Last spring I was privileged to hear Mary DeMuth speak at a Christian Writer’s Conference. In a room full of other brothers and sisters, alike in our love for the Lord yet quite possibly different in our perceptions of faith, I received her challenge to re-think my boundaries on His love. After all, maybe the love of Jesus has no boundaries. Maybe he loves and loves and loves. And maybe he does it regardless of our choice to return his affection. Could it be?
While it’s easy to love someone filled with grace and kindness, we all know that it’s much harder to extend love to those who are gritty. Prickly. Unkind. I have found this to be true in life–and in literature.
A few weekends ago I got sucked back to 1977 through the binding of a book that I could not put down. Daisy Chain, written by Mary, is a riveting and mysterious tale that had my emotions swirling: anger, injustice, fear [I actually had shiver bumps], love, admiration, and sympathy were all tossed in the blender of my heart. Each one distinct, each one lasting and thought-provoking.
Mary sets the stage expertly: a lone church half-burned and in disrepair stands witness to an empty field surrounded by a dark forest. Childhood friends Jed and Daisy meet there to forget the cares of their young lives, both heavy with burdens too cumbersome for children. At the end of their afternoon together, Jed heads home for dinner, not wanting to be late. Not wanting to again rouse the anger of his father, the town’s self-righteous pastor.
However, as Jed finds himself half-way to a warm meal, his gut tells him that he’s made a mistake. Why would he leave Daisy–abandon her to walk home alone as dusk settles on their small Texas town? He turns back, running now, fear pounding in his steps. When he reaches the church, the door is left swinging on its hinges, an eerie squeak telling him something’s not right. Finding Daisy’s shoe only confirms his fears.
And that’s just the first chapter! [I know! Lock your doors! Pull the shades!]
I normally don’t read suspense stories–fiction or non–because I get paranoid and have bad dreams. This book, however, had me hooked, staying up till all hours for just “one more chapter.” I wanted to creep into the pages, talk to Jed, interact with his mother, meet his sister, stand as a defense against the twisted love of their angry father.
With threads of love, redemption, guilt and remorse, Mary weaves a tapestry of well-rounded characters and beautifully painted scenery against the backdrop of small-town secrets.
The good news is, if you like this book as much as I think you will [run, don’t walk to your nearest Christian bookstore], you’ll be happy to know that its sequel–the second in her Defiance Texas trilogy–is coming out this October! I’ve been asked to read and review A Slow Burn early [thank you, Mary!], and it is equally thrilling. This time told from the perspective of a different character, more secrets are spilled, more questions are raised, and answers are beginning to seep. But not all of them! There will be much left to be resolved in the third and final book, all published by Zondervan.
Watch for a follow-up blog posting about A Slow Burn, and join me in reading this series which has critics comparing Mary to Harper Lee and Francine Rivers. It’s a lofty compliment and high praise, but I can promise you, it’s well deserved!
If you’ve read this book or others by Mary, please leave a comment and share your thoughts. I love discussing great books!