Finding Beauty in a Broken World, by Terry Tempest Williams (LentBooks #2)

findingbeautyThis was another random library find to kick off my Lenten reading list.  It’s an odd book.  Personal, and very readable, but the links Williams makes among her subjects are not always apparent, though in the end the pieces do come together.

This collection of essays and reflections begins with the author learning the art of mosaic from Italian mosaicists.  It’s easy to see how mosaic can serve as a metaphor for the process of finding beauty in a world torn apart by chaos and violence: you can’t have a mosaic until things get broken.

From there, she moves to a topic that obviously has great impact for her but whose connection to the mosaic section is less obvious: a long section on the lives, habits, and endangered status of prairie dogs in the American west.  The author’s point here it to demonstate the interconnectedness of species and remind us that even something as small and apparently insignificant as a prairie dog has value and a place in the big picture.  This point came across effectively, but I felt far too many pages were spent on detailed notes taken during the weeks she spent prairie-dog-watching. This was the one section of the book that I skimmed a little, I’ll admit.

After a short section that deals with the death of her brother, Williams then goes on to the most moving part of the book: her time in Rwanda, working with a mosaic artist who went there to help survivors of the genocide build memorials.  The Rwanda passages, the people Williams meets there and the complex emotions the visit stirs up, are vividly rendered.

In the end, these diverse topics — much like pieces in a mosaic — come together to highlight a single theme.  In a world of brokenness, small pieces matter.  Diversity matters. Individual lives — not just human lives, but even the lives of prairie dogs — matter.  And in the end, the author finds a way to make meaning out of brokenness by taking a step to change the life of one individual … which is, perhaps, the most powerful response we can make in the face of overwhelming suffering.

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Filed under LentBooks, Nonfiction -- general

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