Review by Susan McMichael of Armageddon and The 4th Timeline

Review of: Armageddon and the 4th Timeline

Reviewer: Susan McMichael

Review:
A thrilling ride from the first page…

Armageddon and the 4th Timeline by Don Mardak is a thrilling ride from the first page. This science fiction novel combines time travel, spiritual themes, a fascinating mix of characters and modern intrigue to create an ‘un-put-down-able’ novel.

We meet the CIA Director, Scott Cunningham, a former Navy SEAL, and his Assistant Lori Colbert, addressing a meeting after a terrible terrorists attacks. We also meet husband and wife Kathy and Eric who are in Lhasa, Tibet, on a spiritual quest. Through Eric’s time travel, both worlds intersect. Mardak’s premise throughout the novel is that there “is a spiritual universe, and mankind has the ability to rise into a higher level of consciousness where all conflicts can be resolved peacefully without resorting to wars, or threatening a nuclear holocaust.”

Mardak’s Armageddon and the 4th Timeline is a science fiction novel, containing elements of time travel. It is set in ‘the Present’ with a clear aim of trying to reconcile what is happening. There is a definite sense of good and bad in the novel. Mardak’s fascinating use of the scriptural characters of Paul and Silas to both examine Christianity, and to change the future, is an amazing read. How Mardak structures the novel is particularly well done, so that the ending is both satisfying, works in a science fiction way, and races to the finish, all at once.

The novel examines the various tenets of a number of the main religions (Christianity, Tibetan Buddhism, and Judaism) using them as plot devices: e.g. Paul’s Missionary Journey. This exploration of religion is quite a wild ride, but worth it.

The first third of the novel introduces us to the characters: to the CIA, the issues related to Eric and Kathy, and to the Himalayan mystic Shimahn. This first third also introduces broader geopolitical issues, as well as setting up the ‘four dimensional world of space time’. In the second section of the novel the actual time travel begins. We see its effects from Eric’s point of view. He is an interested participant. In this section Mardak makes good use of structure to make his point, but also to move the plot along. The last third of the novel brings everything together: the time changes and the new ideas and perspectives. There is an ending which is in some ways surreal, and which is beautifully realised.

One of the main themes of this book is religion. It’s a fascinating book because I believe many people see Religions as having “Truths” and this novel certainly plays with some of those. Anyone who believes that the Bible is the written word of God will have a difficult time with this novel. That said, it is far from Mr. Mardak’s aim to make anyone annoyed about this. I feel, quite the contrary.

The novel discuses time travel and how it can save the world. What difference would it make to war? Mardak also asks what kind of world are we creating? How do we cause and prevent nuclear holocaust? Armageddon and the 4th Timeline is also about an attitude of helping and working together to create change.

The relationships that are explored in the novel illustrate personal growth and caring. Kathy and Eric, Colbert and Cunningham, Paul and Silas are all studies in how we see, how we relate, and how we can change. The focus in Armageddon and the 4th Timeline is how this happens.

A minor quibble about the characters is the character of Kathy. I didn’t feel that she had very much to say for herself, and was a little too passive for my liking. Eric, however, is well written and his relationship with Kathy is nicely drawn. The CIA group are depicted as a good bunch. They sounded quite different to Eric and Kathy: they were exciting and gun-ho. They were well drawn.

The scenes in the desert were particularly evocative and the relationships depicted there, though brief, remind the reader that some of the central ideas of the novel are relationship and awareness. The different families in the desert remind the reader that families have many different shapes. In terms of diversity and families there are a range of families: Lori Colbert is a divorced mother, Kathy and Eric have been married seven years and there are the families in the Sinai desert. There is also the relationships between Shimahn and Eric and Kathy, and between Paul and Silas. Mardak also emphasises diversity by depicting various religions and mixing those religions in unique ways.

This novel runs along at a fast, fast pace. At times it fairly gallops. It has fantastic ideas about time and space and makes the reader think.

Armageddon and the 4th Timeline has a thoughtful purpose, but is highly readable and action packed. Mardak’s plot is well structured and he makes good use of characters. From the first “gloomy Thursday in Langley…” (Ch. 1) I wanted to read on, to find out what was happening, what was going on. The science fiction genre makes a twist with a spectacularly good ending. I am happy to rate this novel as 4.5 out of five stars.

What one thing about this book stood out the most for you?
This novel runs along at a fast, fast pace. At times it fairly gallops. It has fantastic ideas about time and space and makes the reader think.

Reviewer Bio
I received my B.A. (Hons) from the University of New England Armidale, in 1992, majoring in English. I focused on Victorian and American literature. I have also studied Psychology and French.

I have been reading Sylvia Plath since 1983, and studied both Plath and Ted Hughes, at UNE.

Featured Book: Unravelled by Anna Scanlon

unraveled book
About Unravelled by Anna Scanlon

“No one heard us. They decided not to, to turn their heads away. It was too much to bear. Too much to know. Too hard to swallow. But now that the world knows, now that the world has heard, it all seems so simple, so easy to defray.

I screamed and no one heard.

Next time, will you be listening?”

Aliz and her twin sister, Hajna, are enjoying their playful, carefree and comfortable life with their parents in Szeged, Hungary just before the Nazis invade. Seemingly overnight, their lives change drastically as they are transported to the ghetto on the outskirts of the city and then to Auschwitz to be used in Mengele’s deadly experiments. After several months of brutal torture, Aliz is liberated to find that she is the only survivor in her family. At not even 11 years old, Aliz must make the journey to San Francisco alone, an entire world away from everything she’s known, in order to live with her only known relatives whom she has never met– a depressed aunt and teenage cousin who is more than ready to escape her mother’s melancholy. Told through the eyes of both Aliz and her cousin Isabelle, Unravelled tells a story of survival, hope, family and the lives war and genocide haunt long after liberation.

The book is also available on Smashwords, Nook, iTunes and Kobo.
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Review by L. K. Evans of People Like Us

People Like UsReview of: People Like Us

Reviewer: L. K. Evans

Review:
Well now, that was a rush at the end. First, let me tell you: I’ve already bought the second book. I’m not ‘going’ to buy it, I’m not ‘looking forward’ to it. I bought it. The instant I finished People Like Us, I bought it. Why, you might ask? Sit back and let me explain.

I LOVED the writing and cynical dry humor, the aloof yet deep character of Nicolas, and the oddly alluring Estrade. There was something about the way they were written that just entranced me when reading. Here’s a few excerpts (this is told in first person from Nicolas’ perspective):

“He (Estrade) has, however, an unsettling, heavy-lidded way of smiling at you, as though he is the only one present who has seen the joke…”

“He went over backwards, and about two seconds later Estrade appeared at the door, with a heavy, nasty-looking semi-automatic pistol of his own. I suppose someone with as well developed knack for irritating people as he possesses learns caution quickly.”

“In this risky business, clearly I was going to have to be the responsible, reliable one. It is not a position to which I normally gravitate.”

I have so many other quotes I’d rather use but I fear they might be spoilers for those trying diligently to figure everything out. These little tidbits of amazing description and aloof outlooks towards things most would find appalling was oddly addicting. D.Z.C. is an amazing writer and I am captivated by his skill.

Let me just tell you, there was one part that I was dying! It involves a shotgun and a face. I seriously couldn’t stop laughing. It’s kinda sick, but I couldn’t help it. It was the way the scene was written. Hopefully, if you ever read it, you’ll not think me a horrible person for finding the scene so hilarious.

You’ll notice this book took me quite a while to read, which is out of character for me. Usually when I start a book I stick to only that book until I’m finished. If I would have stopped reading at any point up to 3/4’s completion, I would have rated this book a 4. It was the ending that shot it up to 5.

The reason I was more inclined towards 4 in the beginning was because it had a very slow start, for me, anyways. Furthermore, there were soooo many references to stuff I just didn’t get. I’m a rather sheltered girl who is unworldly, to put it mildly. So a lot of stuff hung me up. However, when I sat down with it yesterday–I was only 35% done–, I decided to forgo trying to understand every reference and just read for the story and characters. Once I did that, it went by much quicker and I sailed through the book.

The ending was a rush of events with a closure that left me grinning. As much as I love and am fascinated by Nicolas, there are things he does that I’m not supportive of, yet I couldn’t help but smile at him. Don’t go into this book expecting a perfect little hero wrapped up in a bow. There are no heroes in this book. There are life-like people doing things tons of people do, while other things are a little more fictional, or at least not as common. Also, do not expect a nail-biter of a book. This is a slower read with a lot of getting involved in the…community the book is set in. If you pay attention, it all kinda connects.

There are some grievances out there that this had loose ends. It sure did, and I didn’t mind one bit. This is told from purely a first person perspective, so what our narrator doesn’t know, we don’t. I’m fine with that. I know there is a second book and maybe we’ll get some answers. Maybe we won’t. But it wasn’t a hang up for me. I enjoyed having these tiny unknowns floating around. It just made the book that much more mysterious and further immersed me.

Overall, it was the writing and these two beautifully imperfect characters that has me picking up the second book.

What one thing about this book stood out the most for you?
The witty, cynical, dry humor of the writing and a wonderfully complicated set of characters with loose morels.

Reviewer Bio
Though I’m an author, I was a reader first. I don’t read as much as I like, but I can usually squeeze in a few books a month.

Review by Raymond Mathiesen of Crimson Footprints

Review of: Crimson Footprints

Reviewer: Raymond Mathiesen

Review:
The balancing act of life…
Deena Hammond is a 24 year old architect living and working in her home town of Miami, Florida. In some ways Deena is very successful, but she comes from a poor background, and in many ways she is still inextricably tied up with those origins. Her grandmother, Emma Hammond, who brought Deena up, is constantly demanding and never satisfied. Deena’s adult brother Anthony is a small-time criminal, and her sister Lizzie, though still at school, is incorrigibly wayward and seems headed for a disaster of a life. Deena is half African-American and half white and feels that she was never really accepted by the black side of her family when they took her in as a child. In very harrowing circumstances Deena meets Takumi (Tak for short) Tanaka, the son of her world famous, distant and demanding boss Daichi Tanaka. Immediately the personal chemistry and attraction seems right, but everything else between these two people seems impossible. Deena is a mere underling. Should she even be talking to the son of the owner of the business she works for? What is more Deena’s family very much expects her to date a black man. Can these two people overcome the odds and form a friendship, or even the romance they both desire?

Shewanda Pugh’s Crimson Footprints can certainly be classified as a romance; however, it is much more than that. It is a story of class consciousness and racial division. It is about the struggle to find the right equilibrium between work and family, and it is a story about trying to ‘do the right thing’. Most of all, this novel is about balance in all things. We are all different, but we must overcome our resistances and come to the centre ground if we are truly going to be a success in life.

Pugh has managed to successfully weld sweet romance with biting ‘slice of life’. Romance, especially the first phase, usually seems enjoyable, even with its ups and downs and Pugh captures the pleasant nature of first love well. Mixed in with these chapters, though, are insights into the often seedy, cruel world of the lower class. This juxtaposition works very well, jarring us, and reminding us that while life can seem pleasurable, there is always harshness, perhaps not too distant from us. There is considerable irony in the contrasts between Deena’s romance, and her striving for career success, and Lizzie’s pure-flesh ‘sexploits’ and base efforts to get ahead (for example the Ch. 7 / Ch. Ch. 8 contrast). Pugh’s phrasing, particularly at peak moments, is often excellent, lifting her prose from the mundane. In Chapter 1, for example, which describes the run down suburb of Liberty City, we read of “Torn fences that imprison rather than embellished” the houses which Deena passes. This care with words, and occasionally poetic turn of phrase, helps to mark out the book as more than the average read. There are moments of pure humour, particularly the events surrounding Takumi’s cousin Mike and his fumbling attempts to capture Deena’s attention (CH. 47 & following). There are also moments of true shock and also scenes of high drama that take us far from the average world of romance. Pugh has included occasional swearing, and sex is very openly discussed and depicted. This may offend conservative readers, but is certainly justified by the themes, characters and story line.

The book has a more unusual plot structure. Part One (Ch. 1 – 7) serves as a general introduction to the Hammond and Tanaka families, and to Deena’s work. The plot peaks early, then builds as complications follow. Part Two (Ch. 8 – 42) is a very long section covering Tak and Deena’s extended holiday road-trip across much of the U.S. Romance blooms as Deena learns to loosen up, then a series of couples are met. These couples serve to show how Tak and Deena’s love perhaps could work. The sequence comes to an unexpected close as events suddenly twist in a crisis. This Part could perhaps have been divided into two sections, though the whole sequence is certainly united by the structure of the holiday. Part Three (Ch. 43 – 64) covers the problem of the hidden nature of the romance, centring on complications during a working holiday break. The disastrous climax of the novel is reached followed by a brief sequence wrapping up circumstances with the Tanaka family. Part Four (Ch. 65 – 67) describes the complications with Emma. This section is quite brief and perhaps could have been extended a little considering Deena’s grandmother’s earlier resistance, tenacity and belligerence. The Epilogue, set some years in the future wraps up the plot lines nicely, though one question is pointedly left open.

