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Back in July, I edited my review of Skylar Hamilton Burris’ excellent book, When the Heart is Laid Bare, for Christ and Pop Culture. I should have posted it then, but here it is now.
One doesn’t expect to laugh while reading of tragedy, grief, and healing. And yet, that’s exactly what happened when I read Skylar Hamilton Burris’ When the Heart Is Laid Bare, which Double Edge Press has graciously made freely available to Christ and Pop Culture members. While grappling with death and suffering, Burris successfully weaves wit and humor into her story lines.
My thin rectangular Clock sits on the carved shelf across the room, clicking its red digital numbers—red like blood. Today marks the first day of my last year alive.
This is part of the opening of A Time to Die, a work of dystopian Christian fiction by Nadine Brandes.
Nadine Brandes has accomplished what many authors attempt, but few succeed: causing me to expect one development, then delivering another. A few climactic scenes kept me truly uncertain as to the outcome. I’ll refrain from spoilers. However, I will say this: Dire outcomes are believable because main characters do experience wretched events. This book isn’t recommended for those squeamish about severe injuries and blood, though such events are rare. Their descriptions aren’t gratuitous or overly gruesome; they serve a purpose within the narrative.
Five years ago, I had an epiphany and a book idea was born. The impetus appeared in the August 13th, 2010 edition of my local paper, the Idaho Mountain Express.
“New York skier’s heirs sue rescuers for $5M
“By ASSOCIATED PRESS
“DRIGGS, Idaho — The family of a New York man who skied outside the boundaries of a western Wyoming ski area and was rescued the following morning but later died of hypothermia has filed a wrongful death claim.
A young woman heads off to college. Within a campus Christian fellowship, she is befriended by a charming young man, who woos her, wins her, and dominates her life until she dumps him. A few weeks later, he is found dead in her kitchen and she is found covered in his blood. She claims self-defense, but neighbors heard arguing that give credence to suspicions of a murder of rage. What happened just before the young man’s death? How innocent or guilty is the young woman? Irregardless of the legal determination, how will she fare in the court of public opinion?
How often do you expect to laugh while reading a work of fiction dealing with death, grieving, and moving on? In When the Heart is Laid Bare, Skylar Hamilton Burris pulls off the seeming impossible: finding wholesome, witty humor while looking for answers to life’s suffering.
From the back cover: “Coach Calder Johnson’s wife has, according to the hospital social worker, expired. Expired. Like a credit card. Not like a human being. Calder hasn’t had a true friend, other than his wife, in twenty-four years. So if he’s going to heal, he’ll have to learn to let someone inside.
Today I have the honor and privilege of having a guest post published for the Austen in August event being hosted at Lost Generation Reader.
One aspect of Jane Austen’s work that I absolutely love is that each novel differs from the others. In Northanger Abbey, Austen’s rebuts the Gothic Romance novel. Sense and Sensibility contains Austen’s response to the Romanticism of her age. Pride and Prejudice depicts love triumphant overcoming pride, prejudice, the social cast system, and embarrassing family members. In, Mansfield Park — Austen’s most theological work — she contrasts many things, one being the mere learning of Maria and Julia versus Fanny’s learning to develop true character. In Persuasion, we enjoy an ode to the Navy, the portrayal of Meritocracy, and a second chance at a love thought dead. Emma, the subject of this post, has been called Austen’s agrarian novel. And certainly an agrarian theme is present. However, a stronger theme is found within Emma: speculation and conjecture of neighbors’ motives. In spite of all the speculation and conjecture throughout, Austen shows that guessing correctly at another’s motives is a near-impossible task.