“Because such art is essentially redemptive, found art is also deeply spiritual, predating even urinal-man in its origins. In God’s hands, spit and mud become sight. Dust and rib become humanity. Darkness and void become world. Fishermen become followers. Virgin becomes mother. Water becomes wine. Empty nets become overflowing. Death is somehow miraculously refashioned into life… When I arrived in the Middle East, I realized I was looking at a half-me, a fragmented soul walking around town. I had given away pieces of myself, convinced the giving had all been for good causes. During this journey, I discovered it was high time I felt the losses, collected the pieces, and reclaimed myself.” [pg. 13]
In her debut book, Leeana Tankersley expertly layers story, emotion, and personal reflection to create a deeply moving and heartfelt account of the year she and Navy SEAL husband, Steve, spent in Bahrain. Structured as a memoir of sorts, Tankersley’s 27 essays are grouped thematically around pieces of “found art” collected during their stint abroad: a handwritten note from Kuwait, a braid of fringe from a persian rug, a bit of basting thread. Retrieved memories from the past are pulled to the surface and intertwined with events from the Middle East, creating a soul-moving work in which shortcomings and hopes and joys and losses are addressed and attended to with care.
After meeting her husband and skipping through a brief courtship, Steve and Leeana wed and almost immediately set out for the Middle East on assignment. Thrust into this new world where women are faceless and the earth is dust, Leeana struggles to find her footing. Suddenly, in contrast to her “former” life in San Diego, nothing is expected of her. She doesn’t have to “do” anything. She feels slightly off-kilter and out-of-place. With Steve coming and going in a flurry of secret Navy operations, Tankersley is left with time to think and examine her life, her heart. What she finds is surprisingly deep and utterly transparent. She spares no detail when discussing the challenges of her marriage, the hard work done in a counselor’s office, her struggle to understand a God who allows such a devastating war and heart-splayed-open sorrow and anguish.
I was struck immediately by two things while reading this book: Leeana’s expertly chosen and perfectly descriptive words that became art themselves, and the shameful reminder that I do not really comprehend the gravity of sacrifice made by our soldiers and their families each day. Tankersley’s essays lay bare this true cost with courage and, deftly, without becoming political or preachy. Rather, her insights enlighten and provide a new lens for readers who, page after page, are drawn deeper into her dessert world.
Compared in style to Shauna Niequist, Tankersley’s essays are rich and honest, sincere and seeking. Found Art would make a lovely gift to a military family or anyone you know who strives to find beauty in the foreign, unknown, and mysterious.
Thank you to Tina at The Blog Tour Spot, and to Zondervan Publishers for generously providing me with this book.