As already indicated the main theme of Crimson Footprints is balance, or Difference/Harmony. We like people ‘like us’, but we are all individuals. What does it really mean to be ‘like me”? Is this merely a matter of externals, or are internals more important? We need to accept who people are, and where they came from, but not be bound by that. An openness in outlook and balance is needed otherwise we will be bound forever in very limited circumstances. On another level, how do we handle the conflict between work and family / social life? Is one demand more important than another? Can we neglect either? Of course there are no easy answers, though those may be the first to come to us. Life is complicated and this book explores these complications.

The family is a second important theme. Families can be both sources of pain and sources of strength, and both features can occur in the same kinfolk. Families are what make us, but at the same time are what we grow from. They can be conservatively stolid, relying heavily on tradition, or can adapt to new circumstances. We can ignore them, but we can never really escape them. Following from tradition, a family can be a basic mother, father and children, or it can be a less conventional grouping. Families are very basic to human nature and being taken in, or adopted, does not make it of less importance to us. This very contrary institution in fact dominates us. We come from families and then we make new families, or at least extend those which we have.

Another important theme in the novel is what could broadly be termed as success. We are encouraged to ‘do our best’, to ‘do good’, to ‘shine’. What is success and what are the traits that allow us to see it? Is it hard work resulting in material objects? Is it love, honesty, caring and ethics resulting in respect and attachment? Is there room for both? Millennia ago the ancient Greeks asked, “What is the good citizen?” In response they formulated the idea of “Virtue” (Ben Dupre. 50 Philosophy Ideas You Really Need To Know: Quercus, 2007, p. 96 – 99), that is, the character traits that make us wisely successful in both working life and family life, and indeed everything that we do. This idea of ‘virtue’ is central to Pugh’s novel. Deena struggles to be a ‘good person’ ethically, socially and workwise. For her these are not separate issues, and not merely because she is in love with the boss’s son: all are tied up with who she is as a person. Of course there is success in terms of one social class’s ideals or another’s, but what is truly wise success. In the end isn’t success really related to what makes us “happy” (Ch. 20), as complex an issue as that may be?

Following from this there is also a minor theme of ‘religion verses ethics’. The Christian religion claims to be the guide for good, but surely considering the evil things that befall us for no reason we should conclude that God in some ways unfairly hates us (Ch. 2)? Indeed doesn’t hell hang over us like some permanent, inescapable damnation (Ch. 2)? Even if these things aren’t entirely correct theologically, aren’t accusation and condemnation how Christians really act? Is this really what good is all about? Equally, for so many, isn’t Buddhism in reality simply a constraining tradition full of rules about obligation (Ch. 10), rather than a source of right behaviour leading to internal peace? Once again this may not be correct according to the true tenets of Buddhism, but isn’t this how it often works out in practice? If religion in practice isn’t such a good guide for ‘goodness’, what do we take as our guide? Surely we must fall back into the painful position of finding our own way, and indeed Deena must struggle to find her own position.

Deena Hammond is an interesting character who we immediately like and care about. What strikes us is her positivity in very negative circumstance and her determination to get somewhere better. Deena is a ‘Star’, without being too perfect. Despite her determination, in certain circumstances, particularly with her Grandmother, she collapses. What unites these converse character elements is the fact that she is a self-accuser. Her accusation drives her on to career success, but also holds her up in her battle with her domineering Grandmother. While she accuses herself, Deena is somewhat driven to help others, particularly her siblings. This kind of complexity does much to make Deena seem more real to the reader. She is no cardboard cut-out. Deena must learn to limit her career “expectations” (Ch. 12) and not rely so much on “reason” (Ch. 16) alone to solve problems. These are human challenges the reader can recognise and understand, even if they do not personally suffer from them.

Takumi Tanaka is in some ways the ‘perfect man’ every woman dreams about. He is “athletic” (Ch. 1), a success at both art and business (Ch. 5) and caring. His limitation is that, while he can understand Grandmother Emma all too well, he only has a limited understanding of his own father and family. Despite this the reader wonders if Tak could have had just one or two more faults to make him more human.

Grandmother Emma Hammond is an appropriate nemesis. She is a narrow minded bigot, uneducated, an immense hypocrite and appropriately venomous, though occasionally she can give way. The words “consistently hostile” (Ch. 1) certainly sum her up. Her Christianity is certainly a biting irony.

Daichi Tanaka is describe by a magazine is “Architectural God” (Ch. 3) and his behaviour exhibits the kind of flaws that such adulation would certainly bring. He can be arrogant, bad tempered, rude and cold, but he is also willing to give others a chance to prove themselves, and even work to bring out the best in people. Daichi is like Deena in his determined, even driven nature, and in his concern for others, but quite different in his self-adulation. Pugh has these two character form an interesting and rich relationship, and has managed to make Daichi equally complex.

Examined from the perspective of Feminism it can easily be seen that Deena is a successful young career woman and entirely self-made. Deena’s challenge is to live up to the goals set by Betty Friedan (Cathia Jenainati. Introducing Feminism: Icon Books, 2010, p. 90 – 94) of being successful both in her job and family life, without falling into the same traps that men do (primarily favouring career over relationships). Hatsumi, Tak’s mother, however, is by marked contrast a 1950’s woman: unloved, unhappy, trapped at home, but beautifully dressed. Even Hatsumi, however, has a certain dignity and demonstrates a mind of her own, showing how women can rise above these circumstances. Emma, for all her failings, is certainly headstrong. Lizzie has a mind of her own, but serves as representative of the ‘sex object’ so propagated by traditional media and male driven dominance. Pugh makes it more than clear that according to her this option is not to be desired. Rhonda, Deena’s aunty, is also a career woman (Ch. 4), but demonstrates the bigotry which the ‘new woman’ faces as she must “constantly field unfounded accusations that she is a lesbian” (Ch. 4) simply because she does not fit a very narrow picture of what a woman should be like.

Daichi is very representative of the 1950’s male role model, being a stranger to both his feelings and his family, and believing that his duty as a male is solely to provide income. He sees himself as the family figure head. As the story progresses, however, this position comes under increasing, condemning scrutiny. Tak, by contrast, is the twenty first century man: not New Age / Spiritual, but none the less in touch with his own feelings, and caring of others. As an artist he expresses freedom and creativity, rather than being trapped in a rigid role. Anthony Hammond, Deena’s brother, represents that large group of men who have not progressed to the standard proposed by twenty first century male Gender Studies. He is everything a man should not be, trapped in a 1950’s ‘tough rebel’ role, renamed “gasgsta” (Ch. 56) as if it were something new.

This is by far a predominantly heterosexual novel, though, LGBTIQ people are very briefly represented by Bridget, “a lesbian” (Ch. 20), who is positively depicted as a successful career woman. Two quite large families are depicted in the novel, plus other minor characters, and we wonder if more of a representation of LGBTIQ people could have been made, particularly in a book where ‘difference’ is an important theme.

The aged, who are often ignored in society, are chiefly represented by Emma Hammond, though this is clearly not a sympathetic depiction. Of course being old does not automatically make you nice or wise. The absent character of Eddie Hammond, Emma’s husband, is equally uncomplimentary, though that is not surprising as the two belong together, having chosen each other as partners. Yukiko, Tak’s grandmother, by contrast proves to have learned wisdom over the years and in an important scene gives Daichi very useful words of advice.

This is a novel very much about minorities and highlights the difficulties those who would reach beyond their group face, as well as the difficulties those of mixed racial background face. African-Americans are highlighted, as are the U.S. minority of Japanese-Americans. This is, however, not really a book about political agenda or advancement in the standard way Post-Colonial Studies thinks. We do not, for example, really hear of civil rights. The social history behind African-American food is certainly mentioned early on (Ch. 4), and we hear that this is the food of slaves who must do with left overs. Also we hear that architecture should reflect the culture of the ethnic group (e.g. Mayan farmers) and empower these local groups (Ch. 3). As has been seen, both Deena and Rhonda are successful, black career women, and Daichi is certainly successful way beyond the normal expectations. The bigotry faced by both Japanese and Negroes in the U.S. is also briefly touched on as is the difficulties of mixed race couples (Ch. 57). The difficulties of people of mixed racial origin are also mentioned (Ch. 22). In all of this, however, the emphasis is on personal coping rather than political agenda. As has been said, this is a book about ‘Virtue’, and Pugh’s aim is to demonstrate the personal attitude in the face of these circumstances is what is important. Personal action to overcome poverty, for example, is the solution, rather than simply social programs. This is illustrated by the marked contrasts between the Tanaka and Hammond families. The Tanakas, despite their problems and failings, are educational achievers, work achievers and socially successful. The Hammonds, on the other hand ignore education, choose criminal careers, and glory in social bigotry and abrasiveness. They lead lives full of failure and ineptitude and seem to glory in it. Deena and Rhonda are of course the exception. As can be seen Pugh is not pulling her punches. This is a tough message and will be unpopular with at least some, though her message is overwhelmingly one of hope.

Similar to the position on minorities, Pugh takes an unusual stand in the Capitalist / Socialist debate. The evils of poverty are openly depicted. One example is the Liberty City high school where it is virtually impossible to take driver education courses because of under-resourcing (Ch. 7). There is no doubt that people should be able to live better. But once again the primary solution is personal virtue and not government programs. Opulent wealth is not openly condemned, far from it, but it is not placed above interpersonal caring and personality characteristics of value. Monetary wealth is of value, but not if that is all you have. This is certainly in keeping with the theories of Marx (Gill Hands. Understanding Marx: Hodder Education, 2011, Ch. 6), but is hardly standard Socialism. Pure Capitalism at the expense of virtue is certainly to be denied. Anthony has his “Air Jordans” (Ch. 6) and Lizzie has her tawdry, growing personal income, but at what expense to them personally? None the less this novel is in part a celebration of the American rags to riches ideal: the self-made man/woman.

Pugh is of course aiming to write about ‘real’ people and ‘real’ life, and so the field of psychology comes into play. Psychology aims to discover truths about human nature and behaviour, and so is a useful tool and aid to fiction. Deena is primarily motivated by guilt instilled in her by her overly-critical, religious grandparents who “bullied” her relentlessly (Ch. 12), and as a result is very critical of herself (Ch. 7), though she has achieved much in her life. She is controlled by the voice of others rather than her own “decision making and self-regulation” (Michael J. Formica. Guilt is a Wasted Emotion: Psychology Today: July 25, 2008, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/enlightened-living/200807/guilt-is-wasted-emotion). She is a rigid planner (Ch. 9) locked in schemes to ensure success, so that the critical voices (now in her head) will be appeased. Of course Deena must break free of this circumstance, and that is a major plot line in the book. Also it can be noted that Deena is a “rescuer” (Andrea Matthews. The Rescuer Identity: Psychology Today: April 21, 2011, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/traversing-the-inner-terrain/201104/the-rescuer-identity), who feels that she must ‘save’ her sister and brother, but is never successful in doing so. She carries out her ‘mission’ at great expense to her own development. She tries to ‘save’ others, but has never really established her own self-worth. Once again, it is clear that Deena must overcome this issue and Pugh explores this plot line in some detail.

A name can often help to shape us into the people we are, and studying names can sometimes help the reader to understand fiction. According to David L. Gold (A Dictionary Of Surnames: Oxford University Press, 1988, p. 237) the family name Hammond means “home”, with the special implications of “high [ … ] protection” and “ancestor [… ] protection”. This is certainly very ironic as Deena’s home is indeed anything other than a place of strong refuge, and her grandparents are hardly shields against the ill-will of the world.

Pugh’s novel is not heavily symbolic: however, the image of architecture hangs over the whole book. Architecture is “order in a world of chaos, sense in a world of madness” (Ch. 9). It can be something false and contrived that we impose on nature, or it can blend with the environment, as Deena wants to do with her Postmodern theories (Ch. 5). It can construct artificiality or it can deconstruct our fake ideas of life (Ch. 3). As has been noted Deena is trapped in the construction of her family and their “expectations” (Ch. 12), as well as her own, and needs to break free into her own natural being.

Shewanda Pugh’s Crimson Footprints has many aspects to it. It has the themes of difference / harmony, family and success, which are explored in some detail. Its characters tend to be complex and life-like, and are in tune with the ideas of modern psychology. The issues of racial and class division are explored in depth. The limitations of 1950’s values for both men and women are depicted, and the alternatives, as proposed by Feminism and Gender Studies, are examined. The role of money verses personal worth, as seen in the Capitalist / Socialist debate, is investigated in some detail, though Pugh chooses an individual solution, and is not bound by the constrains of either of those theories. Pugh writes well and she has created a successful novel which I am happy to rate as 5 stars out of 5.

