Friday, August 3, 2012

In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the life of Muhammad by Tariq Ramadan.

Every once in a blue moon, you will see a happy kid wandering, back and forth, left and right in Kinokuniya. I have to admit, getting a book, especially by Prof Tariq Ramadan is quite a rare chance, from where I came from (Now, now. Where I come from is a question, too for myself, sometimes. Penang? Ipoh? Terengganu?) So you could say I was a happy kid (am, in fact, until today) to pick up one of his books and paid. So sad it took me a year to finish this book, all thanks to procrastination, new books, errands, and so on. Anyhow, back to the core business.

A refreshing reminder from Tariq Ramadan, the biography is timely prescribed and beautifully arranged that it  drove me to flip from page to page.  The book does not only revolve around the Prophet himself, also the sacrifice made by the Companions, and Muslims from the earliest years. How they confronted with pressures and discrepancies from all sorts in expanding the beauty of Islam is something that we all need to learn from. Perseverance and patience are really circumscribed in the book, that it put me to shame (really) knowing that I am not that strong compared to what they have done and faced.   

Knowing that the Prophet (pbuh) we love is a loving man himself,  the last chapter is certainly one of my favorites (ahem). Quoted Ramadan,

" Divine love was free from human dependence.  He submitted, and he was free. He submitted in the peace of the divine, and he was free from the illusions of human." 

reminded of the word 'ikhlas' or sincerity. It's something that is exclusive and lavish, but not impossible to be achieved. Be aware that ikhlas might be a trait that encourages us to do something, but often an excuse of not doing something, well. 

May all of us are protected, and blessed by the Almighty, insyaAllah.  
Recommended :) 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Killing the Cranes by Edward Girardet

For the last few weeks, I've been stocking up books to read for post-finals leisure, one of them a gem of a non-fiction that I spent quite a fortune on. It was worth every penny. Killing the Cranes is Edward Girardet's account of Afghanistan that covers almost three decades of unending war against various enemies. What makes this book unique is that it is not strictly a history book. It is a journalistic work, with the kind of language that you'd expect from an adventure article in the National Geographic, making the read all the more enjoyable.

The book opens with Girardet's scheduled meeting with Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Afghan Mujahideen commander who led a largely effective resistance against the Soviets back in the 80s. In 2001, he was still at war, but this time leading his small army of Afghan youths to stall the onslaught of the Talibans in the Panjshir Valley. The meeting never took place, for Massoud was killed in a suicide attack two days before 9/11. It is such a powerful intro to the book.

Then Girardet goes on to tell the reader what first pulled him to the enigmatic land of Afghanistan, where the people are both hospitable and proud, and foreigners are treated like families if they come in peace. As a fresh graduate in the 70s, he had wanted to report on any Asian country embroiled in conflict, and Afghanistan, with the communist coup d'etat in 1978, looked promising. Armed with a bagpack, sturdy hiking boots and some notebooks, he began a journey that would span almost half of his life. Little did he know then that he was going to join and mingle with a people that would bring communism to its knees.

 In today's world of fast-paced news reporting and conflict coverage, it is fascinating to see glimpses of old-school journalism at work. Girardet adopted the Afghans' lifestyle in his lengthy research for news materials, learned their way of life and even hiked the mountains along with the Mujahideen in their struggle against communism. The book is filled with anecdotal insights into some of the most famous figures in the world now. A particularly memorable one tells of Girardet's accidental meeting with a young Osama bin Laden, with whom Girardet shared the title of 'guests' of Afghanistan.

What I find most appealing about the book is how it captures the romanticism of Afghanistan that is often overlooked amidst stories of war and terrorism, and Girardet does it so well that I found it easy to understand how a European could not seem to leave the war-torn nation for very long. He always came back to the warmth of the soft-spoken men of the valley and the adventure that an unstable country is willing to give. Of course, the cost of war is adequately potrayed, and there are times when reading about the deaths of good people (like the young Afghans, and the charity volunteers) makes me want to put the book down but such times are rare. It's not the main point of the book. What it is, is a personal story of a reporter who fell in love with a nation and seeks to share with the world what Afghanistan has to offer, as seen through his eyes. The even pace of the narration serves that purpose very well, making me feel like I was accompanying the author in his quest to report the beauty and the ugly of the country.

