Friday, July 26, 2013

The God Box

Honestly, I never thought I'd read anything called The God Box.  I won Mary Lou Quinlan's ode to her mother almost a year ago through the Friday Reads Twitter hashtag. When I first started tweeting, I noticed #fridayreads on Fridays (of course). It seemed like a fun way to share what you're reading. Well, one particular week, there was a promotion for people who tweeted their #fridayreads. I tweeted without knowing there was a promotion and won two books. I was very surprised and also not sure if/when I'd read them. I finally decided to read The God Box. I thought about not reading it, since it is not at all the kind I book I would have ever purchased, but the author wrote a note that was sent with the book and... I don't know what convinced me exactly, I finally decided that I should read it.

It was better than I thought it would be. Mary Lou Quinlan mentions her Catholic faith and how very religious her departed mother was.  She talks about it a lot.  Obviously, this was not unexpected as the book is call "The God Box", but I'm usually quite secular in what I choose to read; anything that is too preachy can end up annoying me.  What Mary Lou's mother, also named Mary, does is write little prayers/letters to God and puts it in a box, which she calls her "God Box".  Everyone knows about it.  People apparently loved telling the late Mary all about their lives and troubles; she was a good listener.  She would often tell them that she'll put them in her "God Box."  It was a way for Mary to not be overwhelmed with worry and it gave her faith a boost (or something) by thinking of it as her line to God; through the Box, she felt like he was hearing her prayers.

Quinlin reiterates the process of the God Box a lot.  My mother writes a prayer to God and puts in the box. The first half of the little book is filled with her saying it over and over again.  I almost didn't get past it and had to put the book down.  I didn't put it down though.  I could have read the book in one short sitting, but it took two.  The book is filled with pictures of the little notes and the boxes.  It's also in a sort of magazine style (as the author worked in advertising, this is not surprising.) It definitely gave the book a cute and unique feel.

What interested me and was more prominent in the second half of the book, was the psychological benefit of the God Box.  I'm sure I've read somewhere that if you write your worries down and put them away, like in a box, it relieves the stress on your mind.  As a worrier, this is appealing to me.  There are a lot of recommendations for a "Worry Box" if you search it on the internet.

What I didn't expect was the feminist angle of the book, also found in the second half.  Quinlan writes about how her mother worked and that she always work.  Her mother encouraged Quinlan in her career.  Mary Lou Quinlan became the CEO of an advertising firm.  She founded her own business.  She talks about how her and her mother were strong, independent women.  More than anything else in the little book, I connected to that.  I found by the end I appreciated the blend of faith and feminism that Quinlan had created in the second half of the memoir, so that even if you weren't a Catholic like her and her family (as I am not), you could still related to the story and sentiment of the book.

Just when I thought I was done, Quinlan mentions at the end of the book that there is a God Box app on iTunes.  I downloaded it, just to see what it looks like.  It's done in the colour scheme of the book.  It lets you choose from nine different note papers.  You can mark it as urgent or resolved.  You can look up previous notes.  It's pretty nice, if you want your Box to be an app.  I also noticed a "Worry Box" app for Android (which has nothing to do with Quinlan's book.)  I don't have an Android phone, so I can't really say anything about it, except that it exists.  There are a lot of apps that deal with writing worries down to help relieve you of stress.  I don't think an app is the way to go for me.  I like the idea of using a real box and writing it down on paper.

Writing the letters/prayers on paper is part of the final aspect about The God Box that appealed to me, that it was like a diary.  When Mary Lou Quinlan, her father and brother went through the God Boxes, it was like taking a journey through Mary Finlayson's life.  While the idea of someone reading my diary/journal after I die is a little weird, Mary Lou's family found it brought them peace and they felt closer to the person they had just lost.  I don't think this is something you could achieve by placing your worries in an app.

In the end, I thought the book was cute.  I liked the ideas it provoked, though I found the story itself very sentimental.  I've seen the book marketed as a "keepsake memoir", but I don't plan on keeping it.  I just have to find the right person to give it to, someone who will enjoy it more than me.  I have a couple people in mind, so the next time I see one of them, I'll be bringing The God Box along.

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