What one thing about this book stood out the most for you?
Shewanda Pugh’s Crimson Footprints can certainly be classified as a romance; however, it is much more than that. It is a story of class consciousness and racial division. It is about the struggle to find the right equilibrium between work and family, and it is a story about trying to ‘do the right thing’. Most of all, this novel is about balance in all things. We are all different, but we must overcome our resistances and come to the centre ground if we are truly going to be a success in life.

Reviewer Bio
I have a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in literature. In that degree I obtained minors in psychology, modern history and economics. I also have a Graduate Diploma of Library Science in which my studies included management and communications.

I live in Australia. I have lived in Townsville and Brisbane (in the state of Queensland), and Armidale (in the state of New South Wales) in Australia. I have never travelled overseas, but would like to visit the United Kingdom.

Review by Raymond Mathiesen of Hypocrites In His Midst: A Story About Flawed Human Beings

Review of: Hypocrites In His Midst: A Story About Flawed Human Beings

Reviewer: Raymond Mathiesen

Review:
The long road from street gangs to success…

Wilton Latso is seventy two years old and a grandfather. In the middle of a heated argument with his adult daughter Abbie, Wilton realizes that she has no idea of who he is, where he came from, and why he did the things he did when he was bringing her up. Spontaneously Wilton starts remembering and soon he decides to write down the story of his life. Wilton came from a poor family living in a poor suburb of St. Louis, Missouri in the late 1940’s / early 1950s. In this era of street gangs Wilton is soon introduced to a world of violence, ego and selfishness. Wilton’s parents are staunch Pentecostal Christians, but Wilton doubts that faith from the start. The trouble is that he can see all too clearly his parent’s hypocrisy, particularly his mother’s. Throughout his life Wilton will continue to observe people, noting many to be hollow, offering friendship, espousing beliefs but proving to be fakes.

Donnell Wilson’s Hypocrites In His Midst: A Story About Flawed Human Beings is a fictional autobiography spanning seven decades. It is a story of “redemption” (Ch. 8) in a secular sense. This is a book about trying to “do the right thing” (Ch. 3), though the “right thing” (Ch. 2) is not always obvious or easy to achieve. Wilson’s novel, especially in the first three Parts, is broadly comparable to Nicky Cruz’s real life autobiography Run Baby Run (Logos, 1972), though that book is firmly Christian, while this book is firmly agnostic (Ch. 31). Most of all, this book is about how a person can growing to maturity (or avoid it).

The novel is a first person narrative and as a result we hear much of the main characters thoughts and opinions and much less of the perspective of other people. This is very much a central character novel, partly because of the narrator’s self-confessed ignorance of and difficulty with “relationships” (Ch. 1). Other people are a mystery. For example Evelyn, Willy’s teenage bride (Ch. 2), remains in many ways a mystery throughout the whole book though she is ‘present’ for twenty one chapters. Also, throughout much of his life Willy has unstable job circumstances and as a result the story has many minor characters that come and go without Wil or the reader really getting to know them. It is indeed Willy’s frequent complaint that this happens (Ch. 1 and following). As it can be seen the book could have benefited from more dramatized conversations and events that illustrated the perspective of other characters, especially the main characters, and perhaps some of the minor characters could have been left out. The novel works very well, however, as an exploration of one man’s character and by the end of the story we feel as though we really know and understand Willy and have learned what life can be like for someone quite different to ourselves. Wil is very much from a lower class background, a regular frequenter of bars, and the narrative has the chatty ethos of a reminiscing story told by a friend, perhaps at a party or a pub. There is frequent foul language, sex is openly described and discussed and violence is openly depicted. This is certainly justified and in keeping with the ‘underworld’ ethos of the book, but conservative people may be offended. There are occasional “Oh my gosh!” moments and scenes of high tension which are well written. The marijuana trip and LSD trip in Chapter 13 very much capture the ‘Hey man! Cool!’ atmosphere of the sixties giving the reader an off-beat, fun, but dangerous, slightly “paranoid” (Ch. 13) feeling. In passages like this Wilson reveals his true skill as an author. Early in the story Wil’s friends take up calling him “Willy Lost Soul” and indeed the name Latso can be seen as a play on the words ‘lost soul’. Wil is a lost soul in the criminal underworld, but also a soul seeking personal ‘redemption’, albeit in an unconventional secular sense.

The plot is divided into five parts. Part I (Ch. 1 – 6) covers Wil’s childhood, gang membership and street life, teenage marriage and first jobs. Wilson then describes Willy’s first major attempt to exit his ‘underworld’ style of living by attending trade school and then working as a car body man and painter. The section ends in a major climax that moves Wil to new territory in an unexpected way. In Part II: A New Beginning (Ch. 7 – 10) Wil’s family moves to a new suburb and a partially better life. This section concentrates on Darwin, Wil’s younger brother who is perhaps in some ways even more lost than him. Wil attempts to help Darwin. He also gains his GED school qualification and begins a writing course in order to see if he can fulfil his childhood dream of being a writer. Once again events come to a crisis, though this time not so unforseen. Part III: Farewell Party (Ch. 11 – 21) sees Wil’s family Move to Boulder, Colorado where Wil meets and befriends Merlin an ‘out-there’ character who is deep into drug culture. This part depicts the late 1960’s / early1970’s Counterculture very well. The reader feels both an amusement and frustration with Wil as he seems to repeat his teenage mistakes all be it in a new way. Wil is never quite a ‘drop-out’ and he develops a bond with Merlin in a way he has never had with anyone else. Part III comes to a peak of a different kind, then there are two final chapters and the plot peaks again. Part IV: Learning the Three R’s – Rita, Reba, and Rachel (Ch. 22 – 33) covers love relationships with the title women. Rita receives six chapters, but Reba and Rachel are only allotted three each. Once again the reader is interested by these more unusual women but frustrated by Wil as he seems never to overcome his problem with human relationships. Once more there is a final unexpected crisis which propels Wil into a new life. Part V: Pain, Love, Redemption, and Success (Ch. 34 – 41) introduces us to Katie a nurse who becomes Wil’s final love interest. In this section Wil finally gains more maturity forming a more happy relationship, more enjoyable career and financial success. Wil observes, however, that in some ways people are the same wherever you are. As can be seen the book involves a certain amount of reputation on a theme, though each part is quite different from the last. As the book progresses Wil earns and so it is important to point out that the novel is not quite as repetitive as this very bare outline may make it seem.

Wilton Latso is a very flawed, but likable character. “Moxie” (Ch. 1 and following) is a characteristic he likes in his friends and is perhaps his own central trait. Wil is very determined and always fights back. He wants to do what is right, but right by his standard. He repeatedly says that he basically wants to be “left alone” (Ch. 1 and following), but finds that this is just what interfering people will not allow. On the down side Wil’s independence leads him into trouble and his individuality has a selfish side. He is ignorant of people and this compounds his selfishness. His early life has made him violent (psychologically and physically) and he repeatedly uses aggression rather than his creative intelligence to solve problems. Wil is in many ways like the ‘tough guy hood’ we all secretly admired in high school, who gave teachers grief, won fights and took flak from nobody. But while we later grew away from these things, though we never forgot them, Wil does not do this until much later (and in some ways not at all). We both like and dislike this very individual man, and his dynamo character certainly carries us through the book keeping us interested, if not always in an admiring way. We care enough about will to want things to go right for him.

Merlin is an important main character and the reader feels, as they do with Wil, both attraction and disapproval. Merlin is very easy-going and affable, also in a boyish way. He laughs a lot and is trustworthy as a friend. He is adventurous, but this is also his failing quality, as is his boyishness, as it leads him into an extreme life far from tried and tested ‘normality’. Like Willy we care for him and are carried along by him, caught up in his adventures and misadventures.

Rita, Reba and Rachel are all in their individual ways escapees from ‘normality’, each intriguing, but each having pronounced failings. Rita is very much an ‘out-there, zany lady,’ a product of the Counterculture. Not so long ago she was very much in into the drug scene, particularly LSD, and she still suffers from “flashbacks and hallucinations” (Ch. 25). She is sexually free and adventurous, and generally a free spirit who in many ways we like, particularly at first. Like many in the 1960s, however, Rita is adrift, lacking a centre, and even more than Wil she wants things and is willing to grab them in whatever way she can. If Rita is sexually adventurous, Reba is the ‘sex queen’. She and her partner Chuck have an ‘open relationship’ and are very ‘happening’ people. Reba also wants things, but seems unsure of the details. She doesn’t really know her mind. Rachel wants most of all to be loved and to be with a man that shows that love, but she holds herself aloof or even worse is aggressive. These failings partly prevent her from entering into the very love relationship she desires, and in depression, and perhaps desperation, she turns to drink. Rachel, too, is sexually adventurous, but in her dissatisfaction in life this makes her shifting rather than solid. All of these women, in their individual ways, promise love, but all are characterized by emptiness at their core. They are intriguing without being necessarily ‘good’ characters.

Katie, Wil’s final love, is “naïve, affectionate, very intelligent, warm, and pretty” (Ch. 35). She is a nurse and this reflects her helping nature. She is centred in others, rather than herself. While naïve she has the ability to learn to ‘get tough’ and that is exactly what she does. We like Katie because she is nice, but has her own style of “moxie” (Ch. 35). Katie also has a solid base that the other major women characters in the book do not have.

All these characters interest us and move us forward in the plot, though we do not completely ‘like’ most of them. What captures us about most is that they are quite different from the ‘normal’. These are people from the ‘wild’ side of life.

As the title suggests Wilson’s novel has hypocrisy as a major theme. People very much like to put up a front of ‘respectability’, but then say and do things that are far from this public persona. Even more, under the guise of ‘uprightness’ people like to interfere in the affairs of others, telling them what to do, but they themselves prove to be distant from ‘goodness’. Organisations, such as the church, government and business, can be particularly guilty of this, and those who participate in them tend to follow suit. But then even ‘drop-outs’ can prove to be less than ‘happening’. Self-hypocrisy is perhaps something that we are all victims of. We say to ourselves that we are one thing, want one thing, believe one thing, but really we are fooling ourselves.

The other side of hypocrisy is true values and ethics, what could be called secular spirituality. Wil believes that relationships should be based on “respect” (Ch. 1), but not the fake kind implied by class or money. We should “do unto others” (Ch. 2) as we ourselves would like to be treated. We should not break our word (Ch. 4). Wil sees the idea of eternal punishment “for sinning seventy years” as anything but “fair” (Ch. 2): balanced justice is important to him. He sees that we should be basically free to live our own lives, as long as we do no real harm, and be free of “accusation” (Ch. 3), and of course we should not accuse others. Beyond this, going deeper into spirituality, Willy has his own non-conventional kind of spirituality. He is mildly interested in astrology. He espouses views similar to the Unitarian faith (Ch. 6 & 31), particularly the idea that we are all on a journey up a mountain, though we are climbing it from different sides (i.e. different faiths). A car accident makes him very aware of the reality of death (Ch. 10) and later he experiences a ‘vision’ of someone he knew who is dead (Ch. 21) while friends of his experience strange occurrences at the exact time of the death of another (Ch. 37).

The theme of success is very strong in the novel. We often say that riches are hollow, but living without money, and perhaps worse, without a sense of achieving something is very difficult. Perhaps only those who come from poor backgrounds truly understand this. But does owning property, such as a house, assure us of success, and isn’t true success more than money?

Closely allied to the theme of success is the idea of maturation / search for the self. Wilson’s novel is very much about personal change: going from unhappiness to happiness, healing hurts. We are all hurt, but some of us are hurt more than others. Is it possible to lift ourselves out of the circumstances we are born into? What must we sacrifice along the way? Is change sometimes thrust upon us?

The first part of the novel very much depicts the 1950’s biased view of women. A classic example of this is the notion that men have affairs, while women, being ‘good little women’ do not (Ch. 3). In the character of Evelyn women’s dissatisfaction under the restrictions of this era is very much depicted. Feminist criticisms of society and solutions, however, are only hinted at. Evelyn wants to ‘find herself’, but never seems to really achieve this, though she does take charge of her life and gain a new kind of positive confidence. The 1960’s version of Feminism is hinted at in the character of Rachel (Ch. 31), but this character is certainly not depicted sympathetically. The freedom of the 60s, including freedom for women, seems to ring false in the three characters of Rita, Reba and Rachel. It is 1980’s that we come upon a more mature version of womanhood in the character of Katie. In this character we have a depiction of a woman closer to Betty Friedan’s ideas (Cathia Jenainati. Introducing Feminism: Icon Books, 2010, p. 90-94), that is both successful in her career and her family life, without betraying her femininity or becoming false.