 A nice little story serves as a background to the title of the book, and its metaphorical beauty fills me with a deep sense of melancholy: Girardet was sitting and talking with an Afghan poet and a close friend, Massoud Khalili in 2004, when the latter suddenly paused  and looked at the sky. Khalili commented that he had not seen the crane birds fly as they used to during migration season. In fact he had not spotted a crane since the height of the Soviet-Afghan war. He mused, "Have we even killed the cranes?"

I highly recommend this book to those who seek to understand a little bit better about Afghanistan and the events leading up to the war against global terrorism. It is not a truly academic account of the nation's history but I can promise you that it will teach you more about humanity than a history book ever can.

Visit Girardet's official website to find out more about the books and to read excerpts.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Ethics of Muhammad (pbuh)

This is not a book review, but I thought some people might find it helpful, so here it is.

I have just come back from a public lecture given by Tim Winter in Gonville and Caius College, a lecture on Islamic ethics as personified by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). I went with a non-Muslim friend and as much as I was moved by the lecture, she was visibly more moved. It is her particular reaction to the lecture that made me decide to write a review on it.

Winter started by illuminating on the personality of the Prophet. According to Muslim chronicles, it took 23 years for Muhammad (pbuh) to bring about a nearly complete transformation of the Arab peninsular, from a pagan society of feuding tribes to an ordered monotheist community governed by a single law. This man was no theorist, he did not commit to writing a set of principles or a dogma that his followers can cling to; in fact he could not read nor write. At a time when the Quran was more a verbal guidance than a codified source of law that it is now, people were more attracted by what they witnessed rather than everything else. The Prophet's personality or mannerism (خلق) is very likely to have accounted for the success of the societal transformation of Arabia during that time.

The Prophet claimed that he was sent by God to perfect the human character*.  It is in the perfection of human character that the universal ethics in Islam lie. Winter calls this set of ethics universal because despite liberal democratic values, there are things that people still find to be intrinsically wrong. Winter gave the example of modesty, one of the underpinning value in the Prophet's life. It was reported that the Prophet was more shy than a virgin in a tent (I take that to mean very shy indeed!). The west might be more willing to accept certain immodest behaviours but the notion of modesty itself is not alien to westerners. Even now, public nudity is still illegal in most European countries. The same goes to other Islamic ethics that non-Muslims are able to relate to; perhaps not in the same magnitude as Muslims, but the avenue for understanding is there.

Of course, we as Muslims have a duty to facilitate this understanding, even when at times we are forced to resort to utilitarian explanation of Islam. For example, a non-Muslim who asks about the headscarf may be given the rather secular answer (the society will benefit more if women wear modest attires, etc) and not the real answer, which is that Muslims simply submit to God's order to cover their aurah (عورة). This duty to help understanding lies behind the core duty of spreading the word of God, but it does not do to dismiss the real reason for most of Muslim's behaviours: submission to God's will, the underlying principle within each Muslim's life.

One need not go further to find the essence of Islamic ethics than to be familiar with God's attributes. Winter alludes to the idea of moral excellence by adorning ourselves with divine qualities. The 99 names of Allah help us to identify the characteristics of the perfect being. This does not mean that we are prescribed a duty to be the perfect being. It is in the process of striving to be morally excellent by means of emulating the divine attributes that Islamic ethics can truly be meaningful. And then, there is of course, the example of the Prophet himself, whose character, according to his wife Aishah, is the Quran. 

One of the most important lessons that we can take home is perhaps the alertness to the present in our reflection of the transience of life. Islam pays a lot of attention to the afterlife, and the Prophet himself said that the wisest man is he who thinks of death constantly. By bearing in mind that the future is not certain and that death may come at any time, we can do well by focusing on the present. I personally have found myself inhibited from doing the right thing because I fear the consequences that might entail. The Prophet himself never went to sleep before giving away what little money he had in his possession that day. His absolute trust in God's provision absolves him of fear of the future's uncertainty. Some people say that this is foolhardy; how can you not worry about the future even for a bit? Surely we have to plan for the future? Yes we do, but not at the expense of doing the right thing now. Whenever we feel held back from doing what is right, maybe because it is not financially or socially wise to do so, remind ourselves of what The Prophet said to Abu Bakr, "Do not be sad for Allah is with us. / لا تحزن إنالله معنا "**

There is a lot more discussed in the lecture but I am pressed for time since tomorrow will be a full day for me and there is some work I have to do. I will end the review here and hope that you find it as helpful as my friend and I did. In the mean time, stay well : )

Wallahu a'lam.

