Tag Archives: Church life

Lights, Camera, Novel: Catherine Marshall’s Christy.

Christy TV SeriesSome of the best stories originate from real life, like Catherine Marshall’s 1967 novel Christy. Marshall was inspired to write her famous book based on the experiences of her mother, Leonora Whitaker, who left her family and home in North Carolina to teach at a mission school in the Appalachian Mountains in 1909. After Marshall and her parents later visited the mission school in Del Rio, Tennessee in the late fifties, Marshall wanted to tell her mother’s story. Many elements in Christy are rooted in fact. Marshall conducted extensive research into Appalachian life and culture, so even the fictionalized aspects of the novel are still well-founded.

Twenty-seven years later, Christy was developed into a TV series, which debuted on Easter Sunday on CBS. True to the novel, the show was filmed in Tennessee. Kellie Martin portrayed Christy. Tyne Daly won an Emmy for her supporting role as Alice Henderson, a Quaker missionary, and LeVar Burton joined the cast in season two. Fans of Marshall’s novel enjoyed the series, though their satisfaction was short-lived. Executives canceled the show soon after the season two finale was shot. Twenty-one episodes were filmed in all.

Viewers were upset about the cancellation because the season two series finale ended on a cliffhanger with Christy split between two very different men vying for her affection, the rugged Dr. Neil MacNeil and the handsome Reverend David Grantland. Seeking resolution, fans wrote to CBS requesting that the show be put back on the air. Five years later, in 2000, PAX network (since renamed Ion) continued the unresolved plot line in a made-for-TV movie. Some of the same actors reprised their roles, but Christy was recast using an unknown actor, Lauren Lee Smith. Three TV movies adapting Marshall’s novel were released between 2000 and 2001 giving fans the closure they were denied in the canceled TV series. The movies – Christy: Return to Cutter Gap, Christy: A Change of Seasons and Christy: A New Beginning — were filmed primarily in Canada.

Lauren Lee Smith as Christy

A book cover with Lauren Lee Smith as Christy.

Christy still boasts an active fan base. Starting in 1997, enthusiasts of the novel and TV show have met to discuss their fascination for Christy. The annual meeting was dubbed “ChristyFest,” and it often occurs in Townsend, Tennessee, the filming location of the TV show. This year ChristyFest will be held May 23-25 in Del Rio, Tennessee. From the ChristyFest site, it appears that registration will open soon.

No doubt, Christy has captured the attention of loyal fans, and the love triangle between the main characters is a big draw. In writing this post, I found evidence of a Neil and Christy fan site with photos from the TV show and the TV movies, interviews with cast members, episode guides, and analysis and more. There are also special fan fiction sites and some fictionalized Twitter accounts created from the perspectives of Christy, Neil, David, and Alice.

Catherine Marshall is recognized as a Christian writer. The Christy Awards were created to acknowledge Christian fiction writers and the three Christy TV movies were backed by the support of the now defunct PAX network, which focused on “family-based” programming. It appears that Inspiration Network, or INSP TV, currently broadcasts episodes from the Christy TV series. INSP headquarters are in the Charlotte metro area.

Kellie Martin as Christy

An audiobook cover with Kellie Martin as Christy.

Read the original blog post on Catherine Marshall’s Christy here. The complete TV series is available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog along with the original novel and an audiobook version of the novel read by Kellie Martin.

Sources consulted here: Christianity Today, The Christy Awards, ChristyFest site and blog, Christy Fan Fiction, IMDb, Inspiration Networks/INSP TV, Neil and Christy fan site, Twitter (see paragraph above for the specific accounts), Wikipedia (Catherine Marshall, Christy [novel], Christy [TV series])

Leave a Comment

Filed under 1990-1999, 1994, 1995, 2000, 2000-2009, 2001, Buncombe, Historical, Marshall, Catherine, Mountains, Novels by Region, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship

Monique Miller. Redemption Lake. New York: Kensington Books, 2012.

Redemption LakeAnd it was all relative when she thought about it; a person’s perception was truly their reality.

Marriage is a two-way street, and it takes plenty of effort and patience to resolve disputes and stave off conflict. Problems can erupt from a single source and branch off to create additional complications. Often, it’s tough to definitively pinpoint who is right and who is wrong. Redemption Lake covers three couples struggling to support their marriages. The spouses here have been pushed so far they can barely manage to talk to each other without contempt or anger, let alone hear what the other person is saying.