Similar to women and Feminism, the novel very much shows men in their 1950’s guise, before the liberation of Gender Studies. Wil must be the ‘tough guy’ full of bluster and fight. He is indeed afraid to be afraid (Ch. 1). Wil is afraid of emotions and sees them, if anything as weakness. Crying is certainly something men don’t do (Ch. 4). For Wil relationships are difficult, if not a complete mystery (Ch. 1 & 2). In a marriage “the man is supposed to be in charge, not the woman” (Ch. 4). A man’s job in a relationship is seen as not much more than working to provide an income. But the whole novel depicts an evolution away from this situation as the story progresses. Indeed, right from the start Wil sees the caring nature of his father and grandfather as something to be admired (Ch. 1 & Ch. 36). Along the way, however, Wil must first give up his view of ‘the strong working father’ and then learn to express his love. This is for him a very long drawn out process, and even at the end of the book we wonder if he, despite all his intentions, has completely broken free of his 1950’s masculine conditioning.

While this is a mainly heterosexual novel, LGBTIQ relations are occasionally touched on. Wil has a dream which makes him aware of a grain of homosexuality in himself (Ch. 19). He is not afraid of this, or does not feel bad as a result. When Wil’s work colleague Mel discovers that his son is gay Wil gives very positive advice about accepting and loving this young man (Ch. 34). The kind of bigotry that LGBTIQ people face is depicted in a disapproving way (Ch. 39). The picture is not all naively positive though. As a boy Wil was pressured by a gay paedophile (Ch. 25) and as an adult he receives too familiar a treatment from a male boss (Ch. 9), although it is not fully clear that this man is gay. Lesbians receive a brief sympathetic mention, though they are not depicted (Ch. 40).

The often ignored group of the aged are also depicted to a small extent. Wil’s grandfather, though an absent character, is spoken of positively. Late in the story Wil’s mother and father are depicted as old people. In the case of his father we see a positive representation, but in the case of his mother the circumstances are very negative. Of course people do not become miraculously wise and kind simply because they have aged.

Minorities, another classification of ignored groups, are frequently mentioned and depicted in small ways. Wil often expresses positive views of people of various races, declaring that colour does not matter to him. Racial bigotry is also often depicted in a disapproving way. Junior, a work colleague of Wil’s, receives fullest representation (Ch. 5 & Ch. 7). He is depicted as an affable man who receives bigotry with very good grace. Wil himself is of partial American Indian descent and characters of this descent pop up as minor characters. Some of these incidents dramatize the bigotry they face (Ch. 38). People of Mexican descent similarly regularly pop up in cameo appearances (Ch. 12 & following), and the bigotry they face is also portrayed and condemned (Ch. 18). Finally there is one rabid Jew hater depicted, who is certainly disapproved of (Ch. 13).

Wilson’s novel takes an interesting position in the Capitalism / Socialism debate as it takes the middle-ground, third way of Liberalism. As has been noted, Wil is no friend of interfering government. Maximum freedom of the individual is really his central point. Willy is a “liberal, progressive Democrat” (Ch. 32). None the less he certainly disapproves of rich “fat cats” (Ch. 9), noting for example their “rudeness” (Ch. 9), however, he is continually aware of his family’s “need [… for …] more money” and pursuit of finance is his central occupation. Partially this is a ‘poor man makes rich’ story and as such is firmly in the ‘great American Capitalist ideal’. Wil finally owns “a half-million dollar house on a waterway” (Ch. 1). None the less Willy describes himself as having “leanings of socialism from seeing inequities in society” (Ch. 9), and to be fair equality is very much an important issue to him. Class struggle and the unethical way the rich gain their wealth are also important issues to him (Ch. 26). These are certainly Socialist ideas and not surprising from a man of poor background.

Covering a life of seventy two years the novel is partially a social history. As has been noted, the first two Parts document the narrow views of the 1950’s social system, but from Chapter 11 onwards the plot enters the society of the Counterculture (late 1960s / early 1970s). “Hippies” (Ch. 11 & following), the anti-war movement (Ch. 12), the psychedelic movement (Ch. 13 & following) and “swingers” (Ch. 21) are all mentioned, and indeed drugs are an important part of the novel. This ear of freedom, though, does not go completely without critical analysis. The swingers seem to be simply looking for an excuse to abandon their partner, rather than being really open minded. Drugs, for all their excitement, propel the user into a narrow world where responsibility is easily lost. Don, a minor character, for example takes drugs all day while his pregnant girlfriend works (Ch. 19).

Most fiction is about ‘real’ people and so psychology, which aims to find the truth about individuals, is an important tool for an author. While Wilson’s book is not specifically ‘psychological’, it does touch on many issues related to that field of study. Wil himself may suffer from “attention deficit hyperactivity disorder” (Ch. 1), his brother Darwin is diagnosed as bipolar (Ch. 1 & Ch. 36) and after a bad accident at works Wil suffers from “panic attacks” (Ch. 3). Wil and his wife Evelyn attend marriage “divorce counselling” (Ch. 22), and Willy attends long after the divorce because he finds it so personally helpful. “Emptiness” (Ch. 19) as a motivation for drug taking is noted, as is the inevitable “downer” (Ch. 19) that they bring. These points could have been ‘fleshed-out’ more with a little study of the psychological literature. The novel is most ‘psychological’ in its observations of the influence of parents and peer groups on long term behaviour. Both Evelyn and Wil lack parents who can teach them how to communicate with a partner (Ch. 2 & following) and Willy even imitates his mother in her blaming attitude, though this is a quality he hates in her (Ch. 6). Wil listens to his peer delinquent group because he “wanted to be liked” (Ch. 2). The effect of both parents and peer group haunt him for the rest of his life and the book documents his attempts to escape this influence.

Wilson’s novel does not really use imagery; however, there is one scene where a pet “boa constrictor” (Ch. 17) eats two mice, who the men at Wil’s work have become very attached to. This story is aptly ghastly and serves as a good symbol for the whole book. The natural world is cruel and we are trapped in it, dancing around the aggressor, or looking dubiously at him, a little like mice. We can use our imagination to make the world better, but we will never really escape the snake.

Many stories, being what they are, have some mythic qualities and this includes Hypocrites In His Midst. In the first half of the novel Wil is almost possessed by his desire to earn for his family, and around the middle of the book this peaks in the task of building a family home. This is his proverbial ‘castle’ or ‘ivory tower’ in which his family will live safely and all will be well. Drawing on the cultural mythology of the Tarot we can see that the card of The Tower Of Destruction very much represents his predicament at this point. Describing this card Sallie Nichols says that two people “are being thrown from a position of lofty security into one of exposure and confusion” and that a “tongue of lightning has knocked off the golden crown that serves as [… the tower’s …] roof” (Jung And Tarot: An Archetypal Journey: Samuel Weiser, 1980, p. 283). Wil’s house is not literally destroyed, but a destructive crisis does occur and Wil is thrown into a state of personal confusion, which he must work through in Part IV. Later speaking of his mental attitude Wil says “I was already building an emotional brick wall to hide behind and protect myself” (Ch. 29). His desires for financial security, and later his attitudes, are a mental construct, a tower he has built for protection, and yet a tower that constricts him and causes as much harm as good. Nichols, noting that the title of the card in French “carries the meaning of hospice”, writes, “the two sick souls [ … ] are being liberated from an enforced incarceration rather than cast forth from their true home” (Nichols, p. 285). The tower depicted in the card has no door. Both Wil and Evelyn are indeed trapped in a marriage which was meant to solve a bad situation (a pregnancy), but which has brought mostly pain. Crowley notes of the card that it also carries the meaning of “the destruction of the old-established Aeon by lightning, flames, engines of war” (Aleister Crowley. The Book Of Thoth: Samuel Weiser, 1974, p. 107). The events surrounding the building of Wil’s house come in the context of the end of 1950’s values and the beginning of the era initiated by the Counterculture, and the personal meaning of this is certainly acrimony and conflict between Wil and Evelyn.

Throughout the novel Wil notices “my own foolishness” (Ch. 3 and following) and we see many examples of his jokey, uproarious behaviour at parties. Following from this it can be seen that the Tarot card of The Fool applies to the whole book. Nichols describes this character as a “wanderer, energetic [… and …] ubiquitous” (p. 23) and indeed this is Wil ‘to a tee’. He moves from place to place and job to job, is always rushing to some new project and is in many ways an ‘everyman’. Nichols notes that “the word ‘fool’ is derived from the Latin follis, meaning, ‘a pair of bellows, a windbag’” (Nichols, p. 28). Wil frequently notes that he cannot “keep [… his …] mouth shut” (Ch. 2 & following). Again Nichols notes that the fool’s approach to life includes “the innocence of childhood” (Nichols, p. 26), and as has been said Willy in many ways remains the schoolboy ‘tough’. Nichols notes that the Fool, possessing secret wisdom, was often advisor to the king, being free to “criticise him and offer challenging suggestions” (Nichols, p. 29). As has been noted Wil often hands out advice to the governments of his day. Writing further Nichols notes that the fool’s cap was “originally conceived as a satire on the monk’s cowl, [… but …] nevertheless betrays a serious connection with the spirit” (Nichols, p. 27), and, once again as we have seen, Wil is both critical of the Christian church but personally concerned with ethics and ‘spiritual’ concerns. In a summing up passage Nichols writes:

“… the Fool’s spontaneous approach to life combines wisdom, madness, and folly. When he mixes these ingredients in the right proportions the results are miraculous, but when the mixture curdles, everything ends in a sticky mess” (Nichols, p. 24).

This could be written about Wil. Much more could be said about the relevance of The Fool to Hypocrites In His Midst, but space does not permit.

Wil becomes interested in astrology and this is another source of cultural mythology that has relevance to the novel. Wil is “Aries” (Ch. 23) and examining this sign reveals much about the book. Aries begins at the equinox when “light and dark are perfectly balanced” (Nicholas Campion. Zodiac: Enhance Your Life Through Astrology: Alhambra House, c2000, p. 21) and it is interesting to see that Wil is an unusual mix of ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Many would call him a simple criminal, yet he has an ethic of his own. He is interested in very earthy, practical solutions to problems, like building a house, yet he has ‘spiritual’ interests. Aries is characterized by “unlimited power and individuality” (Campion, p. 21) and Wil, as has been noted is very dynamic and quite a character. Aries is ruled by Mars (Campion, p. 22), the god of war, and Wil is never afraid to fight and indeed finds himself regularly in a battle. Aries has “drive and ambition” (Campion, p. 23), and Wil, more than most things, wants to get ahead. Aries can fall into “extremes” (Campion, p. 23), and during his psychedelic phase Wil does just that. Aries needs to learn the lesson that “other people have feelings and that they may be hurt by our words or actions” (Campion, p. 22) and this is indeed one of the main elements in Wilson’s novel. Once again, much more could be said about the relevance of this mythological sign, but space does not permit.

At 630 pages Hypocrites In His Midst is not really a quick weekend read. It really needs several weekends to take in the full extent of Wil’s seventy two years of living. This book needs to be thought about at least a bit. The characters are likable, but not exactly “good” people. The themes of hypocrisy, ethics, success and personal maturation reflect the more individual natures of the characters, certainly giving us something to think about. The changing role of women is looked at, though some Feminists may raise their eyebrows. The changing gender role of men is described in detail, though we wonder if Wil has completely freed himself of the 1950s perspective. LGBTIQ, the aged and racial minorities receive representation and sympathetic treatment. There is an interesting blend of Capitalism and Socialism, though as a Liberal work the main emphasis is Capitalist. Mythology can reveal much about the novel, though it does not specifically use imagery. Wilson’s novel could be read and enjoyed simply as the story of a ‘tough’, but it is really quite a bit more than that. The exploration of Wil’s seventy two years takes us at least briefly to many different ideas and aspects of life. I am happy to rate this book as 4.5 stars out of 5.

What one thing about this book stood out the most for you?
This book is a fictional autobiography spanning seven decades. It is a story of “redemption” (Ch. 8) in a secular sense. This is a book about trying to “do the right thing” (Ch. 3), though the “right thing” (Ch. 2) is not always obvious or easy to achieve.

Reviewer Bio
I have a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in literature. In that degree I obtained minors in psychology, modern history and economics. I also have a Graduate Diploma of Library Science in which my studies included management and communications.

I live in Australia. I have lived in Townsville and Brisbane (in the state of Queensland), and Armidale (in the state of New South Wales) in Australia. I have never travelled overseas, but would like to visit the United Kingdom.