* Sahih Muslim, 6017
** The Quran 9:40

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Tuhan Manusia dari Faisal Tehrani

"Semua agama itu tidak sama. Tapi betul, yang semua agama menyeru ke arah kebaikan."

#1 Waktu Tingkatan 2 dahulu, kelas agama yang paling saya suka sebab Ustazah Fatimah rajin bercerita. Tapi, malang sekali, waktu itu segala cerita diserap satu hala. Zaman itu, rasa naif melebihi rasa ingin tahu, jadi segala pertanyaan, "Mengapa, apa, di mana, bagaimana" semuanya ditutup dek diam seribu bahasa. Tau sahaja hujung bulan ada kertas ujian menanti. Barangkali itu sebabnya bila Ustazah cakap ayat di atas, saya semat sahaja baik-baik dalam hati. Tiada soalan.
#2 Satu masa dahulu di zaman undergraduate, dimulakan cerita dengan imbasan kenangan bersama kawan kawan. Mungkin kenangan itu besar impaknya, sebab sampai sekarang saya ingat segala butirnya (Lebih dari cerita ceriti gosip harian yang tak ketahuan benarnya). Dalam perbincangan itu, 'kakak' saya telah mengingatkan kami tentang ayat yang sama. Waktu ini, mungkin saya lebih berani dalam bertanya.

Katakanlah (wahai Muhammad): “Hai orang-orang kafir!“Aku tidak akan menyembah apa yang kamu sembah.Dan kamu tidak mahu menyembah (Allah) yang aku sembah.Dan aku tidak akan beribadat secara kamu beribadat.Dan kamu pula tidak mahu beribadat secara aku beribadat.Bagi kamu ugama kamu, dan bagiku ugamaku. (109: 1-6)
#3 Saasatul Ibaad saya beli pada tahun 2009. Janji pada diri setiap helaian ingin dihabiskan, tapi manusia. "Terlupa apa yang perlu, terlalu banyak alasannya." Mungkin terlalu berat, tak tercapai dek kemampuan saya pada waktu itu. Lalu sahabat saya mencadangkan buku ini, oleh penulis yang sama. Tak pernah ada kesempatan untuk membeli, tahun 2012 menemukan kami.

"Kerana ilmu sangat penting. Ilmu membezakan manusia dan haiwan ternak, membezakan manusia dan malaikat. Hah, kerana ilmulah manusia, mendapat darjat yang lebih istimewa daripada malaikat. Kata 'ilm diulang sebanyak tujuh ratus lima puluh kali dengan berbagai-bagai bentuk dalam al-Quran." (ms 278, para 3)

Berkisar tentang Ali Taqi, seorang adik yang mencari jawapan terhadap satu persoalan yang berat. Berat, bukan sahaja sebab ia menggoncang haluan abangnya, tetapi menggugat segala ummat yang mengambil kisah. Tiada sebarang unsur cinta terlalu idealistik yang menganggu tema utama novel ini, cuma kekuatan kasih antara seorang adik kepada seorang abang, seorang bapa kepada seorang anak, seorang hamba kepada Tuhannya. Dan mungkin kisah Zehra dengan kisahnya yang tidak berbalas, atau Encik Aris dengan ideologinya yang bagi saya, sangat gerun sekali bila membacanya. Mungkin sebab persoalan ini 'baru' bagi saya.

Setiap helaian membuka mata saya. Betul, sebab buku ini sarat dengan segala maklumat dan hujah, saya kagum dengan hasil kajian penulisnya. Terperinci, dan tidak sambil lewa, serta serius dengan penyampaiannya.

Dalam dunia perbincangan sehari-hari, malahan dalam ruang social networking, saya dipertemukan dengan istilah dan sekumpulan manusia yang 'holier-than-thou' ataupun lebih jelas dengan label 'self-righteous'. Selalunya pendekatan yang menghukum itu didahulukan daripada mendidik, just because.