Readers of Miller’s work will recognize Phillip and Shelby Tomlinson, characters from her first novel, Secret Sisterhood. In Secret Sisterhood, Shelby and Phillip confronted their marital difficulties. After attending a marriage counseling retreat and helping with the couples’ ministry, Phillip has been tasked with leading a week-long retreat at a mountain resort for three couples, and Shelby has come along to help. Phillip is worried that he isn’t skilled enough to facilitate effective communication between the couples and guide them through their problems to a successful resolution. Based on the general profiles of each couple, this isn’t going to be an easy week for anyone.

Charlotte Knight has been collecting proof of her husband Xavier’s infidelities meticulously. She knows, in secret, that Xavier visits a number of diverse sources to stray, from the Internet to a neighbor down the street. The news of her positive STD test was the final piece of evidence that pushed her over the edge. Beryl Highgate is fed up with her lazy husband Travis. He promises to find a job and pull his weight, but he never delivers. She’s exhausted from taking care of their children, their finances, and him. Something has to change. Beryl can’t take his excuses any longer. Pastor George Jones was surprised and embarrassed to learn of his wife Nina’s hidden gambling problem. Recently, he’s found out that her addiction has affected not only their finances, but also those of his church in Greenville, North Carolina. He has to find a remedy before her gambling destroys both of their lives.

Phillip knows that there are always three sides to any story: “his side, her side, and the truth.” Novelist Monique Miller structured Redemption Lake so that readers will see the stories of the three couples from all angles. The novel is organized with brief prologue documenting the surface grievances of each couple. The remainder is largely broken up in chapters that rotate between the three husbands and Phillip, followed by the three wives and Shelby. Miller concludes with “the truth” as seen through Phillip’s eyes, observing the end of the retreat and the final outcomes among the couples. Miller doesn’t gloss over her characters and write a neat, happy ending for every couple. She sticks closer to the side of realism, where sometimes things work out but sometimes things are too far gone to fix.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Coastal Plain, Miller, Monique, Mountains, Pitt, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship

Monique Miller. Secret Sisterhood. Deer Park, NY: Urban Books, 2010.

Secret SisterhoodInfertility can be all-consuming. It’s a devastating setback for couples ready to start their families. Novelist Monique Miller writes a story of three women from different backgrounds united by their struggles with infertility.

At first Shelby Tomlinson loved her job as a registered nurse with the Silvermont Women’s Center. Her patients’ happiness at their good news rubbed off on Shelby. She felt excited to come to work in such a positive atmosphere. That elation has fizzled out ever since Shelby and her husband Phillip started trying for a baby. They’ve tried for two years without any luck. Now, whenever Shelby deals with prenatal patients their good fortune depresses her. Suddenly, she feels a stronger bond with the patients who suffer from infertility too. However, her anxiety attacks, a lifelong problem, are increasing and Phillip has been distant whenever she broaches the topic of children. Shelby can’t figure out his odd behavior. Does he have a secret he’s hiding? In the face of all this stress, Shelby manages to find some hope when a patient struggling with infertility gets pregnant. Maybe Shelby still stands a chance at beating her infertility.

Crystal Shaw wants to open a day care center of her own one day. She also wants to have a baby, but it doesn’t look like that dream is going to come true any time soon. Crystal is envious of the pregnant women around her, especially those who don’t seem worthy in her eyes. Everyone around her is getting pregnant, including her sister Shanice, who already has a baby with another man and refuses to work, relying on public assistance and her “Man of the Quarter” instead.  Crystal is tired of breezily claiming that she’s not quite ready for kids. Even her work toward establishing a day care center is difficult. Spending all her time around children only reminds Crystal how she and her husband Warren, her childhood sweetheart, haven’t been able to conceive despite trying for years. Crystal starts thinking how nice a desk job might be so she could stop confronting the harsh reality of her childlessness.