Review by Susan McMichael of A 3rd Time To Die

Review of: A 3rd Time To Die

Reviewer: Susan McMichael

Review:
What is it about you stranger?
This is a love story with a mystery at the heart of it, a paranormal mystery. Why can Ashley Easton speak French so well? Why can she ride a horse so well, after only riding for just a few weeks? Who is the mysterious young man she meets in the dressage competition, and why is he so alluring? A 3rd Time to Die by George A. Bernstein is a love story and a mystery, rolled into one. It uses the concept of reincarnation as an interesting plot device.

Our first glimpse of Ashley Easton is of a woman rescuing a horse:
“Hey quit that!” Her shout raspy, she banged the gate with the side of the pitchfork. (p. 25)
The horse has always represented passion and desire in literature, and A 3rd Time to Die is no exception. Ashley’s new horse brings her excitement and energy into her life and allows a new relationship to flourish. Ashley is revitalised and energised by rescuing the horse; it also brings into sharp relief the way her life has changed. Ashley is an engaging character who knows her own mind and who is financially independent. She feels a great deal, but takes a long time to act on these feelings: this is Ashley Easton’s challenge. The reader feels the occasional sense of frustration, and is delighted she finally gets herself going.

Ashley’s lover, Craig Thornton is lovely and is everything that Ashley needs and wants: he is the polar opposite to Ashley’s husband Keith, and is charming, interesting, fascinated by Ashley, shares her interests, and is caring. Their relationship changes over time, and as they learn more about each other, their characters develop in surprising and engrossing ways. A personal fault or two, however, might have helped to make Craig more real.

Craig Thornton is also an interesting contrast to Ashley because his marriage is breaking down, but it’s not his fault: his wife is the one who is cheating. Bernstein thus sets up interesting parallels and contrasts in the relationships. The two spouses, Keith and Toni, are not pleasant characters. Keith is a husband totally lost from the relationship: he ignores the children and takes a mistress. I would have preferred a little more shading to these spouses to add more real complexity of personality: Keith doesn’t help with the children, doesn’t like anything about his wife anymore, is nasty in his other relationships; but has no redeeming quality. He is a little too bad to be human. He seems to have no saving grace: I know Craig is lovely but Keith must have been OK at one point.

The novel examines relationships. The men and women in A 3rd Time to Die are not just seeking anyone but someone special. In the opening 1895′s past-life visionary flashback Charles sees in Victoria, a woman who is “passionate, sensuous and willful” (p. 6). He loves her for these qualities, and Ashley and Craig are similarly looking for very special traits.

Soul mates are important in this novel – people click and realise they are meant to be together. The website of the Australian Psychological Society says that: “newer fields of psychology, especially transpersonal psychology and ecopsychology, are taking seriously the holistic notion of human beings as comprising mind, body, and soul. These fields propose that people are spiritual beings living a human life that extends beyond our mundane existence and skin-encapsulated ego-self to include direct experience of the environment and the cosmos. They recognise the importance of integrating spiritual with physical and mental reality, that spirituality is but one part of the whole.” (http://www.groups.psychology.org.au/tpig/) The complications of the soul mates and reincarnation that have to be overcome make a really interesting plot device in this novel. The question of whether Ashley and Craig will survive their love, and who is against them and intends them harm is a gripping question.

The last main character is the psychologist Dr Feldman. He is an interesting character: he’s helpful, but indecisive and his eventual insights and understandings moved the plot along. Feldman is one of Joseph Campbell’s helpers. In Monomyth, Cambell explains that: “For those who have not refused the call, the first encounter of the hero journey is with a protective figure (often a little old crone or old man) who provides the adventurer with amulets against the dragon forces he is about to pass. What such a figure represents is the benign, protecting power of destiny.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monomyth) Feldman helps Ashley and Craig understand what is happening. This relationship is a satisfying aspect of the novel.

Ashley and Craig share a love of horse riding. As has been noted, the horse has always represented strong emotions and passionate desires in literature and this is also true in A 3rd Time To Die. Since D. H. Lawrence, the horse has been a staple representation of sexuality, freedom and power. Ashley’s horse in the novel represents all the freedom of her youth, the regained sexuality that her unfulfilled marriage has stripped from her, as well as links to the past. A secondary meaning for the horse spirit animal is the balance between the instinctive and tamed parts of your personality. Ashley is thus more real when she is with her horse, Injun, than when she is in her house. She feels freer, her speech with Craig is more natural, but she also learns more about herself and the issues that are troubling her: “Jeez, that’s when this started! The sense of riding through woods and whispered thoughts in French. Nothing as intense as now. Why the fantasy only haunt her when jumping a horse?” (p. 87). This is the symbolism of the nature / culture dichotomy.

The story’s structure is that of several parts with the first long section establishing the various different relationships. Ashley spends a considerable amount of time analysing her (hopeless) marriage, before concluding that there is nothing to be done. This section was long and drawn out. I wondered why it took so long to get to a resolution of this point. Once the relationship with Craig was established and Bernstein managed to bring the pair together, the book moved along at a great pace.
In the final section the plot lines are drawn to a satisfying conclusion and the lovers’ relationship and future, and the circumstance of the nemesis are well resolved. A final catastrophic climax is well done and keeps the reader guessing until the last moment.

The role of money in the novel is interesting: Ashley is well off, thanks to her Father’s money. She uses the processes and systems and makes them work for her to improve her life, rather than just make more money. This is a positive role for women.

A 3rd Time to Die’s main theme is of course reincarnation. Have these people lived other lives? Who were they? Who is after Ashley and Craig now? Carl Jung believed that in a person’s life, synchronicity served a role similar to that of dreams, with the purpose of shifting a person’s egocentric conscious thinking to greater wholeness. Dr. Feldman helps promote this view in the novel. He is also a psychiatrist using various methods to assist his patients. Transpersonal psychology is a school of psychology that studies the transpersonal, self-transcendent or spiritual aspects of the human experience. Transpersonal experiences may be defined as “experiences in which the sense of identity or self extends beyond (trans) the individual or personal to encompass wider aspects of humankind, life, psyche or cosmos.” Issues considered in transpersonal psychology include spiritual self-development, self beyond the ego, peak experiences, mystical experiences, systemic trance and other sublime and/or unusually expanded experiences of living. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transpersonal_psychology) Dr. Feldman moves from a more reductionist view of the mind to a more spiritual, Transpersonal approach and indeed the question of this new ideology and philosophy become central to the book.

A 3rd Time to Die is a love story with a twist, a paranormal mystery with an engaging heroine and plot surprises and developments which were very satisfying. The characters develop in interesting ways through time and as the novel progresses. The relationships were interesting and well-drawn. The plot lines are drawn to a satisfying conclusion, and the lover relationship and mystery of foreboding doom are well resolved. The conclusion is gripping and the answer is unexpected and pleasingly surprising. I am happy to rate this book as 4 stars out of 5.

What one thing about this book stood out the most for you?
This is a love story with a mystery at the heart of it, a paranormal mystery. Why can Ashley Easton speak French so well? Why can she ride a horse so well, after only riding for just a few weeks? Who is the mysterious young man she meets in the dressage competition, and why is he so alluring? A 3rd Time to Die by George A. Bernstein is a love story and a mystery, rolled into one. It uses the concept of reincarnation as an interesting plot device.

Reviewer Bio
I received my B.A. (Hons) from the University of New England Armidale, in 1992, majoring in English. I focused on Victorian and American literature. I have also studied Psychology and French.

I have been reading Sylvia Plath since 1983, and studied both Plath and Ted Hughes, at UNE.

Review by Gregory Redfern of 3 Myths About Bullying

Review of: 3 Myths About Bullying

Reviewer: Gregory Redfern

Review:
3 Myths About Bullying by Dale Yeager is a great mini-book. Finally someone has the guts to tell the truth about the facts and the myths about bullying. As an educator I know the real story about bullying in the 21st century. Dale really has hit the nail on the head here. If everyone read this little story they would have the ammunition to deal with today’s bullies. It does not take long to read but it has mountains of knowledge. A must read for entry level student parents to Middle or High school.

Review by Susan McMichael of American Crow

Review of: American Crow

Reviewer: Susan McMichael

Review:
Move over Rebus, here comes Blake…
Detective fiction is a little like drinking wine: there is a lot around and everyone has their favourite. When something new comes on the market, the drinker or the reader, looks longingly to their favourite brand or book and says, “I hope the new one is like the old one…” It’s not an exact science of course: there is a chemistry to it. The reader can like a new detective story, and then the reader can love a new detective story.

I am a fan of detective stories. I began with Agatha Christie back when I was eleven. I read Sherlock Holmes and moved onto the feminist detectives in the early eighties. It’s a little hard to define what I like: sometimes I think that reading anything is really a love story and so is undefinable, but….

I picked up American Crow by Jack Lacey and was hooked. I love American Crow. The character of Sibelius Blake is strongly written and interesting. Blake’s back story comes out through the novel. The plot ending ties beautifully with the beginning: it is very well structured.

When we first meet Blake, he has just quit his job as a tracer after having suffered a tragedy. He is alone. Sibelius Blake comes from a long line of detectives who have issues: Dalziel of Dalziel and Pascoe, and Inspector Morse from Colin Dexter, are recent versions. We like these wounded detectives for their peculiarities (their cryptic crosswords, their drinking, and their morose moods) because they fight for the truth. They are right, despite the odds, and they are good at heart. Blake is cast in this mould: despite telling “everyone he’d quit for good”, Lenny, his boss, can still track him down and know that Blake will find Olivia Deacon, or if he can’t, do his darnedest.

This is search and find detective fiction: we aren’t looking at bodies as in the Cornwell/Scarpetta type of novel. Rather, we are searching for something lost, in this case a person. This search serves as an introduction to a Private Investigator with a great back story. It also gives Lacey scope to show us Blake’s ability as a detective. Lenny tells Blake that he can “mix it with the worst, blend in with the riffraff… You know what I mean? You’re not some stiff Columbo type in a mackintosh…. That’ why you gets results.”

Like a large number of his kind (Millhone and Dalziel) Blake is alone, without family. The reasons for this makes a really interesting plot line which is well structured and kept me reading. It resolved itself well at the end and, along the way we are introduced to an interesting mix of minor characters: the cafe owner, Blake’s boss Lenny, Lenny’s family members, and an odd, and occasionally, scary bikie and truck driver. I felt that, not only were these minor characters well drawn, but also that a number of they had good scope for further stories. I’d be interested to know what happens to them, to see what other meals Blake has at Sheila’s cafe.

Place is important in detective fiction: Sherlock Holmes’s London, Agatha Christie’s drawing rooms. In the modern stories the city is the backdrop: Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels are set in Edinburgh, Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone drives the streets of Santa Theresa in California. Blake is an English PI, based in London, but American Crow, as its name suggests, takes Blake to various parts of the US. The novel sends Blake from place to place, searching. This is an excellent metaphor for the personal search that Blake is on. He doesn’t like England; he doesn’t like himself. The various locations in American Crow make interesting backdrops: Essex is wet, with rain hammering down, St James’s Park in London has inquisitive ducks, Cedar Avenue is a dilapidated tower block. These places reflect the journey that Blake is going on to find Olivia Deacon. As the locality changes, so does the mood of the novel.

Travel to the US allows Lacey to explore another aspect of the detective novel: the reason, the meaning, the social issue. This is an interesting aspect of the modern detective novel: the awareness of social issues: feminism, the environment, class. Unlike modern fiction, modern detective novels often declare their vision. In the U.S., both Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky are feminist detective writers. Their characters are feminist and the stories are seen through an avowedly political prism. American Crow does not tackle gender, but it does discuss the environment, environmental activism and various concerns including the role of the company, political activism, individual and corporate responsibility. This environmental theme isn’t done in any high handed way: it is integral to the plot and the action follows.

Although American Crow’s primary focus is not gender, the female characters in the novel are interestingly drawn and there is a varied range of roles and actions for various women. The women are activists, scientists, researchers, victims, agents, and some play different roles at different times.

Detective fiction requires certain constraints: there’s usually a baddie as well as a goodie. The male characters in American Crow are less inclined to be good, excepting of course, our hero and a couple of his friends. Overall, though, I found the characters compelling and believable.

The setting of this novel is terrific. Who will Blake meet? Where will he go? Will he use his contacts or his wits? I couldn’t wait to turn the pages and to find out what Blake would do in order to find Olivia Deacon. The characters are intriguing, and the social issue of environmentalism adds depth. Like many great detective novels, I finished it really quickly and I can’t wait for Jack Lacey to write the next instalment. American Crow is very highly recommended and I am happy to rate it as 5 out of 5 stars!

What one thing about this book stood out the most for you?
I picked up American Crow by Jack Lacey and was hooked. I love American Crow. The character of Sibelius Blake is strongly written and interesting. Blake’s back story comes out through the novel.

Reviewer Bio
I received my B.A. (Hons) from the University of New England Armidale, in 1992, majoring in English. I focused on Victorian and American literature. I have also studied Psychology and French.

