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Practice by Practice

See my interview with Kathleen Gibson on my blog for November 11.

Practice by Practice is one of the best inspirational books I’ve read in a very long time. The subtitle is “the art of everyday faith,” and it lives up to that designation. Readings are titled appropriately (here are a few examples):

“Keep Your Life Debts Short”

“Shine On, No Matter the Weather”

“Stake Your Reputation on Love”

“Help Someone Find Their Song”

“Practice Hospitality (Avoid Homicide)”

Here’s a quote from that last one: “Practicing hospitality is tiring. It punches holes in one’s privacy. It messes with one’s schedule…But ignoring hospitality’s responsibilities robs us of hospitality’s rewards” page 49.

Besides the beauty of the book itself—a hardcover attractively bound and covered in Canada by Word Alive Press—Practice by Practice is a treasury of observation and encouragement, a gift to the reader. I rationed the readings to stretch the experience over a longer period of time. This is truly a gem of a book, a collection of snapshots of life that focus on faith.

Each of author Kathleen Gibson’s wise and often witty anecdotes touched my heart. Some made me laugh out loud, others made me stop and think about what I believe and how I live, others made me weep with realization or compassion or fresh commitment. See what you think:

“…make a practice of never criticizing a mourner—at least, not till you’ve cried with him beside an open coffin” page 31.

“…the image of God never goes into hiding, even in people who have little time for him” page 43.

Gibson’s giftedness as a writer is obvious in quotes such as the following:

“Prairie farm fields in winter shades were spread tidily below like a grandmother’s guest room coverlet, waiting to be turned back by the warm hand of visiting spring” page 57.

“…the sun had finished its evening painting and slipped between the covers of horizon and cloud” page 102.

Her wit is apparent in many quotes, but here’s my favourite example:

“I am a numeric paranoiac: I hate numbers in any form—avoid them like dieters avoid all foods creamy, sweet, or slippery” page 143.

I love the way Gibson describes herself as a “rich little poor girl” (page 164), in the section titled “Cultivate the Truest Riches.”

The author’s unique perspective on life shows through:

“…above the clammy, heaving cloud waits blue and gold, so blue and gold that the looking is difficult. And that should not be surprising, because therein can be found the face of God” page 58.

“…that even if I never publish another article, I’m no less important in the grand scheme of life than the latest multiple bestselling author…because within us resides the image of a God who loves us, not matter who rejects us” page 93.

“Coincidence? There is no such word in God’s dictionary. Only perfect, divine timing” page 151.

I recommend this little book to anyone who longs to draw closer to Christ in everyday faith. And remember, in Kathleen’s words, “No amount of practicing can initiate salvation … protection … love. Those things come to us not because we deserve them but because God is in the business of flagrant outrageous grace” page 168.

Check out Kathleen’s website at http://kathleengibson.ca

Kathleen Gibson

Kathleen Gibson

Secrets-and-Lies-web-258x400When Carol Daniels can’t sleep at night, which is often, she tunes in to her favorite oldies station to request songs and talk off-air with deejay, Joey Hill. Carol has reasons for insomnia. Her estranged brother is in prison for multiple brutal murders, and his former associates think Carol knows where he hid his stash of takings.

Carol and her sixteen year-old son, Paul, have recently moved from Calgary to Toronto in an attempt to stay ahead of the thugs. She works at the Sticky Fingers Café, waitressing and baking delectable desserts for customers, trying to create a normal life for her son. However, Paul defies her wishes and clings to his dream of becoming a musician, just like his deadbeat father, Carol’s ex. She’s afraid he’ll end up involved in drugs like her other son Keith, who died of an overdose two years ago.

Joey Hill offers Carol encouragement and hope from a Christian worldview, but when Carol finds out about his past drug connections, she decides she can’t trust him either. Can she trust a frequent customer, Patrick Stairs, who seems to like her? She needs someone to talk to besides the police investigators. Considering the state of affairs in her life, Carol wonders if there can be any good outcome for her and Paul.