When she was young, Vivian Parker made a promise to her grandmother, Eva – a promise that she has managed to fulfill, and then some. Eva emphasized the importance of an education as a priceless investment. Once Vivian earned an education, she insisted, it could never be taken away. After Eva passed away, Vivian focused all her energy on her grades and her career. She obtained her bachelor’s and master’s, eventually becoming a successful and esteemed architect with careful planning and hard work. But she’s behind on her plans for her personal life. By thirty she assumed she would be married, and then a child or two would follow shortly thereafter. Instead, Vivian didn’t get married until thirty-eight. Her husband Roland is the CEO of the company Vivian works for. Together, they’re a powerful couple professionally. But now that they’re more serious about having a baby, they learn that even though they can bankroll expensive procedures like in vitro fertilization, they still might not be able to fight time.

Faith is a central element to Secret Sisterhood. Shelby, Crystal, and Vivian turn to their religion to strengthen themselves in the midst of hardships. Miller breaks the story up, chapter by chapter, alternating the perspectives of the three main characters, although she also creates some areas of overlap and interconnection between the women during their journey to become mothers.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Miller, Monique, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational

Jason Mott. The Returned. Don Mills, Ont: Harlequin MIRA, 2013.

The ReturnedIf someone you loved came back from the dead, exactly as they were before they died, would you want them back in your life again? That’s one of the many questions Agent Martin Bellamy asks Lucille and Harold Hargrave.

People around the world have begun to return from the dead suddenly and without explanation. Agent Bellamy works for the International Bureau of the Returned, an organization that was shaped up hastily in the wake of this new phenomenon. The Returned seek out their families and friends and the Bureau helps reconnect them to their loved ones. Despite the Bureau’s involvement, they are just as baffled as the rest of the world. In truth, the Bureau has simply been “counting people and giving them directions home,” plus filing some paperwork in the process. The Returned can appear anywhere, at any time. Lucille and Harold’s eight year-old son Jacob is found in a village near Beijing.

On August 15, 1966, Jacob Hargrave died on his eighth birthday. His death was accidental and tragic. Since Jacob’s passing, his parents sidestepped their grief. Instead of acknowledging their pain, Lucille and Harold avoided the topic. Decades later, when Jacob reappears, Harold can’t recall Jacob’s name. In his advancing age, Harold has started shrinking, a factor he attributes to his recently curbed smoking habit. By contrast, Lucille has remained in comparably solid physical shape for her age. But nothing makes Harold feel his age so much as the newly returned Jacob, preserved as an eight year-old. Lucille eases instinctively back into her role as mother, though her behavior surprises her. Still Harold and Lucille’s faded memories and the awkward gap between their old age and Jacob’s youth reveals the difficulty of passed time. Suspicions, particularly on Harold’s part, that Jacob is not a real living and breathing person doesn’t help matters. Although Harold and Lucille have been reunited with their son, it won’t be easy to pick up right where they left off.

Their reunion is not an insular event though. As the numbers of the Returned increase, people start to speak out against the “miracle.” The True Living Movement was founded as a campaign to support the living. It tended to attract anti-government enthusiasts. Supporters of True Living are concerned with reestablishing the natural order of the world, which means sending the Returned back to where they supposedly belong. Although True Living is more extremist in its approach, the US government is equally uneasy about the Returned. The government’s mandates for the Returned increase quickly from home confinement to containment in special camps. Tensions mount as small-town Arcadia, and the world, is ripped apart, seam by seam, from the panic surrounding the Returned.

The Returned is poet Jason Mott’s first novel. Mott has written two poetry collections previously. He holds a BA and MFA in creative writing from UNC-Wilmington. His novel was selected by Plan B, Brad Pitt’s production company, to be adapted into a television series. Mott’s background as a poet is obvious; his writing is lyrical and sophisticated. The novel is told in the third-person with standard enumerated chapters, but Mott intersperses the central story and its chapters with vignettes of the Returned. Mott also forms convincing relationships and connections between his characters, like the playful jabs between Lucille and Harold and Jacob’s goofy jokes. Don’t read the novel expecting pure science fiction or detailed answers at the end. There are no satisfying answers here. Mott explores memory and time as well as loss and second chances with loved ones.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog. And read this article from The Daily Tar Heel to learn more about the inspiration behind Jason Mott’s novel and his writing process.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Mott, Jason

Robert Morgan. The Road from Gap Creek. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2013.

The Road from Gap CreekLife hasn’t gotten any easier for the Richards family. Time has only moved onward. In his sequel to Gap Creek, novelist Robert Morgan looks to the next generation to forge the way in The Road from Gap Creek. Annie Richards Powell replaces her mother, Julie Richards the original narrator of Gap Creek. Annie recounts snapshots of the Richards family during the Great Depression and World War II.