I have been reading Sylvia Plath since 1983, and studied both Plath and Ted Hughes, at UNE.

Words of Wisdom: Thoughts from the Mountaintop – Empowerment, Observation, Insights, Fables and Stories (Insights for All) – Guest Post by Eyal Hatarsi @EyalHatarsi

The book Eyal Hatarsi has written inspires the readers to

look at life in a new and fresh point of view, and are life changing.

Readers are looking for new inspiration and wisdom that can be

useful daily, as well as for a good book.

Thoughts from the during days and nights in the mountains,

at the Bustan Abraham Ecological Farm and during the

journey of my life under the sky, with its millions of stars

and burning sun.

People come and go through the railway station of life.

Situations change, feelings change and our understanding

of the world changes. Sometimes at the most unexpected

moment, just like that, the naked truth arrives and knocks

at the door.

 


About the Post Author:
a former advertising executive and industrialist. He is the

founder of the Bustan Abraham Ecological farm in the

wild Galilee mountains, at the very end of the path.

Eyal Hatarsi Home Page Link

Eyal Hatarsi Social Media Links
http://www.facebook.com/eyalhatarsi
http://www.twitter.com/EyalHatarsi

Review by Raymond Mathiesen of The Only Way Out: Forgiveness – The Path To Peace & Happiness

Review of: The Only Way Out: Forgiveness – The Path To Peace & Happiness

Reviewer: Raymond Mathiesen

Review:
Problems, problems, problems… Solutions?

Hannah Lane, the seven year old girl we remember from The Power, The Miracle and The Dream, is now 22 years old and a “Pulitzer Prize winning photographer and renowned peace activist” (Ch. 1). She is with a National Geographic team that has just landed on Mars, and has become officially the first woman to set foot on the planet. Hannah has come a very long way since her loosing childhood days as an asthmatic, but how exactly did she get here? Was it really the secret of “the power within … [her] … mind” (Ch. 12) that brought her to these heights?

The Only Way Out: Forgiveness – The Path To Peace & Happiness takes us deeper into the spiritual philosophy set out in De Lene’s earlier book, concentrating on our desire to hurt others, and the solution of reconciliation through absolution. We can never really be at peace unless we are willing to forgive wrong. In this book De Lene digs deeper into a metaphysical view of the world, particularly the idea of God, however, the philosophy presented is not at all ‘orthodox’ religion. De Lene instead derives his inspiration from the non-fiction book A Course In Miracles (Helen Schucman. Foundation for Inner Peace:__ 3rd ed.:__ 2007). De Lene’s book is an unusual blend of novel and teaching manual, and is a very enjoyable and easy way of looking deeper into philosophy.

Set not too far into the future, the novel has elements of science fiction, such as the “video phone” (Ch. 2), permanent Moon and Mars bases, and the “Intelligent Traffic Management System” (Ch. 21), where cars are robotically steered. Most of the life depicted, though, is very familiar to the reader, and indeed the book concentrates on ‘ordinary’ life and the all too common problems such as work and relationships. The book is not science fiction in the true sense of the word. A great deal of the 29 chapter book is plot line which entertainingly dramatizes the philosophical points, though there are four teaching chapters which deliver ideas in a chatty, but more instructive way.

The books structure is divided into two parts of roughly equal length: Chapters 1 to 16 and Chapters 19 to 29. Chapters 1 to 3 are introductory, covering the events of Hannah’s childhood and adolescence. Some of this section recaps very briefly the events and philosophical points raise in the first novel in the series. Chapters 4 to 11 cover the teaching and learning experiences surrounding the new idea of forgiveness. Chapters 11 to 16 are wholly narrative and cover the events surrounding Hannah’s contact with National Geographic and her first working trip to Kakado National Park in Australia. These chapters also cover the beginning of Hannah’s friendships with Meiling Wang, “Editor In Chief of National Geographic” (Ch. 5), and Alexander Messina, an apparently arrogant but very gifted staff photographer. In Chapters 17 to 24 the plot takes on a truly international theme in which the troubled world of the Middle East is explored, and in which the idea of synchronicity or “meaningful coincidence,” (Carl Jung. Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle, in The Structure And Dynamics Of The Psyche:__ 2nd. ed.:__ Princeton University Press, c1969, p. 426) is dramatized. Chapter 25 is an adventurous interlude covering exciting action on the moon. Finally Chapters 26 to 29 explore the outcome of the earlier events surrounding the Middle East.

As would be expected from the sub-title of the book the main theme is forgiveness. We all hurt and we all do harm, and this seems to be a fact of life, but is there a solution which practically works? We freely talk about forgiveness, but what does it really mean? What about retribution and justice? Are they ignored if we forgive? Success is a second theme strongly running through the novel. We want to get ahead in the world, but how do we do that? Is success simply making money, or are their deeper values we can judge ourselves on? Are money making and values opposed? What should we do with our personal success, or is it an end in itself?

The three main characters are immediately likable and indeed this seems to be one of the benefits of the philosophy they each espouse: we like ‘nice’ people and want to be friends with them, even if we don’t agree in every detail of what they say. Hannah is in the main positive in her attitude to life. She does have moments of negativity (Ch. 3) and to a certain extent she underestimates her own ability, but she is a high achiever: the kind of girl we all wanted to be friends with at school. She of course is very successful, but she never ceases to be amazed at this, and even more puts in the work learning her photography. She does not assume she ‘knows it all’: indeed she is known for her “determination” (Ch. 2). Meiling is even more successful, but she too has worked to get there. She is perhaps less certain than Hannah in her philosophical approach to life, but the two women work well together and from the beginning we wish the best for their friendship. Alexander, behind his exterior of conceitedness, is jovial, admits his faults and is willing to pass on his skills as a photographer. These three people move the book forward as we at first wonder about them, get to know them and then hope for their plans.

As we have already mention, this is in part a teaching book and some of the ideas put forward should be mention and looked at in more detail, though there is too much to cover in a short review. Synchronicity has already been mentioned. De Lene’s take on the subject is that “there is a reason behind everything” and that each event provides an “opportunity to learn more about ourselves” (Ch. 2). In essence a person should “set your goal … [and] … synchronicity will take care of the rest” (Ch. 2). De Lene proposes that there is an element of “spirit” in life. He speaks of “the power within his mind, connected to spirit” (Ch. 2 and following) and also of “spirit or God” (Ch. 2 and following). In many ways, though, this element remains undefined. People pray to God (Ch. 15) and one minor character who claims to see God’s angels seems to know Hannah’s future (Ch. 4), but the picture of God remains distant. Can we honestly ever truly know the spiritual in complete detail? On the other hand there is a detailed ‘creation story’ of sorts in the novel and here many readers may experience considerable resistance. We are encouraged, as a result of this story, to believe that we should forgive because all of life is an illusion, a dream, because “nothing really happened” (Ch. 9). Most readers would respond that this dream seems very, very real and so does the pain we suffer. Similarly in Chapter 13 we read of a near death experience (NDE), which seems to confirm De Lene’s notion of a God filled with only love. This experience, as described by De Lene, is in agreement with much of the psychological literature, especially Raymond Moody’s Life After Life (Bantam Books, 1976). It should be noted, however, that Maurice Rawlings in Beyond Death’s Door (Bantam Books, 1985) reported encountering just as many negative NDE’s as positive. Judgement and hell seem very real. These metaphysical notions of illusion and an all-loving God, though, are not central to the book and are not needed in order to understand and appreciate the main point of forgiveness. The “ego” (Ch. 2 and following) is a central notion in the book. Primarily it is seen as being “controlled by … negative emotions” (Ch. 2), chiefly “guilt”, and because of this it divides us from others so that we see ourselves as “separate selves” (Ch. 7). There is also the notion of “holy relationships” (Ch. 10) which basically says that if two ‘right minded ’people work together huge amounts can be achieved. All these teaching points are dispersed throughout the book and are often integrated into conversations arising out of the plot.

There are quite a few women characters in the book and virtually all of them are successful and dynamic in one way or another. We have already talked of Hannah and her career as a photographer. Meiling reveals herself from an early age to be “creative” (Ch. 12) displaying a talent for painting. She is also intelligent and is successful in school. She displays winning physical ability at sport, being a state champion at “badminton” (Ch. 12). Like Hannah, she is characterized by a determination in all that she does. As “Editor In Chief” (Ch. 5) she has reached the top of her profession. She is no ‘pretty silly thing’ of the 1950’s. Anna Messina, Alexander’s partner, is a psychologist who earlier in her life worked in “a prestigious medical center in Washington” (Ch. 20). Hilda is a “social worker” (Ch. 4) who Hannah meets. She is head of the “Community Refuge Center” (Ch. 4) in Australia. She is very knowledgeable in her field. Professor Amy McLaughlin, who initially teaches Hannah at university, is “highly regarded in photographic circles around the world for her technical expertise in the field of photography, as well as for her innovative ideas” (Ch. 5). Feminists will be pleased by this book as the women display both emotional and social intelligence, determination and business nous, all of which enable them to achieve.

The two most prominent male characters in the book, Alexander and Nathan (Hannah’s boyfriend), both outwardly fit the traditional male role of tough, rough men. Alexander is full of pride and Nathan is a hard drinker. We at first feel these men would very much be at home in the 1950’s. Alexander, however, actually has a very soft side which he has learned to develop as a result of great personal hurt, and Nathan shows that he can learn to listen and change his ‘macho’ ways. De Lene’s novel shows the benefit of Gender Studies and will be a challenge to some men.

Minorities are represented by Meiling who is an immigrant from “China” (Ch. 12). Here difficulties on coming to a foreign country, the U.S., are mentioned. As we have seen she perseveres to success. Minorities and the dispossessed also are mentioned in the novel in the form of the Palestinians, in the Middle East, and Aboriginals, in Australia. While mentioned, though, their presence is not really dramatized. The Palestinians very briefly appear in the character of Ramy, a youth who has had great personal hardship, but Aboriginals must be represented simply by their rock paintings. Also both these groups are to some degree represented as being helped by others, rather than being self-possessed. A book centring so much on personal overcoming and empowerment would have been considerably enhanced by dramatizing these minority groups more.

The elderly appear in the character of an “old bag lady … Doris” (Ch. 4). While being bereft personal possessions because of “bad choices” (Ch. 4), she possesses a remarkable friendliness, joy of life and wisdom. This is a dignified picture of this often ignored group.

LGBTIQ characters are completely absent. Once again, in a novel dealing with empowerment, it is unfortunate that this group is ignored as including them would have added extra dimensions to the ideas expressed.

In terms of the Marxist/Capitalist debate, and the accompanying discourse on power, it can be noted that De Lene’s novel is not at all hostile to personal wealth. The Wang’s are well off and the Messina’s live in a mansion with extensive gardens. The characters globe trot with ease. De Lene, however, very much considers what should be done with this wealth. Hannah gives her first large earnings to the Community Refuge Center despite her own personal need. She is aided in her causes to improve the lot of the suffering by her rich friends at National Geographic. Her plans to increase world peace are resisted by governments and those with “vested interests” (Ch. 29). Hannah is aided in her cause by ‘people power’ rather than ‘the system’ (Ch. 26 & 27). This interesting balance of viewpoints makes for good reading and reveals a refusal to be trapped by any one dogma.

Novels mainly aim to represent ‘real’ people and ‘real’ life, so the field of psychology, which aims to find truths about human nature and behaviour, becomes relevant. De Lene’s novel is no exception. Brenda, Hannah’s imaginary, fairy ‘spirit-guide’ will seem to many to be the most unbelievable part of the novel. The psychologist Carl Jung, however, believed that ‘archetype’, knowledge bearing sub-personalities deep in the unconscious, could become manifest to the individual in visionary appearances. Jung indeed experienced visits from, and received wise advice from, Philemon, a visionary guide (Anthony Stevens. Jung: A Very Short Introduction:__ Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 30-32). De Lene has Hannah feel she is “to blame” for the sexual abuse she receives from Bruce, her mother’s boyfriend. Psychologists have indeed noted this effect in victims (Psychology Today. To Forgive Or Not Forgive: That Is The Question: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-compassion-chronicles/200803/forgive-or-not-forgive-is-the-question – Accessed 08/10/2013). Meditation is represented as a valid way of relaxing and gaining balanced personal insight (Ch. 4 & 6), though it is not purported to be an easy method of personal development (Ch. 18). Psychology indeed supports the idea of the benefits of personal peace and insight coming from meditation (Harold H. Bloomfield, et al. TM: Discovering Inner Energy And Overcoming Stress:__ Dell, c1975, Ch. 5 & 6; and, Andy Fraser, ed. The Healing Power Of Meditation:__ Shambhala, 2013, Ch. 3-6). De Lene includes the use of a journal to record personal insights, for later referral (Ch. 6). This cognitive technique of journaling has been shown to be of use (Morton T. Kelsey. Adventure Inward: Christian Growth Through Personal Journal Writing:__ Augsburg Books, 1980). De Lene has his psychologist character Anna Messina decide that her clients are too much persuaded by her colleagues to blame others in their past for their problems (Ch. 20). Anna believes that instead her clients should accept “personal responsibility for their lives” (Ch. 20) and this is certainly very much in tune with the thinking of both Existentialist psychologist Rollo May (Freedom And Destiny:__ W.W. Norton, c1981, p. 96-101) and William Glasser (Reality Therapy: A New Approach To Psychiatry:__ Harper Row, 1975, p. 16- 23). This psychological accuracy very much adds to the validity of De Lene’s message.