Tension and conflict place high in this tightly woven suspense novel. Author Janet Sketchley is a top-notch plotter. Many questions arise at the beginning of the story that are gradually revealed, creating an intensity that holds the reader, and Sketchley knows how to draw them out for greatest effect.

All the characters in this book are distinct and have a purpose for their existence. They deal with anxiety, false conclusions and fears while facing frightening and dangerous situations. Motivated by their circumstances, the characters are ordinary people facing extraordinary trials, fighting seemingly insurmountable odds. Lead character Carol clings tenuously to her faith, grown thin with worry and trouble and unanswered pleas for resolution.

As well as great plotting and character development, Sketchley uses “place” to enhance the mood to the story.

The character Carol Daniels in Secrets & Lies is the connection to Sketchley’s previous book, Heaven’s Prey, the story of Carol’s brother. A great connection but a whole new story. I recommend both books to all readers who love clean suspense fiction.

Author Janet Sketchley

Author Janet Sketchley

CONSIDER THE SUNFLOWERS FRONT COVER 22-SEP-2014_72dpiTina Janz, her father, Obrom, and Roland Fast, the man Tina’s father wants her to marry, are caught in a Saskatchewan blizzard. My senses are so piqued as I jump into the first scene of the story that I shiver in the biting wind, the pelting snow, fearful of the disappearing fence posts that are supposed to lead these people to safety. An apt beginning to a book about troubled relationships and, ironically, hope.

Tina does not want to marry “rich, boring Roland Fast,” because she is in love with dark, handsome Frank Warkentin, a half-Mennonite, half-Gypsy much maligned in the Mennonite community of Dayspring, Municipality of Coyote, Saskatchewan in 1940. Tina’s parents only want the best for her, but she has a mind of her own. She’s sure that if she can marry Frank, he will fulfill her purpose in life.

Frank is attracted to Tina partly because she is proper, something he secretly aspires to be. Haunted by his mother’s desertion in childhood, he reacts with distrust and anger to the meanness of those around him. This burden proves a considerable obstacle to his happiness and the achievement of his inner goals, both in his own life and in his marriage.

Consider the Sunflowers involves many intricate relationships including love triangles, childhood abandonment, societal insecurities, spiritual hypocrisy, peer friendships, to highlight a few. Characters are realistic, portrayed with both strengths and weaknesses, acting/reacting in plausible ways. Settings mirror the dreary isolation Tina feels on the treeless prairie of southern Saskatchewan, yet also offer a hint of hope for something better ahead. The book is hard to put down, with tension-filled chapter endings and well-crafted flashbacks, as well as a tightly wound plot.

Elma Schemenauer, seasoned author and editor of more than seventy books, enriches this difficult story with figurative language apropos of the farming community of the 1940s: “Sunlight was spilling across the snowdrifts like broken egg yolks,” and “more wide awake than a pig the day before a sausagemaking festival.” The people of Dayspring still remember much of their homeland in Russia before immigrating to Canada, and “Hitler’s War” is constantly in the news. Consequently, the Mennonites are suspicious of outsiders and remain resistant to infiltration by “English” people.

Schemenauer has included an impressive, comprehensive Mennonite timeline at the end of the story as well as a study guide for readers. An excellent work worthy of recommendation.

Paperback 299 pages $19.95, ISBN 978-0-88887-575-4, AVAILABLE FROM THE PUBLISHER, Borealis Press http://tinyurl.com/lfdo9pf . Also available online at Chapters Indigo http://tinyurl.com/nsylp5j by about November 15. E-book coming in 2015. For more information, please visit http://elmams.wix.com/sflwrs

Elma Schemenauer

Elma Schemenauer

Summer has come and gone here on the prairies. As we look toward another winter (note, I did not say “look forward to”), let’s get acquainted with another great writer whose words may bless those chilly days ahead. Welcome to Kathleen Gibson, who writes from East-central Saskatchewan, Canada.