"Sekolah agama kot. Perangai sama je."
"Pakai tudung tapi...."
" Dulu kat sekolah _________ (masukkan perlakuan baik). Sekarang upload video Youtube. Takut aku dengan dia. Aktiviti seni kononnya."

Seolah olah manusia yang lahir dalam background agama, bersekolah agama itu selamanya maksum. Seolah-olah disebabkan satu kekurangan, habis semua kebaikan. Seolah-olah pencuri yang ditidakkan kebenaran tatkala berpesan supaya tidak mencuri, tanpa difikirkan kebenaran pesanannya.

Dalam buku ini, kepentingan dalam hikmah itu ditunjukkan, agar indah itu lebih difahami. Dan penjelasan itu seharusnya berlandaskan sesuatu yang relevan dan diterima fikrahnya. Bukan sekadar free-mind based, terima sahaja segalanya. Tidak bermaksud jika seseorang itu menolak pluralisme, beliau tidak boleh menganjur kebaikan dengan manusia lain yang berbeza agama dan bangsa. Tidak juga bermaksud manusia itu tidak ada batasnya. Agar yang keliru itu tak terus berlalu, yang kabur itu tak terus gelap, yang terus itu tiba tiba berhala.

"Andai kota itu peradaban, rumah kami adalah budaya, dan menurut ibu, tiang serinya adalah agama."

Habis sahaja menyelak buku ini, saya tahu banyak lagi yang saya perlu cari. Mudah-mudahan tidak terbatas di sini sahaja.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Subtle Blessings in the Saintly Lives of Al-Mursi and Abul-Hassan

This review is written by a new friend of the BukuProject's, Aslan Uddin*. Enjoy : )

Many people easily get into the trap of saying “there’s no good men/women out there”, but we should avoid falling into that mode of thinking, because often we attract the type of people that we are ourselves, or think of, like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The “Subtle Blessings” is a book that reminds readers of the blessings that God has bestowed upon humanity by the continued prevalence of excellent people on this Earth, who though rare, nevertheless exist and serve to guide people towards their higher potentials, and in achieving tranquillity in Allah Most High. This is in contrast to most celebrities these days who pull people to their lower selves.

The Prophet described 3 integral parts of Islam, the legal side, the intellectual side, and the spiritual side. The book focuses primarily on the latter (without diminishing the other aspects), since it improves people and makes a person’s Iman (religious conviction) and its sweetness grow. It contains the teachings of two spiritual masters called “Abul Hasan ash-Shadhili” and “Abul Abbas al-Mursi”. Both strove to embody the outward and inward character traits and practices of the Prophet Muhammed (Peace of Allah be upon him), practically reforming the lives of many.  It explains how they went about it in their own lives, and in the lives of others, and how people can adopt such characteristics in their daily lives and make the world a much better place through humility, preference for others, honesty etc.

The book is split to an introduction to the spiritual and intellectual side of Islam, and then the teachings of the shaykhs based upon the Qur’an, Hadiths, sayings, poetry, and explanations of spiritual and religious matters, thus catering to all types of Muslims.
The author, Ibn Ata, a leading legal scholar of his age, at the start had a strongly negative view of them, but when he actually met them, he was blown away, and started keeping their company.  Abbas was instrumental in removing the doubts of Ibn Ata, and helped to increase his certainty in the Divine. With wisdom in relation to solving peoples’ problems, giving sincere advice, giving profound commentaries on the Qur’an, Hadiths (Prophetic sayings) and poetry, the two shaykhs gained large followings amongst both the higher and lower echelons of society.  It goes to show that if one sincerely searches for great people, he will find them to exceed expectations.

Their influence was also extended by the numerous miracles that the author witnessed through those scholars, such as the ability to see into the hearts of people and cure them. These show the benefits of achieving closeness to Allah Most High, the paltriness of attaching ourselves to the lower world, and the need to avoid modern ideologies of scientism and materialism.
 Abbas’ teachings are summarised by his saying: “When I was a young boy, there was a shadow play being put on beside our house, so I went to see it. When I went the next morning to see the teacher at the Qur’anic school, who was a friend of Allah, he uttered the following lines of poetry when he saw me:

“You who behold shadow images in wonderment,
You yourself are the shadow if only you could perceive it!”

