spiritual trajectory for the season. In the section titled “Winter as a Time of Sorrow and Barrenness,” Barry Lopez talks about perlerorneq, the extreme depression suffered by Polar Eskimos during winter darkness. In “Winter as a Time to Be Scoured and to Succor the Scoured,” William Cooper exhorts, “We shou’d be patient under the cold since ’tis God’s cold.” In “Winter as a Time of Shoring Ourselves Up,” John Updike discusses the wardrobe created just to get through the season. And Mark Noll celebrates the snow in which “buttoned, capped and booted, you and I / go dancing, tromping, dancing by” in “Winter as a Time of Delight and Play.”

Felch, who grew up as the daughter of missionaries in Papua, New Guinea, empathized with one offering in particular: Jamaica Kincaid’s admission that she simply doesn’t like the season.

Schmidt and Felch were struck by the generosity of many of the contributors, particularly by Barry Moser’s free gift of illustrations he has used for another book. Some of that generosity, they said, is the outgrowth of the college’s Festival of Faith and Writing, where many of the authors featured in the book have made connections with the Calvin English department.

The two editors spent a year compiling material, drawing on memories of favorite works and favorite authors and searching books, microfiche and even the Internet for inspiration.

Because of the first book’s success, the pair will next collaborate on a book about autumn. They’ve already begun brainstorming.

Song of Saigon by Anh Vu SawyerSong of Saigon: One Woman's Journey to Freedom
by Anh Vu Sawyer '79 and Pam Proctor, New York, N.Y.: Warner Books, 2003, 287 pp.

When a young girl, Anh Vu went to bed at night with bombs exploding around her; she would tell her sister, "If we're hit by a rocket tonight and blown to bits, when we wake up in the morning, we will be in heaven with God.

That was the only comfort Vu had as a child living in war-torn South Vietnam during the 1970s. Vu and her family were among the last Vietnamese evacuated from the roof of the American Embassy during the fall of Saigon.

Women and Twentieth-Century Protestantism edited by Margaret Lamberts Bendroth and Virginia Lieson BreretonWomen and Twentieth-Century Protestantism
edited by Margaret Lamberts Bendroth '74 and Virginia Lieson Brereton, Champaign, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 2002, 350 pp., including index.

Since the early 20th century, women's aspirations have taken a variety of forms in Protestant churches, shaped by such forces as feminism, secularization, social activism and the professionalization of religios work. This collection of essays pulls from a variety of historical contexts to probe the meaning and impact of social change on women in the church.

Jane Kenyon: A Literary LifeJane Kenyon: A Literary Life
by John H. Timmerman ’67, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing, 2002, 246 pp.

It is a testament to the enduring power and beauty of Jane Kenyon’s poetry that many people—even those not particularly interested in poetry—know her work. What forces and influences shaped Kenyon’s work? And what shaped her as a person and a poet? These are the questions John Timmerman seeks to answer in this book.


Where All Hope Lies by James R. Van TholenWhere All Hope Lies: Sermons for the Liturgical Year
by James R. Van Tholen ’87 MDiv’91, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing, 2003, 306 pp.

This book presents 56 sermons preached by James Van Tholen, a gifted young minister who lost his battle with cancer at the age of 36. Through them all there runs a sense of concentrating on what really matters—trusting in God no matter what suffering or difficulties come our way. Where All Hope Lies offers gracious, powerful, uplifting words for believers throughout the church year.