Kathleen Gibson

Kathleen Gibson

Janice: Kathleen, when did you discover a love for writing and what did you do about it?

KATHLEEN: As a child I lived in my own world of stories. When I learned how to print and connected letters with words, I carried a pen and scribbled constantly. I had a patch of blue hair from absent-mindedly twirling my pen in my hair as I pondered.

Janice: I love it! What inspired you then and what inspires you now?

KATHLEEN: I didn’t start writing seriously until I’d finished home educating my children, in the nineties. God had been blowing me in that direction for years with smaller writing projects, but I resisted until the day he made it very clear I needed to act NOW or never.

Above that: Strong opinions. Compelling true stories. An urgency to share my faith. Deep feelings. Deadlines. Especially those.

Janice: Tell us what you write and why?

KATHLEEN: I’ve written a few fiction stories for fun, but my published work is non-fiction: articles, newspaper columns, essays and radio spots. Mostly first-person and mostly inspirational, over a thousand articles and broadcasts since I began taking my writing seriously in the late nineties. I’ve also published two books.

Why do I write? Because I love the craft – at times more than others! Because I know God-inspired words make a difference in this old world. And mostly because God hasn’t made it clear that it’s time to stop yet.

Janice: How do you write?

KATHLEEN: I use computer – can’t write by hand anymore – my fingers tighten so much on the pen that it eventually goes flipping across the room. Whenever possible, I sit at a desk. A scenic view inspires me. My office has a set of garden doors leading out to the backyard deck, with trees beyond. In optimal weather, I write in a shed in the backyard. A really tiny shed. Red.

I don’t outline, generally. I’ve tried, but it chokes me. At first I swing from sentence to sentence, like a monkey in the trees. Then I edit stringently, a skill I learned best during five or six years of writing regular articles for Reader’s Digest, then further developed during a short stint as a magazine editor.

I’m a slow writer. A 500 word column, publication ready, often takes an entire day after multiple edits. When I’m working on a project, I tend to write till I’m done – day and night. I eat poorly then, grabbing something random (and generally unhealthy) when I feel faint.

Janice: In the zone! Where do your ideas come from?

KATHLEEN: My inspirational writing finds its most solid ideas from my own habit of journaling. For years I taught journaling workshops. I need to go back and take my own workshop, because in the last few years I’ve paid less attention to that habit. Writing is harder without journals. But I also write about others. I love it when, every so often, God lets a story (such as this one) walk into my life. Those almost write themselves.

Janice: Do you write full time or is it a hobby?

KATHLEEN: When my husband, Rick, became disabled a number of years ago, I left an almost decade of full-time freelancing, for the need of a more reliable paycheque. God has graciously provided several writing-related jobs as a magazine editor and my current job as Constituency Assistant to a Member of Parliament, where much of my work involves writing and communicating. I’ve put several books on hold, perhaps indefinitely, but I keep up Sunny Side Up, my weekly inspirational newspaper column, published in several Western newspapers, and a spin-off from that called Simple Words, short radio spots that air on both analog and internet radio stations in many countries.

Janice: How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

KATHLEEN: I use online sources primarily, and if called for, make direct contact with people connected to my topic. As necessary, I cross-research with other sources. I like Mr. Google.

Janice: Do you edit your own copy or do you hire someone to do it?

KATHLEEN: I’ve never hired an editor. I’ve been fortunate to work with excellent house editors at the print publications I’ve worked with and for. My newspaper columns and radio broadcasts are published as written, though a few times I’ve wished they weren’t.

Janice: What do you like most / least about the writing craft and the writing life?

KATHLEEN: What I like the most? Having written. Knowing that my words have honoured God and blessed someone. That I’m leaving a lasting legacy of faith to my family, and that writing keeps my brain working.