Readers are punched hard and early on with the death of Julie and Hank’s favorite son, Troy. The news devastates the family. Troy volunteered in the Civilian Conservation Corps where he met a recruiter for the Army Air Corps. The Army sent Troy to work on a base in Georgia. He reassured his family that he wouldn’t get sent into active duty. Until the Army shipped him off to England.

Annie, upon the news of Troy’s death, is propelled into the past. She recollects the family’s history in a stream of events: the move from Gap Creek to Green River, Troy’s beloved dog, Old Pat, and later Troy’s less accepted fiancée, Sharon, Velmer’s typhoid fever, fallout from the Depression, acting in high school plays, church life, bootleggers. Morgan does not adhere to chronological order, as he shifts between Annie’s recollections and present day. Her stories aren’t arranged in a strictly logical sequence. Rather, they present the effect of a patchwork memory. Morgan deftly combines Annie’s string of loosely collected memories, so that stories that seem like confined events later make sense in the scheme of the family’s history. He evokes a true feeling of everyday life where the characters on the page have breath and a pulse.

But most convincingly of all, Morgan depicts the force of family. Annie emphasizes the lack of opportunity in dead-end Green River, for herself and for Troy. She dreams of acting, traveling elsewhere, and owning fine clothes. She wants out of Green River. But when she’s offered the chance to model, possibly legitimate, possibly a scam, Annie never finds out. During that moment, she realizes she couldn’t leave her family that depends so much on her behind. Annie does not exist in isolation; she is a strand in the Richards family web. This fact becomes much truer and resonates much stronger when Annie begins her own family. The microcosm of the Richards family and its history echoes that of people and history at large.

Fans of Gap Creek will enjoy this chapter of the Richards family’s struggles and joys, but newcomers will be equally charmed by Morgan’s naturalistic story-telling. Morgan could write the Gap Creek saga ad infinitum. It’s a slice of life, and an interesting one to dig into. The Road from Gap Creek observes a period of momentous and irrevocable change in American history, and the Richards family history.

Check out this title in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Historical, Morgan, Robert, Mountains

John Milliken Thompson. Love and Lament. New York: Random House, 2013.

Love and LamentDeath trails fast on the heels of the Hartsoe family. At age six, the youngest Hartsoe, Mary Bet, mistakes a circuit rider for the Devil. She cowers in the shadow of the Devil on horseback with hobnail boots and a black handlebar moustache. Soon after the encounter, Mary Bet’s eight other brother and sisters and her mother begin dying off, one by one, as if in a orchestrated funeral procession. Mary Bet believes that the Hartsoe family is cursed. But her generation and her father’s clutch to life during one of America’s more trying, transitional phases – Reconstruction.

Mary Bet’s father, Rezin Cicero, or R.C. for short, fought in the Civil War and wants to distance himself from the memories of battle. However, the constant reminder of his peg leg makes moving on a challenge. His miserly father, Samuel Hartsoe, withheld the family business from him. Samuel believes that R.C. should learn and labor to generate his own fortune. R.C. manages a general store and married one of William “Captain Billie” Murchison’s daughters, Susan Elizabeth. R.C. and Susan Elizabeth’s marriage tangles the family trees somewhat awkwardly. Samuel Hartsoe still feels lingering indignation that his father, John Siler, sold the Hartsoe family home to the drunken and vulgar Captain Billie rather than bequeathing it to him. As R.C.’s children and his wife die by a seeming string of dumb and simple misfortune, his faith flags. He rejects what others mourn as God’s will and he descends into madness. His youngest daughter, Mary Bet watches guiltily while R.C.’s body and mind decay. Love and Lament is a story concerned with the tension of family relationships, community exchanges, and constant hardships.

Meanwhile, Mary Bet, the story’s heroine, matures as the broken, war-torn South ushers in new industrialization and alterations in established values at the turn of the century. Mary Bet was born the year the railroad arrived in Haw County, a loosely fictionalized version of Chatham County. Mary Bet is a figure of the New South and a liminal character. She struggles to unshackle herself and move beyond the past. In her will, Mary Bet’s mother Susan Elizabeth deeds her jewels to her prettiest daughter, her silver to her most ambitious, and the family Bible to Mary Bet. Her mother’s gift appoints Mary Bet as the keeper of the Hartsoe family history. And fittingly so — Mary Bet is the only one of R.C. and Susan Elizabeth’s children to enter adulthood after all. From the rubble of the old world, Mary Bet emerges as a modern woman.