At the end of the day, it is to Allah that we turn; so do aim to be of the best people. If we have sincere intentions and take the proper procedures, the experiences and wisdom discussed in this book are not beyond our reach. 

*Aslan is a recent graduate from Warwick University. His curiosity and need for certainty led him into various subjects of study, especially philosophy, science, Sufism and theology. He now works in Cambridge, UK.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Black Book by Orhan Pamuk

Hi everyone. Here's the second and long overdue installment of Pamuk book reviews by a friend of the BukuProject's, Alia Salleh*. (Man, is this blog on fire or what!)

A word of warning: this might not be a balanced review since I had to abandon the book halfway due to a workload and pick it up again between assignments. It is a book that is best enjoyed in one go; perhaps due to its pace and the links between chapters.

The Black Book is a translation by Maureen Freely from the original Turkish by Orhan Pamuk. A simple story of heavy themes that add up to tell the story of Istanbul; his beloved abode. Here we meet Galip - a lawyer - who finds himself tracking down his missing wife, which coincides with the disappearance of his old cousin Celal, a famous columnist. His search brought him all over Istanbul, where he meets various people; discovering his wife’s untold pasts with her previous husband, Galip’s own untold pasts, Celal’s untold stories, and all the while, looking at a different side of Istanbul - the mystical side interwoven with the leftist movement. 

Despite being smitten with Pamuk’s writing, I do not find this work of his something that leaves you awed - perhaps tiring at times, the way something fast-paced never comes to a conclusion, and you forcefully drag yourself along just to meet the inevitable end. The lack of a plot might serve to highlight the deep undercurrents of Istanbul he cleverly present to the readers - mystical sects, alley gangs, urban legends and (as expected) the melancholy; yet I seem to sometimes feel that he’s going too much into it, it feels draining. 

That said, Pamuk’s lyrical writing is as mesmerising as ever - despite the book being a mere translation (Freely did a nice job). He again links the chapters smartly, stringing them in ways you least expect, adding to the book’s mysterious feel. Since Istanbul: Memoirs and The City, I have had a soft spot for his long running sentences that describe almost everything instances after instances, so much so that it leaves you dizzy. In a nice way. 

Dizzying seems like a good word to describe it. The way you are taken into mazes of concepts of dervish sects, the coming of Messiah, the various anecdotes of short tales (that you would be tempted to think about) - either told by the characters or delved in Celal’s columns. It can be confusing, the probable mix of facts and fiction to one who does not know Istanbul. It will require a second read for people like me.

It feels right to share that my two favourite chapters are “We Lost Our Memories in the Movies” and “Can’t You Sleep”. The latter might be due to the fact that I happen to read it while having trouble sleeping. You like to feel that the author is talking to you, and you especially; it leaves one warm.

All in all it is worth a read - and if you feel disheartened by the weight of it try his other books first, maybe My Name is Red to get used to his style. His melancholic writing is still a winner to me.

“The books you read talked of the night’s cruel silence. I know just how cruel silence could be.”

*Alia Salleh is now a management trainee at PNB and just short of being a fully competent cyclist. She now resides in Kuala Lumpur and keeps a Tumblr blog.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Streetcar Named Desire

It's 2 in the morning and by anyone's standard, far too early (or late) for a book review. But I can't seem to sleep so you readers must endure another review up here. Boy, it sure feels strange when this blog is updated regularly, doesn't it? :D

A Streetcar Named Desire is a play written by one of the most famous American playwrights of the 20th century, Tennessee Williams. His other work, The Glass Menagerie, was one of the play options for my A-Level literature several years ago, but Mr Cranwell, my teacher, opted for another play called 'The Rivals'. To this day, I can't remember the reason for the life of me. Anyway, back to A Streetcar Named Desire. Blanche DuBois, a southern American belle used to a life of refined luxury, has just arrived in New Orleans to stay with her sister, Stella, after her family home was lost to a bad mortgage. Blanche, who shows signs of mental instability, almost immediately got on the wrong side of Stella's 'common' and rough husband, Stanley Kowalski, and the play follows their conflicting personalities and the tragedy that it leads up to. 