Following from psychology it should be noted that the novel has a little symbolism. Brenda is of course a fairy. Writing from a psychological perspective Rose Inserra (Dictionary Of Dreams: Understanding Dreams And Their Messages:__ Hinkler Books, c2002, p. 163) notes that fairies “usually represent wishful thinking and belief in the possibility of magic existing in the world, rather than reliance on the practical”. Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant (The Penguin Dictionary Of Symbolism:__ 2nd ed.:__ Penguin, 1996, p. 369) on the other hand, describes how the history of the idea of the fairy goes right back to primal, elemental forces, indeed to the “Earth Mother”, and as such they can be seen as primary creative forces in our psyche. As Chevalier and Gheerbrant write, they symbolize “the paranormal powers of the spirit or the extraordinary capacities of the imagination” (Chevalier, p. 368). J.E. Cirlot (A Dictionary Of Symbolism:__ Barnes & Noble, 1993, p. 101) agrees with this point of view, describing them as creative beings who bring about change and “transformations”. De Lene, as we have seen, proposes a real element of “spirit” in the world which we are meant to take seriously (Ch. 2 and following). The imagination, creatively seeing our true purpose as expressed in our life goals and actions, is also very important in the book (Ch. 2). Both these elements of ‘spirit’ and ‘imagination’, when perceived in the right way, can bring about great change. In tune with this transformational nature James George Frazer certainly describes how fairies in traditional tales can give “valuable information” to people which transforms their life for the better (The Golden Bough: A Study In Magic And Religion:__ Macmillan Press, 1976, Pt. VII, p. 227- 228). As Hannah’s ‘spirit-guide’ Brenda certainly gives very wise advice, even if the reader does not agree all the time. Eric Ackroyd (A Dictionary Of Dream Symbolism:__ Cassell, 1993, p. 167) indeed says that “in a woman’s dream the fairy symbolizes her mother, her own femininity, or some part of her which, if allowed to participate in the conscious organisation of her life, would bring enrichment.” The approach to life outlined by Brenda could certainly be said to be more intuitive, more feeling, more relational, and thus more feminine, and as has been said enriching.

In The Only Way Out De Lene gives deeper insights into life, concentrating particularly on forgiveness, though the teaching goes much further than that. The book also examines success, and takes a balanced stance in the Marxist/Capitalist debate. The characters capture our interest and will be pleasing to those readers interested in Feminism and Gender Studies. De Lene quite competently draws on psychology to make his novel more factually based, and there is some interesting symbolic content. I am happy to rate this book as 4.5 stars out of 5.

What one thing about this book stood out the most for you?
The Only Way Out: Forgiveness – The Path To Peace & Happiness takes us deeper into the spiritual philosophy set out in De Lene’s earlier book, concentrating on our desire to hurt others, and the solution of reconciliation through absolution. We can never really be at peace unless we are willing to forgive wrong. In this book De Lene digs deeper into a metaphysical view of the world, particularly the idea of God, however, the philosophy presented is not at all ‘orthodox’ religion.

Reviewer Bio
I have a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in literature. In that degree I obtained minors in psychology, modern history and economics. I also have a Graduate Diploma of Library Science in which my studies included management and communications.

I live in Australia. I have lived in Townsville and Brisbane (in the state of Queensland), and Armidale (in the state of New South Wales) in Australia. I have never travelled overseas, but would like to visit the United Kingdom.

Review by Raymond Mathiesen of The Children Shall Be Blameless

Review of: The Children Shall Be Blameless

Reviewer: Raymond Mathiesen

Review:
Do the right thing…
Richard Smith had a life before he lived at St. James Orphanage, St. Paul, Minnesota, but that was too long ago to remember. Even his first days at the orphanage seem hidden under a strange cloud of forgetfulness. One thing Richard does remember is that, no matter what, he must not eat the “cornmeal mush” (Ch. 1 and following) the nuns serve for breakfast. Refusing this meal is against the Orphanage rules, and Richard’s insistence over the years, as he grows up, marks him out as a trouble-maker. Faced with the harsh bureaucracy of the Catholic Church Richard decides that all talk of God is a fake, but he is determined to do what is really “right” (Ch. 1 and following) by people, regardless of what the church says. From a very early age ethics, rather than morals, interests this young thinker. As Richard grows up he changes in some ways, but in many ways he stays the same. What will the course of his life be?

The Children Shall be Blameless is a story about real life, taking a very practical and pragmatic view of things. It is, however, also a ‘spiritual’ (rather than religious) story asking deeper, philosophic questions about how to live and how we find meaning. Richard does not claim to have all the answers, and neither does W. Jack Savage, but if you find yourself often wondering ’what is the right thing to do’ this is the novel for you. Savage’s story is interesting and in parts very exciting, and the novel is not in any way preachy.

The plot of the novel is divided into basically two parts. The first part covers Richard’s early life and his adult search for his birth family, and also for a partner and family of his own. The second part takes a new direction as Richard finds himself involved in the intrigues of crime, though the themes and plot arc of the first part is never lost. Chapters 1 to 3 cover Richards youth, narrating his growth as an individual. This is a section of increasing complexity of story and themes. Chapters 4 to 5 describe Richard’s early adulthood, particularly his time in the army. This section is unfortunately in large part rather a hiatus, in some ways simply repeating the themes and plot devices of the first section. It should be pointed out, though, that this ‘dull’ section is a necessary character device which provides the motivational impetus for the next section. Chapters 6 to 8 narrate Richard’s journey of discovery as he delves into his distant, ‘forgotten’ past. Chapters 9 and 10 form the midpoint of the novel and are marked by a peak of adventure and danger both in terms of character development and events. Chapters 11 to 14 involve the new plot direction of crime and adventure. Much of this section works well, however, in parts we feel Savage is struggling for plot line. When Richard is knocked unconscious and loses his memory for a third time we feel it is one time too many. Chapter 15 serves as an epilogue. This last Chapter is too compressed in narration, with too many events happening all at one time (especially in one short section). We feel that Savage is rushing to get the story completely finished, and is perhaps under editorial direction concerning page numbers. This is an unfortunate end to a very good book, but does not spoil the overall effect of the novel, which is for the most part finished anyway.

Virtually all of Savage’s characters are likable, though imperfect, and the reader immediately relates to them as ‘real’ people. Even the ‘bad’ character, Shirley Stanton, is in many ways likable in perhaps a dangerous way. We are beguiled by her ‘charm’ and double dealing. Richard is good, tough, practical and pragmatic, and hides a remarkable athletic ability. His failing is that in many ways he is ignorant of his own motivations, especially where his life’s direction is not going right. His character has some mystery as he keeps to himself in some circumstances, but is extroverted in others. Father Allen Brown, Richard’s mentor, is good, but not rigid in his ethics, as well as practical and loving. Sargent Bill (William) MCaully, a friend Richard makes in the Army, is very tough, but extremely harsh in his self-judgement and depressed in his attitude to life. He expresses the kind of emptiness, ennui and “nihilation” that the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre so effectively described ( Richard Appignanesi. Introducing Existentialism: Icon Books, 2001, p. 128-133). As the story continues Bill evolves into a more happy character. Shirley Stanton, as we have said, is an ambiguous character, and is certainly an interesting element in the novel. She could have been the stereotyped, beautiful ‘hussy,’ but she is a much more complex character than that. This gives her a ‘reality’ which is difficult to achieve in a villain. As an example of a more minor character, Teddy, a small town reporter, is motivated to do good, determined and capable, but haunted by an alcoholic past. Savage’s novel is a fictional biography and so has many characters that we only get to look at briefly. Particularly in the second half of the novel, though, Savage displays a flair for summarized biographies in which he gives us a lively glimpse into some minor character’s lives and personality. Greg, in Chapter 12, is a good example of this.

Savage’s novel is for the most part realistic in style, though in Chapter 10 the plot takes on a macabre, larger-than-life aura, which is spiced with more than a twinge of humour. This style continues on into Chapter 12, which is very aptly titled “Dickens.” Dickens is of course the master of slight hyperbole and character study. Other parts of the story have less surreal humour, and there are occasional moments of bitter irony. There are quite a few “Oh my Gosh!” moments and surprise chapter endings to keep the reader on the edge of their seat. I must warn that there is occasional foul language and mild references to free sex. This is completely in line with the characters and plot circumstances, but it may offend conservative readers.

Justice and ethics, in the broadest sense of those words, is the central theme of the novel. Richard develops a set of personal values throughout the novel, which guide him in his actions. He is interested, at the most, in guidelines, rather than a set of rules for correct behaviour. These values include stepping up for the down-trodden (Ch. 1), equality (Ch. 2), tolerance (Ch. 3) and loving the people you find yourself with (Ch. 8). Most of us want to do our best, what is right, but why is this so important to us? We could simply let the whole problem slip and say, “Who cares!” Our need for connection, the next theme to be discussed, seems to propel us towards “goodness” (Ch. 2 and following). These moments of “goodness” have great meaning to us and repeatedly in the novel we hear that certain events “changed me” (Ch. 1 and following). Criminal justice makes an appearance in the second half of the book, but the theme is never fully developed. The issue of criminality is rather dealt with in terms of the personal values we have just been talking about. None the less we face issues such as: (1) are the law enforcers necessarily good, (2) is justice necessarily always done, and, (3) what is our correct response to crime?

The importance of family is the second major theme of The Children Shall Be Blameless. What is family and why do we seem to need it? In the 1950’s life seemed simple and we all knew that a family was a mother and a father and two children. Now we have fractured families, blended families, birth families, adopted families, single parent families and LGBTIQ families. Indeed, some of these types of families appear in the novel. In keeping with the ‘spiritual,’ rather than religious, attitude of this novel the approach to families is “non-traditional” (Ch. 7). We all, even orphans, have families of some kind, but it is tempting to romanticise the notion: we dream of the ‘ideal family’. Richard very much likes movies, but must learn that while they reflect life, and give us ideas to think about life, they are not life (Ch. 2 and Ch. 8).

Bureaucracy appears as a strong minor theme. We seem to need some rules and organisations, but they in themselves can become the source of injustice. This injustice is very easily denied and swept under the carpet when it is an embarrassment. How can we be “spontaneous” (Ch. 2) in the face of bureaucracies? There is also a sub-theme of the horror of war. This is not exactly an anti-war novel, but it is also not war affirming. How should we treat soldiers and veterans? Can those who do not go to war ever really understand what it is like?

Much of the novel is set in the late 1960s and early 1970’s, which allows Savage to capture the role of women right at the Twentieth Century changing points. Sister Carmella, the Head of the Orphanage, represents the traditional 1950’s view of women in its very conservative role. Sister Carmella is caring and to a certain extent proactive about helping the children in her care, but we detect a restraint about her that limits her effectiveness. Indeed the nuns in general support their ‘establishment’ and those who do not fit in with it are ‘bad’. Far be it from a nun, a woman in a male hierarchy, to question the establishment. Only Sister Michael Ann (Ch. 2) seems to have any individual spirit and we wonder if such a woman will have a smooth path in this rigid female order. Overcome by a sense of ennui after his time in the Army Richard finds himself entering whole heartedly into the ‘free love’ attitude of the Counterculture, but that era was actually a time when the new morality was easily diverted towards using women for physical pleasure, then throwing them away, and vice versa. Richard wonders why he never finds a permanent partner, but this ignorance is typical of the era. As the plot moves into the 1980’s the reader finds imperfect, but dynamic women achievers emerging. Teddy is an overcomer who has got past both “bipolar disorder” (Ch. 7) and alcoholism (Ch. 8) to become a successful small town reporter. Teddy has a special nose for the news and goes out of her way to get the story. Her namesake, but no relative, Shirley Smith, is the boss of a regional wing of a drug smuggling operation. In many ways the reverse of Teddy, she is still a go-ahead, no nonsense operator, also very good at what she does. Over all Savage’s novel gives an accurate and interesting picture of the history of the role of women and the effects of Feminism.