Novelist John Milliken Thompson spins a family saga rooted in the Southern Gothic tradition that spans from Reconstruction to World War I. The grief of the Hartsoe family echoes the changing climate of post-Civil War South. Thompson relates his story with mesmerizing and authentic detail that evokes great pathos for the Hartsoe clan. His rendering of Mary Bet from age six to age thirty rings true. With Mary Bet and the rest of the Hartsoes, Thompson accentuates how memory and history can haunt us, from the past long into the future.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Chatham, Historical, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Thompson, John Milliken

Jon Correll. The Sparks Fly Upward. Portland, OR: Inkwater Press, 2013.

The Sparks Fly Upward“It seemed only right and natural that the rhythms of Nathan’s life were tied so inexorably to the land and the seasons. He could not fathom people who lived days that were carbon copies of the previous one, no matter the place or the season. They were people without root in the soil, carried along by the distractions of the modern world. He was born a generation or two too late, and he was making the best of it.”

Nathan Miller and his family live in Idlewild, a tiny hamlet nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The rest of the Miller family consists of his younger sister Ally, his parents, Jean and Bill, and his grandparents, Emma and Clyde, otherwise known as “Mom” and “Dad.” The Millers’ devotion to their ancestral homeland is palpable, and they are clannish in their tight-knit family unit. Although Nate’s parents work at Appalachian State University in nearby Boone, it is clear that they see their income from the outside world as a necessary means to make life in Idlewild more comfortable. “Mom” and “Dad” are traditional farming folk and they keep the Miller home functioning using their mountain wisdom and almost clairvoyant perceptions.

Nathan is the central figure of the novel and he is faced with the challenge of leaving Idlewild to attend college at Chapel Hill during the turbulent 1970s. The Sparks Fly Upward focuses upon Nathan’s transition between the two locations. The first half of the story moves at a languid pace, dense with details of Nathan’s relation to the natural world and populated by a motley assembly of several minor characters who convey the atmosphere of small-town life. Novelist Jon Correll presents a clear delineation between the good and the evil in Idlewild, which has its share of heroes, good citizens, town off-casts, and bullies. Nathan relates to such a defined sense of right and wrong, saying “where I was raised, there was right and wrong, pure and simple, and you stuck to that code no matter what.” He is a character deeply shaped by faith and morality. His adherence to a rigid internal code of morals causes occasional flares of temper though. Early in the novel, when a bully picks an unfair fight with a weaker student, Nathan intercedes and strikes out against the bully. Despite his usually well-meant motivation, Nathan’s temper and quick action inevitably lead him to trouble.

Over the course of the novel, Nathan’s black-and-white way of thought becomes clouded gray. Before he sets off to Chapel Hill, he finds himself tested in his new relationship with Becky Jenkins who is about to relocate from Idlewild to Wake Forest. Nathan wants to stifle his attraction to Becky to maintain a respectable relationship, just as he plans to not succumb to the heady temptations of college life. Upon Nathan’s arrival at UNC, he is faced immediately with all the requisites of a wild undergraduate experience — drugs, alcohol, and sex. His roommate Gus, a slightly grizzled Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam, is a willing partner in these decadent escapades. He’s the first to offer Nathan a joint. And his recollections of the war deliver an ambiguous statement on a neatly wrapped dichotomy of good and evil. Still, when Nathan realizes how quickly he has strayed from his beliefs, he endeavors to return to his original path. Although Nathan’s path turns out to be less simple and straightforward than he anticipated, one thing is for certain: the ultimate destination is Idlewild.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Ashe, Correll, Jon, Mountains, Orange, Piedmont

Travis Thrasher. Hurt. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2013.

hurtIn this fourth and final installment in the Solitary Tales, author Travis Thrasher takes us back once more to the fictional town of Solitary, North Carolina.

Chris Buckley has tried everything when it comes to the evil in Solitary. He’s mocked it, pretended it doesn’t exist, given in for a time, even run away. Nothing has stopped his demon-possessed great-grandfather, Walter Kinner, from giving up his satanic control on the town. Worst of all, Chris is somehow the centerpiece of his upcoming final showdown with the powers of good. Tired, terrified, but most of all determined never to give in to the Devil, Chris takes the only course of action left– fighting back. It’s hard enough being a teenaged boy without having to fight the powers of darkness, but with his belief in the powers of God growing stronger every day, Chris has hope where before he had none.