What I like the least? Paradoxically, the hours that writing takes me away from my family. I also don’t like it that writing contributes to health problems when one spends as many hours as I do at a computer – often with incorrect posture. Sitting is the new smoking, they say now. I’m a pack a day, in that case. Most writers are. I also don’t enjoy marketing books.

Janice: You’re in good company there. We all have family, friends and lives outside our writing, as well as crises on various levels. How do you balance your personal life with your writing?

KATHLEEN: After writing full-time from home for many years, a mosquito turned our lives inside out. When my husband first fell ill with West Nile Neurological Disease, some things got really easy really fast – at first. Everything spun off my plate except what mattered most: my role of supporting him through six months of hospitalization. All I could do was sit beside his bedside or wheelchair and help where I could – which didn’t feel like much. Some women, in circumstances like that, knit. I write. Columns, letters, updates. That writing later became my book, West Nile Diary; One Couple’s Triumph over a Deadly Disease.

After we returned home, life got far more demanding as I took on extra things my husband could no longer do. These days, my time is divided between family (five young grandchildren on the next street over), my job, and keeping up my ongoing writing deadlines. I quit everything about once a month – in my head. It’s a little crazy, and rarely balanced, but I’m still upright.

Janice: Would you tell us a bit about your life? What makes you unique? What are some of your favorite things to do?

KATHLEEN: I’m as ordinary as a potato, I think. Some of my favourite things to do, in no particular order: scoot-walking or scoot-biking with my husband (He drives his mobility scooter while I walk or bike alongside.) Engaging in deep conversations about faith and life. Playing with children and pets. Viewing nature close-up, if possible. Talking to my elderly parents on the phone. Photography and crafts. Home decorating. (Translated: shoving the furniture around – again.) Building small inuksuit. Playing the harmonica. Going to bed. Reading, of course.

Janice: Not all readers are writers, but all writers must be readers. What do you read? Do you prefer print or digital?

KATHLEEN: As soon as I learned to read, I formed a habit of reading in bed – after a half-century it’s pretty cemented. Most days I wake up between five and six and read for an hour before getting up. I do the same before bed, in reverse order. These days that’s about the only time I read simply for my own interest. Oh, no it’s not – we also stock our washroom with reading material. (Redeeming the time, and all that.)

The Bible is my most frequently read book – I read it through at least yearly and supplement it with online study resources (such as those at www.BibleGateway.com).

I also read news online, using my tablet, which works perfectly for reading in bed. Then I read articles and blogs that bring a faith perspective to world news, issues and culture.

My Kindle is packed with mostly non-fiction – biographies, memoirs, and inspirational/motivational books. I read some blogs; none regularly enough to mention – except HOUZZ. I’m working at paring down my hard-copy books to a few hundred. Kindle is easiest, but hard copy is most reassuring to the insides of me, so I use both.

I love a great story, too, but I’m picky with my fiction choices and choose works that will teach me something. I hated history in school and books like yours, Jan, educate me delightfully. Books like The Dovekeepers, The Midwife of Venice and A Fine Balance have taught me segments of horrifying but fascinating history. At the opposite end of the spectrum, I love Jan Karon’s more sedate but delightful (and insightful) Mitford series.

Janice: Are you on many Social Media sites and which ones do you find the most effective?

KATHLEEN: I’m not very sociable or savvy online. I have accounts on Facebook, Linked In and Twitter, and haven’t figured out why, since I feel equally ineffective on all of them. I post my weekly newspaper columns to all of those using a widget – name forgotten. (See?) I rarely go to those sites to check things out. I enjoy using Facebook (in spurts) to connect with people. I really enjoy personal correspondence, and answer most messages, when I remember to check them.

Janice: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

KATHLEEN: I taught piano for years. I always began the beginners the same way – teaching the basics. Notes, finger position, timing. No matter how much music those little kids and beginning adults had inside them, itching to get out, they had to learn the rudiments.

