Mar 28, 2016

Memoir March: A Collaboreads link-up

Today, I am joining bloggers and #Collaboreads co-hosts Rachel and Amber for another month of this fun, little bibliophile link-up that is #Collaboreads! Click HERE for this month's link-ups! Basically, bloggers read a book of the same genre, review the book using R.E.A.D.S acronym (see below), and link-up to find other books to check out. It is so much fun!

This month's reading challenge was to read and review a memoir. I read two memoirs that were vastly different from each other but I enjoyed both very much, so I wanted to share them both! One was a heroic tale of a Christian missionary who was imprisoned by Japanese in the jungles of New Guinea during WWII and the other is a delightful and entertaining tale of a married couple who start a new life as owners of a used bookstore in a small town.


The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap 
(Wendy Welsh)

The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap is a memoir about the first five years that Wendy and her husband run a used book store in a small Appalachian coal-mining town in Virginia named Big Stone Gap. The bookstore is a hub in the community and offers lots of events and community opportunities in addition to the thousands upon thousands of used books for sale. Wendy chronicles hilarious stories as well as sharing some vulnerable moments in the first year of business when they were not sure the used bookstore would survive it's first anniversary. 

Riveting: What part of the book could you NOT get enough of?

I loved Wendy's witty, hilarious, and quirky writing style. It was a delightful read and easy to follow along because of how well she wrote. You'd think reading a memoir all about running a used bookstore would end up being boring, but it actually was a fun ride, from start to finish! My favorite part was the first 1/3 of the book that focused on the infancy years of the bookstore 

Elements: How did you relate to/care for the characters? 

Wendy and her husband Jack are relatable because they are down-to-earth, honest about what they stubble with or what they're just not any good at (Wendy says she is a horrible house cleaner, for example), and their love for community/ bringing people together.

Associate: What other books are like this one? 

Since the book was about booksellers, it faintly reminded me of The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, which is a novel about a man who describes himself as an apothecary (pharmacist) for book readers. 

Design: What did you think of it? 

The cover design is pretty simple, though I kept finding different tiny details on the cover that made more sense as I read the book. For example, the cat on the roof of the house is cute because Wendy has a few cats who are integral "staff" of the bookstore. 

Stars: How many out of five do you give this book? Would you recommend this book to a friend?

5 out of 5 stars! 


Evidence Not Seen: A Woman's Miraculous
Faith in the Jungles of World War II 
(Darlene Deibler Rose)

Darlene was a newlywed when she embarked on her first missionary trip overseas with her seasoned husband, Russell Deibler. She was the first American woman to enter the Baliem Valley of New Guinea where she and Russell shared about Jesus. Within 3 years, WWII changed everything. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Japanese took control of the South Pacific islands and took prisoners of war, including Christian missionaries. Darlene spent four heart-wrenching years seeing brutality, severe malnutrition, and other atrocities in a prison camp deep in the jungle. Her faith, courage, strength, resilience, and trust in the Lord carried her through these horrific circumstances.

Riveting: What part of the book could you NOT get enough of?

Darlene's faith in God even during seemingly unsurmountable trials and painful suffering  is inspiring and an amazing picture of a woman after God's heart. Likewise, the miraculous ways God intervened in her life during her eight years in New Guinea (four of which were in a notorious Japanese prison camp) bolstered my faith in God's sovereignty and unfailing love even in suffering. 

Elements: How did you relate to/care for the characters? 

I was struck by how courageous Darlene was and how she became a sort of leader for the other women in the POW prison camp. The women depended on her in many ways including spiritual encouragement (through her prayers and reminding them of Biblical truths and God's love for them despite their atrocious circumstances), physical needs (she often was the peacekeeper and middle person between the prisoners and the Japanese leaders of the camps, who also respected her), and emotional needs (she always had a listening ear). 

I cannot say I relate to her in these ways, because I find myself lacking in many ways. But I can say I have deep respect for her and would like to develop more of these things. 

Associate: What other books are like this one?
This book reminded me of other remarkable autobiographies and biographies about Christian women and men who were imprisoned and continued to have faith in God amidst the most horrible experiences and circumstances. These books have challenged and encouraged me in similar ways that Evidence Not Seen did:  Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand, The Pastor's Wife by Sabina Wurmbrand (Richard's wife), If I Perish by Esther Ahn Kim, and (my all-time favorite) The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

Design: What did you think of it? 

The cover is simple with a black-and-white photo of Darlene, who is absolutely beautiful. 

Stars: How many out of five do you give this book? Would you recommend this book to a friend?

5 out of 5 stars! This book is pure gold and I recommend it wholeheartedly.


  1. Both books look fascinating! Thanks for sharing!

  2. The first memoir had me at "run a used bookstore." Be still, my bookworm heart! :)

  3. ok, you just stole two of the things that i can't stay away from right now:

    1. books about books. love love love. (have you read mr. penumbra's 24 hour bookstore? RECOMMEND)
    2. WWII. i'm KNEE deep in a whole lot of WWII fiction and i find myself so very fascinated by all of it. maybe it's time to jump over into WWII memoir and biography to make my reading better rounded! :)


I love to hear your thoughts!

Elle Alice