 This play strikes me as an emotionally violent piece of work, with characters moulded to demand raw performances from the actors. Even before watching the famous 1951 film adaptation starring Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh, the written play's strong language shocks me at times and lends the play an even more shocking tone overall, considering the nature of the two main characters. Blanche is suggested to be quick with verbal replies, something that she utilizes frequently in reasserting her superior upbringing, much to Stanley's chagrin. Stanley, a rough working class man that represents the new generation of New Orleans of 1940s, is forever annoyed by Blanche's efforts to disrupt the power dynamics of the Kowalski household. The climax of the play, which I will not reveal, can be seen as a metaphore of an accumulation of antagonism between two different lifestyles post WW2.

Leigh as Blanche and Brando as Stanley in the film adaptation (1951)

This play reminds me of Shakespeare's King Lear, in that my sympathies are evoked for different characters at different times all through the play. Despite the brutish manners of Stanley's, I cannot help but feel sorry for his desperate cries to keep Stella by his side after beating her up in a drunken stupor, something that the feminist in me can never tolerate. Toward the end of the play, I found myself rooting for Blanche instead, as I see her struggle to keep her sanity in a harsh world, surrounded by 'deliberate cruelty'. And then, of course, there are Stella and Mitch, the two side characters who are trapped in Stanley and Blanche's power play. In the end, I cannot really make up my mind as to whose side it is that I am meant to be on. Perhaps no one and everyone. 

I would recommend this to fellow theater freaks who are interested in the study of human characters. Casual readers might find this play a bit too theatrical in its writing, in which I case I would suggest watching the film instead, as it is very faithful to Williams' play, although the director chose to write a different ending. Besides, plays are meant to be watched, not read. And when you have a young Brando in the lead, you can't really say no to that, can you? ; )

8 stars out of 10.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Flowers for Algernon

"If your smart you can have lots of frends to talk to and you never get lonley by yourself all the time." - Charlie

I came across this marvelous gem of a book in my college library and, intrigued by the subject matter, I decided to borrow it and took it home with me. And that was perhaps the best decision I had made that day. Daniel Keyes' tale of human efforts to change nature is a very poignant one, even more so than Wells' Island of Dr Moreau, in my opinion. It's a science fiction, one of my favourite genre, so I may be a little biased.

The eponymous Algernon is a lab rat that has undergone an experiment to enhance its intelligence by artificial means, ie. surgery, instead of intellectual training. The experiment proved to be a success, and Algernon begins to show signs of increased intelligence. The scientists then decided to extrapolate the success to human subject and Charlie, an adult with a very low IQ of 68, is selected to undergo the surgery. The book deals with Charlie's experience before the surgery, after it, and what he goes through when the effects of the surgery begin to diminish and he regresses back to the way he was before the surgery.

The reader is allowed access to Charlie's innermost thoughts and feelings by compiling Charlie's progress reports for the duration of the experiment. When the story starts, Charlie's writing is unmistakably flawed, like the writing of a six-year-old. What I was most amazed by when I read this book is how I could gradually sense Charlie's transformation from an innocent simpleton to this complicated man with above-average IQ, and subsequently to a cruel and depressed person who is often troubled by too much thinking. It's a powerful narration of a person's descent to complete unhappiness, and by the time I was almost through with the book, I couldn't help but to feel a little afraid of extraordinary cleverness (which does not help when you're a final year student in college).

Charlie's story is powerful, one that forces me to think about what it means to be comfortable in our own skin. In this modern world, I get the feeling that we as a generation have conceived for ourselves this skewed definition of justice and fairness. Now, when we think of fairness, we tend think of equal portions for everyone. When a person is born with less, we are quick to say that it is unfair. I've done that before. When I looked at a physically-handicapped, I couldn't help but to feel sorry, because I felt that he was unfairly born with that handicap.

But Flowers for Algernon makes me rethink that notion. Surely, in a universe as complex as ours, there is a balance in creation, a balance so well-crafted that it is beyond our grasp, most of the time. What one person lacks in one field he has in abundance in another. Charlie, when he was a simpleton, was happy, and that, in itself is a blessing that many intelligent people are cursed without. And yet, the society we live in, with its idolatry of material gains and conquests, would have us believe that there are things more important than internal calm and peace, when in fact those things are but means to what we all unknowingly strive for, happiness. And it's wonderful that sometimes, it takes a fiction to teach us all about what it means to be happy in our own skin.

Highly recommended. Happy new year everyone : )