Everyone wants to perform well, but few want to do the practicing it takes to get there. I strongly advise new writers to pay their dues. Be dedicated to the craft. Write daily. Find your voice. Learn the rules of strong writing. (Further down the road you’ll understand how to break them effectively!) Take courses that require you to submit your writing to a teacher for critique. (I suggest the Christian Writers Guild.)

Hang around people – physically or online or through books – who are better writers than you are. Read their work. Ask questions. Read not simply for enjoyment but for analysis: why is this good (or not good)? What makes this work effective (or ineffective)? Never stop exploring the wonder of great writing and superior presentation.

Beyond some basics of good writing, each genre has unique tools. I suggest that new writers discover the passion God has put in their heart, then develop their writing tool kit for the genre that best communicates it. Most of us write best the type of material that we read most. Trying to write in too many genres at once can weaken one’s writing. Better to be a great writer in only one genre, than a passable writer in several. Writing is a craft, and all crafts must be practiced before they’re performed.

Most writers dream of being free to write full-time, but few are able to make a living wage through writing alone. I freelanced for secular magazines and radio for years, earning from zero cents or mere pennies an article or column to several thousand dollars per article. Even with that, I wouldn’t have had enough to live on. When my husband became disabled, God provided solid work in the writing field, and a regular paycheque. Today I continue working on my own projects outside my work hours and at my own pace. I don’t worry about making a living income or trying to get 2,000 Likes on Facebook, or keeping up a “writer image.” That’s freeing in a different way.

I’d also tell them to enjoy the honeymoon – those first publication credits, the first few book launches, interviews and signings. These highs you’ll remember all your life. But don’t expect the honeymoon to last forever. The real work begins after.

Janice: What keeps you going as a writer and what part does faith play in your writing career?

KATHLEEN: These days, I don’t write for love of the craft as much as to meet my deadlines. But I also write from a sense of responsibility to my calling and my readers. I have a deep desire to connect faith to everyday life, and help others find that connection.

My faith and my writing are inseparable. Not all my writing presents the gospel or quotes Bible verses, but whether I’m writing for a Christian or secular publication, each word comes from a foundation of faith – the well in which I dip my pen.

Janice: I wish you well in your writing and in your personal life, Kathleen. Thanks so much for taking time to share your life with my blog readers and with me.

KATHLEEN: Thanks for this opportunity, Janice. Same to you!

BIO:

Writer, speaker, and broadcaster, Kathleen Gibson’s passions for faith, home, family, and creation are evident in her work. She is the author of two books, West Nile Diary and Practice by Practice, the Art of Everyday Faith. Kathleen’s articles have found homes in media outlets from local to global. Both Sunny Side Up, her weekly faith and life newspaper column, and her daily radio spot, Simple Words, explore the connection between everyday life and Christian faith.

Kathleen and her husband Rick, live in Saskatchewan with a very cold parrot and a spicy cat. Visit her at her website, kathleengibson.ca, or via Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

Connect with Kathleen via email or Facebook

 

A Life Perspective

praying_on_bible_red
A couple of weeks ago our community celebrated the life of an amazing woman. I’ll call her Molly. We knew each other mostly through the friendship of our daughters.

Molly came here from the Philippines some thirty years ago, on her own, to find a job and a home. Two years later the love of her life followed and they were married and eventually blessed with four daughters.

Molly and her husband both had successful careers, but you’d never notice it in their clothes or their home. They kept enough to live on and sent the rest back to their homeland to support their extended family, and to establish organizations for the needy. After Molly and her husband retired, they spent six months of every year in the land of their birth working with the institutions and missions that had become so important to them.

Then, quite suddenly, Molly was called to her heavenly reward. We rejoice with her but also mourn with the family and friends left behind. It’s one of the inevitable emotional rollercoasters of life.