Unfortunately, his very real demons know exactly how to keep him on their side– by threatening the ones he loves. His mother has been missing for some time, held by Walter’s henchmen. They’re also threatening his latest girlfriend, the sweet and guileless Kelsey. Since his other two girlfriends, Jocelyn and Lily, have both ended up as bloody sacrifices, Chris was reluctant to start dating again. But there’s just something about Kelsey that makes him think everything will be okay. But there is a long fight ahead, and no telling who will emerge triumphant. Will faith, hope, and love keep back the darkness?

Check out this final chapter in the Solitary Tales in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Henderson, Horror, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Religious/Inspirational, Thrasher, Travis

Karen E. Bender. A Town of Empty Rooms. Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint, 2013.

empty roomsWhen you grow up someplace, or live there for a very long time, you don’t notice the things like the weather, the food, the buildings, or the shared cultural expectations that make your  hometown distinctive.  But any of those can be jarring to an outsider.  That’s the case for Serena Hirsch and Dan Shine, a married couple who move with their two young children from New York City to the (fictitious) town of Waring, North Carolina.  Both Serena and Dan are deeply unsettled by the death of a close relative and by the inexplicable crime committed by Serena that precipitated their move from New York.

Dan, ever optimistic, believes that his new job in Waring will work out and that the family will eventually feel at home in the town.  To help his son Zeb fit in, Dan and Zeb join the Boys Scouts.  Dan is thrilled to become an assistant troop leader under the direction of his next-door neighbor, Forrest Sanders.  But Serena’s experience of Forrest is different from that of her husband, and her uneasiness about Forrest only deepens the chasm between her and Dan.

Serena hopes that she has found her place at Temple Shalom, the only Jewish synagogue in Waring.  In no time at all, she is working part-time at the synagogue and is on the board.  Her work with the temple strengthens her religious identification and gives her the resolve to push back against the Christian cultural hegemony that she and her children experience.  But all is not well at the temple, and Serena is buffed by conflicts within the congregation.

A Town of Empty Rooms is at its center a novel about the messages that we carry inside ourselves from our upbringings and the imperfect ways we struggle to make sense of our place in the world.  Setting Serena and Dan’s struggle in North Carolina allows long-time Tar Heels to consider their state anew.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Bender, Karen, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Payne, Peggy. Revelation. Wilmington, N.C. : Banks Channel Books, 1995, c1988.

revelationDr. Swain Hammond is perfectly happy before he steps out into his yard one summer night and hears the voice of God. He has a nice house with his beautiful wife in the heart of Chapel Hill, where he grew up. They don’t have a family, but neither wants children–they’re happy by themselves. Although he works as the minister of Westside Presbyterian Church in Chapel Hill, Swain would count himself as the last man likely to hear any kind of divine message. His congregation is made up of individuals who aren’t inclined to make literal interpretations of scripture, and neither is Swain. Yet, while his wife is grilling pork shish kebabs only a few yards away, God speaks to him.

The next year of Swain’s life is fraught with anguish. Far from the joy and peace he imagined hearing the voice of God would bring him, instead it seems to bring nothing but trouble. The congregation doesn’t know what to think of their formerly intellectually detached leader claiming to hear directly from God. At first they staunchly stand beside his right to free speech, but as the year wears on and Swain begins to preach about believing in miracles and hearing His voice again, they become uncomfortable and even angry. A few demand he step down, while others think he should seek counseling. Even Swain’s beloved wife, Julie, doesn’t know what to think.

In the midst of all this turmoil are the local children. Swain has never liked children, or felt comfortable around them. But when a boy named Jakey Miles, the son of a local woman he had a crush on in high school, is blinded in a terrible accident, Swain finds himself drawn to the boy. Against his will, he finds himself reflecting on his own childhood, where his intelligent parents played cruel games of emotional chess with one another that inevitably left young Swain traumatized. As the minister questions his faith, his relationships, and himself, one thing becomes startlingly clear–happiness is where you least expect to find it.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under 1980-1989, 1988, 1990-1999, 1995, Orange, Payne, Peggy, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational