A selection for my book group, Finding Beauty in a Broken World is hard to categorize. Non-fiction, certainly, but what–art and ethics, perhaps? The book feels like a long meditation, in the true sense of the word, not just the book-blurb sense of the word. It’s split into three main sections, one on mosaic making in Italy, one on prairie dogs communities in the west, and the final on post-genocide Rwanda. Based on her description of Rwanda, I hesitated about whether to put “post” in quotes. The three seemingly and actually disparate topics are tied together because of their broken nature, and the enduring suffering of the endangered and hunted prairie dogs, and the surviving Rwandans. Into the interstices, Williams weaves anecdotes of her family, particularly the death of her brother. This is a profoundly moving book on topics I’d likely not read about on my own, and one in which the author, and by extension the reader, to confront ugly truths about humans and our relation to each other and to earth.
It reminded me of the term Tikkun Olam, a Hebrew phrase that means repairing the world. There are myriad understandings and interpretations, but the most common is that the world is broken, and by performing mitzvot, acts of social justice, we can bring the world closer to unity. One interpretation of the glass-stomping ritual during the Jewish wedding ceremony is that the glass symbolizes the broken world, and the marriage the possibility of union and wholeness in the face of that.
A deceptively quick book to read with a subject that demands pause and reflection, provocative in the best meaning of the word.