What impressed me most about Molly’s life was her selfless generosity. She didn’t hoard finances for herself or her home. She didn’t look for praise. She just did what God asked of her. I believe Molly had a balanced perspective on life. She realized that life wasn’t about her, but about what God had for her to do. She had the wisdom to know that any wealth she and her husband had attained did not belong to them anyway. It was a gift from God to be used where it was needed.

I pray that we, in our society where everything is available, may recognize the difference between what we need and what we want. To learn, as did Molly, as the apostle Paul did, to be content in whatever situation we find ourselves. To practice generosity in our daily lives in order to bless others as well as to obey God. And to recognize the brevity of life and that what we need to do should be done now.

Thanks for your example, Molly.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain” I Timothy 6:6.

 

The End

Satisfaction Guaranteed!

That’s our motto. We want to make sure that once we’ve shared with our readers the journey our characters have taken, we also grant them a satisfying ending. It doesn’t matter how great the story is, it must leave us content on some level by the time we turn the final page.

I’m not saying our stories must have happy endings or that our protagonist’s hopes and dreams must all come true. Far from it. But, whatever questions we have thrown out there must be addressed, and all the loose ends tied up.

question mark

 

 

Story Questions

The question we need to keep uppermost in our minds, the one that drives the story, is: what does the protagonist want and does he/she get it?

There are several optional endings for a story, which we will discuss in a few paragraphs.

Whatever happens in terms of the protagonist’s goal and story question, the reader must be left with the feeling that it was addressed and dealt with, no matter what the outcome.

It’s a good idea to keep notes of all the questions / scenarios we’ve have raised and make sure we speak to each one.

We should attempt to tie the end back to the beginning in some way. If we can bring our opening scenario back to the reader’s mind at the end, it makes our story more connected, more holistic.

Character Arcs

One of our top responsibilities as authors is to create character arcs for the individuals who inhabit our stories. These characters must change over the course of the tale, whether positively or negatively, vastly or slightly. Again, it’s best to keep careful track of the character arcs, at least those of the main characters. This will help direct us to a satisfying ending.

If we are writing a stand-alone novel, all the questions need to be answered in some manner. If this particular story is part of a series, the same is true, although we will be creating some scenarios that will lead to the next book. But even here, we need to satisfy our readers if we want them to read our next book.

Types of Endings

For interest sake, I googled suggested types of endings by noteworthy authors, and have included several lists. The first is condensed from an article titled Types of Endings in Novels by Cynthia Tucker. Read more HERE

1.  Happy endings – the protagonist achieves his/her goal, the antagonist is served justice, and everything turns out well. My example is Emma by Jane Austen. The heroine learns her lesson and becomes a better person.

Emma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.  Tragic endings – the main character may be successful in achieving his/her goal, but sacrificeshis/her life to accomplish it. My example is Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.

Romeo & Juliet

 

 

 

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    3.  Twist endings – surprise the reader (mystery stories). My example is The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. It’s not a mystery or a novel, but a short story which, in my opinion, uses plot twists to create an unforeseen and memorable ending.

    Gift of the Magi

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    4.  Ambiguous endings – leave the reader to decide what happens. My example is Life of Pi by Yann Martel. That ending is one I still noodle over.

    Life of Pi

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    A second source for typical book endings is James Scott Bell’s amazing how-to book, Revision & Self-Editing (Writer’s Digest Books). I have condensed his five points below.

    The Five Types of Novel Endings

    Beginnings are easy. Endings are hard. But it will help if you know the five types of endings:

    1. The Lead gains his objective (happy ending)
    2. The Lead loses his objective (unhappy ending)
    3. The Lead gains his objective but loses something more valuable (classic tragedy)
    4. The Lead sacrifices his objective for a greater good
    5. The ending is ambiguous or bittersweet (mostly for literary fiction)

    I discovered another list (I love lists) at Creative Writing Now that suggests several checks to insure satisfying endings.

    A satisfying ending:

    — will show or suggest the result of the story conflict [the story question we talked of earlier]

    — will come from the main character’s actions [remember the character arcs?]