The history of male gender role is also depicted and delved into. The character of Father Brown represents the type of man who began to emerge in the late 1950’s, and who initiated the Vatican 2 reforms of the Catholic Church. He is less driven by a sense of ‘authority’ and more interested in interpersonal relationships. Rigid systems are viewed with doubt, and caring, goodness and development are valued. This is the kind of thought that later resulted in the development of ‘relational theology’ (Bruce Larson. No Longer Strangers: An Introduction To Relational Theology: Reprint ed.: Word Book, 1974). Bill McCaully represents the men before the Father Browns of the world. A career soldier he is dedicated to the authoritative, male power structure to the hilt. This partly satisfies him, but only partly. The whole space of relationships opens up to him like a vast, unsuccessful vacuum, and when he is not occupied by the structure only alcohol will suffice. Feelings are “unmanly” (Ch. 3). But Bill will change and evolve as the story progresses. Richard very much represents the new man: practical and tough, but caring (Robert Bly. Iron John: Men And Masculinity: Rider, c1990). Richard is a ‘New Age man’ long before there was a late Twentieth Century New Age Movement. But, as we have seen, Richard’s relationships with women do not run smoothly. He must grow and evolve, find his footing in uncertain territory, and this novel is valuable to Twenty-First Century men who, despite all the development in male gender roles that have occurred, still find themselves uncertain as to how to be a good man and a partner.

LGBTIQ roles make an appearance in Savage’s novel, although the main character, Richard, is at times at pains to point out that he is not gay. The traditional derogatory attitude to gay men is clearly depicted early in the book (Ch. 3), but later we see the very minor character of David Gannon, a successful, gay restaurateur, depicted without any animosity (Ch. 4). A more prominent character is revealed to be gay quite late in the book, however, I will not go into details in order to avoid spoiling the story. This character allows Savage to display a much more accepting attitude to gay characters. Lesbian relationships are much more prominent in the book and acceptance is equally prominently displayed. At first we come across Danika Gusard and her lover Deputy Donna Mills and “Rosie’s [ … ] a gay bar” (sic.). Mills is of course a successful woman and this relationship is never depicted in a derogatory way. Next we see Edie Charboneau, a capable nurse, and her neighbour, Norma Haslett, mutually attracted, and described in a sympathetic way, though at this point the story certainly has overtones of a 1950’s attitude. Then later in the book we see Edie, once again, and Teddy in a lesbian relationship, this time fully sympathetically depicted, and allowing love to bloom. This is an important dimension in a novel dealing so much with relationships, and the book would have been very much less without these plot lines.

The aged first appear early in the book in the character of Monsignor Poferal. The Monsignor is represented as having been a vigorous worker, but now ‘tired’ (Ch. 1). The Monsignor is quickly eclipsed by the young Father Brown. This is in some cases a realistic picture of the elderly, but hardly flattering to this much ignored and often derided group. Much later in the novel we come across an aged Bill McCaully. This time we are presented with a determined, smart man, though he is physically limited. This aged McCaully is to a certain extent successful in his objective, though unfortunately not completely so.

Minorities make very brief appearances. Very early in the book we meet Maya, a Mexican descent girl who experiences bigotry in the playground (Ch. 1). Richard stands up for her but parents of the bullies describe her as a “dirty little Mexican” (Ch. 1). Later, Clete, an African-American soldier, does not need defending and is an amiably described co-conspirator in R&R shenanigans. African-Americans are positively described as having an astute awareness and practicality. They are described as having a “seemingly innate ability to stay in and even celebrate the present.” It should be noted though that the word “innate” may be greeted with ire by some, no matter how well intended. Later again the Black Rights campaign is touched on as Richard notes and stands against discrimination in his job at UPS (Ch. 5).

From the point of view of Structuralism we note the obvious opposing “binary pair” (Boris Wiseman. Introducing Levi-Strauss and Structural Anthropology: Icon Books, 200, p. 87, 96 & 149) good/evil, however, this dichotomy takes a decidedly Postmodern slant early on in the novel with the “black and white” (Ch. 3) dichotomy being abandoned and a much more complex view of ethics being adopted. The young Richard comments to Father Brown that ethical questions are “not always that simple” (Ch. 2). In terms of character comparison we see the complimentary pair of Richard/Father-Brown, though there is some opposition there with the Father being ‘inside’ the traditional system and Richard firmly out of it. Sister Carmella and Brown are complimentary in that they are ‘insiders’ who try to rise above the system, but they are opposing in that Carmella is more ineffective in opposing bureaucratic wrong and Brown considerably effective. Shirley and Teddy at first appear as opposing pairs. Teddy having come from a difficult background ends up an upright citizen, but Shirley, coming from a similar background, chooses a life of crime. Later, however, the contrast is nowhere near as clear. Teddy displays weakness in facing her past, while Shirley experiences extreme doubt about her whole life. Finally there is a Richard/Shirley dichotomy: he on the side of right and she on the side of crime. Once again though, as the plot continues this clear spit becomes fuzzy. Richard chooses to help the person, rather than, for example report crime, and Shirley, as we have just seen, proves to be less firmly set on the side of crime. In this last case we should note that Bertrand Russell has observed that both strong contributors to society and criminals often spring from the same personality type, the difference being that one has a chance to express their creativity in an approved way, while the other is denied this (Bertrand Russell. Authority And The Individual: Unwin Hyman, 1977, p. 41-46).

Levi-Strauss has proposed that myth is a kind of inherent process which the mind imposes on reality and that deep down we all view the world in this way (Wiseman, p. 135). Any novel dealing with ‘spiritual’ ideas further lends itself to this kind of interpretation and The Children Shall Be Blameless, despite all its hard headed practicality, can be viewed in this way.

Turning to traditional knowledge, therefore, it can be noted that the Tarot card of The High Priestess, also called the “Female Pontiff” (Arthur Edward Waite. The Pictorial Key To The Tarot: U.S. Games Systems, c1971?, p. 13) is important to the opening chapters of Savage’s novel. Sallie Nichols (Jung And The Tarot: An Archetypal Journey: Samuel Weiser, 1980) comments of this card that the Priestess represents the idea that “Pure Spirituality is pure nonsense” (Nichols, p. 72). She further notes that: “She wears the ceremonial robes and trivia of the Church” and holds a “no doubt [ … ] holy book” (Nichols, p. 72), which Waite identifies as the “Tora” (Waite, p. 71). Yet, of course, the Priestess is a woman, making a mockery of the whole institution. Nichols further links this card to the medieval Pope Joan myth, which The Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould (Curious Myths Of The Middle Ages: Jupiter Books, 1977, p. 69-73) links to views that the Catholic Church was corrupt and lost to God. This whole description is very close to the young Richard’s view, and, as we have noted Sister Carmella, while contemplating good is less effective in actually fighting evil. None of this is to say that Savage views the Church as completely wrong, but rather that taking itself too seriously (rules and bureaucracy) is its downfall (Ch. 1).

On the positive side it should be noted that Richard takes from his Catholic Orphanage upbringing a serious concern with the ‘good’. This is the central topic of the Church and, though he disagrees in detail, this is Richard’s central touchstone. Nichols comments of the Tarot card The Pope that it represents “man’s striving for connection with the godhead” (Nichols, p. 119). She further notes that according to Carl Gustav Jung “the religious aims to unite the opposites” (Nichols, p. 119) and that the “prelate .. twins” who kneel before the Pontiff “symbolize par excellence [ … ] the dual aspects inherent in all life” (Nichols, p. 122). As has been observed above the dichotomy of good/evil tends to undergo a Postmodern collapse in the way in which Jacques Derrida claimed it would (Mary Klages. Literary Theory: A Guide For The Perplexed: Continuum, 2006, p. 59-60) when the center shifts to relationships and ambiguous people, rather than rules.

As we have seen, Richard is guided in ‘spiritual’ matters by practicality and pragmatism. For this reason the Tarot card Temperance applies to the novel as a whole. Nichols describes the card in this way: “the Angel Temperance blends two opposite aspects or essences, producing life-giving energy” (Nichols, p. 249). Richard’s dynamism comes from the combination of his very down to earth realism and his desire to act by higher, more ideal values. Writing further Nichols notes of the card: “The liquid which flows between the two jars [one blue and one red] is neither red nor blue but is pure white, suggesting that it represents a pure essence, perhaps energy” (Nichols, p. 250). Except for the directionless and possibly depressed period after his time in the army, the adult Richard pursues his life-plan with a great energy and vigour, and the reader is left with the sense that this character truly knows how to ‘live life’ and achieve. In order to create a successful mix of opposite elements Nichols suggests that: “As in any conflict situation, a creative first step towards resolution is to find an arbiter – someone whose wisdom and understanding can encompass both sides” (Nichols, p. 250). Again and again throughout the plot Richard refers back to Father Brown, the equally pragmatic spiritual mentor who first befriended him in his youth. Speaking of encounters with angels Nichols writes: “Such visionary experiences mark dramatic turning points, personal and culturally” (Nichols, p. 250). As has been noted, we repeatedly hear that particular events “changed me” (Ch. 1 and following). This is a story of personal growth. It is, though, also a story of cultural change. As has been noted above the cultural shift in the roles of women, men and LGBTIQ people is documented in the novel. Nichols comments on the relationship Temperance has with the astrological sign of Aquarius (Nichols, p. 249). Nicholas Campion (Zodiac: Enhance Your Life Through Astrology: Alhanbra House, c2000, p. 161) notes of this traditional wisdom sign that: “Its strengths are its inventive genius and its strongly held ideas.” Very early in the story Sister Carmella notes that the young Richard is “aggravating” because of his firm ethical ideas and wonders who has been tutoring him in these advanced notions. Writing further of Aquarius Campion notes: “Its weaknesses are its failure to understand its emotions and its refusal to compromise with signs that do not share its vision” (Champion, p. 161). Father Brown repeatedly observes that Richard is ignorant of, or does not want to face, his true motivations, and, particularly in his early romantic relationships we see an inability to negotiate with, or come to a compromise with, women concerning his need for a family. Aquarius represents the problems which Temperance must solve. Pragmatism and temperance, as revealed in the card Temperance, and the sign Aquarius, can indeed be seen as the summing up of Savage’s message.

W. Jack Savage’s The Children Shall Be Blameless manages to successfully achieve the difficult task of combining high adventure with ‘spiritual’ insight. It takes the themes of ethics and family and places them in a story of both personal development and cultural change. The roles of women, men, LBGTIQ, the aged and minorities are depicted and examined in some depth. The characters are likable and of enough complexity to be related to as ‘real’ people. At 410 pages this is probably not a book suited to a weekend read, but those who pick it up will find from the first pages that they have encountered a beguiling and interesting novel. These qualities will certainly sustain the reader through this longer read. I am happy to rate this book as 4.5 stars out of 5.

What one thing about this book stood out the most for you?
The Children Shall be Blameless is a story about real life, taking a very practical and pragmatic view of things. It is, however, also a ‘spiritual’ (rather than religious) story asking deeper, philosophic questions about how to live and how we find meaning.

Reviewer Bio
I have a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in literature. In that degree I obtained minors in psychology, modern history and economics. I also have a Graduate Diploma of Library Science in which my studies included management and communications.

I live in Australia. I have lived in Townsville and Brisbane (in the state of Queensland), and Armidale (in the state of New South Wales) in Australia. I have never traveled overseas, but would like to visit the United Kingdom.

Review by Shirley A. Hammond of A Deal With God: The Power of One

Review of: A Deal With God: The Power of One

Reviewer: Shirley A. Hammond

Review:
Michael Haden invites readers of “A Deal With God: The Power of One” to walk in the shoes of an engaging female who overcame tremendous obstacles and found her place in God.

 

Rebecca Johnson puts readers at ease as they walk alongside her while she walks alongside God.

 

When circumstances test her meddle, she touches our hearts with her courage and faith. Other characters offer the same pull on our heartstrings.

 

Unexpected, unscripted act interrupts Rebecca’s life – and the storyline gets more interesting. Somehow, she is able to understand what the future will hold if something miraculous doesn’t happen. But it does.

 

Haden manages to carry a story that very few writers can handle. The complexity of the story is also a bonus, instead of a drawback. Although the story is not linear, it is not too complicated to enjoyably follow. Somehow page-by-page we see evidence of a wonderfully weaved story that delivers what it promises in the beginning.

 

We see Haden pair tragedy and triumph in a superior way. Readers will also wonder how spiritually rich his own life must be in order for him to write us a book like this.

 

“A Deal With God: The Power of One” should be on your reading list. The sooner the better.

What one thing about this book stood out the most for you?
How the main character overcame tremendous obstacles.

Reviewer Bio
An author and photojournalist, this reviewer enjoys reading – especially inspirational titles.
She is a graduate of Texas State University and is completing an MA in Education with an endorsement in English from Liberty University.

http://www.amazon.com/Deal-God-Power-One-ebook/dp/B006L9LG7U/