    — will use elements from the beginning and middle of the story [tying end to beginning]

    — will make the reader feel something

    More Examples of Great Endings

    Here are a few of my favorite novels. Consider what types of endings they exhibit.

     LOTR

    Lord of the Rings – I was haunted by the ending of this masterpiece, but it ended as it must. Frodo has courageously completed the task he was given, not one he chose or wanted, and we are proud of his courage and perseverance. However, it has cost him. He goes to his reward, yet this means separation from his friends.

     

     

    GonGone with the Winde with the Wind – Another difficult ending. We want to take Scarlett O’Hara and shake some sense into her. Yet even in view of her bad choices, we are not left without hope. She’s made it before and we hope she will do so again.

     

     

     

    Count of Monte Cristo

     

    The Count of Monte Cristo – The Count is bent on revenge and justice. He spends his life seeking it and is successful in that. There have been costs and the reader must judge whether or not the his success was worth the cost.

     

     

    I hope these suggestions an examples will encourage each of us to study what’s out there and translate this into our craft.

    Happy writing!

     

     

     

     

     

    Last week on my blog I introduced you to author Bonnie Grove. This week I’d like to tell you about one of her novels, a story titled Talking to the Dead.

    The title fascinates me as much as the story that follows. Here’s a brief plot summary (no spoilers).

    Talking to the Dead

    Talking to the Dead

    Summary:

    Kate Davis is shocked by the sudden and unexpected death of her husband, Kevin. They were married only five years when he died, and Kate’s grief quickly becomes debilitating. She hides in her house, haunted by the recurring voice of her departed husband. Kevin’s terse comments burst in intermittently and unexpectedly on Kate, gradually morphing from ordinary to unkind, even nasty, and Kate begins to question her sanity. There are huge holes in her memory of her life before Kevin’s death. All she can remember is his last words to her: “Don’t wait for me.”

    As Kate’s memories begin to return in bits and pieces, her reactions to them initiate a series of events that becomes worse with each new remembrance. She discovers that everyone, including herself, has secrets.

    As she reviews her memories, beginning with her marriage, issues pop up that she’s never admitted even to herself. She tries counseling, psychiatric help, group therapy, all with ridiculous or disastrous effects, but after one particular counseling session she comes across Jack, a “pastor of sorts” who invests himself in the lives of troubled youth. Kate finds understanding and acceptance with Jack that she’s never received from any of her friends or family, but how can she rid herself of Kevin’s voice, and does she want to?

    My Take:

    This book was a surprise, nothing like I expected it to be. It grabbed me and led me down winding paths I didn’t anticipate.

    Technically speaking, the book is expertly written. Characters are real, well-rounded, believable, identifiable, vivid. The main character, Kate Davis, tells us her story in first person past tense, which works very well in this type of story, then switches to first person present tense for her returning memories.

    In spite of the gravity of the issues, the author maintains a light style as Kate responds to situations with wit and desperate humor. Example: (p. 149) “I was instructed to rate my fear on a scale of zero to ten. Zero meaning I was bounding into the room, whistling “Mack the Knife,” not a care in the world, and ten meaning I was crawling away on all fours, weeping and hyperventilating into a paper bag.”

    Author Bonnie Grove displays an amazing capacity to entertain with her witty observances and descriptions. Example: (p. 93) “It didn’t take long before I spotted a house that could only belong to Maggie. It was painted a painful shade of red and sported jaundice green shutters. The combination gave the house an odd aura. Like being sick at Christmastime.”

    The plot of this story is filled with unexpected turns and detours that take Kate from bad to worse. Much worse.

    I would interpret the theme as something like learning to trust God when everyone fails us, when others give a warped view of him. It’s a story of faith in the midst of upheaval and misunderstanding, and ultimately of a God who proves himself able.

    A fascinating psychological study in a realistic setting. I’ve read it three times now. I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for a good read.

    Bonnie Grove

    Bonnie Grove

     

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