Thursday, April 29, 2010

Recommended Read: ANGEL'S DEN by Jamie Carie

It's not a big secret that I'm not a fan of historical fiction--but I do pick up a novel of that genre every once in a while. Especially if it is a new release from an author I trust.

Tuesday night I found Jamie Carie's Angel's Den. I got a few chapters in that night waiting for my daughter at her piano lesson and then picked it up yesterday during my lunch break at work, and again last night... 'til it was finished.

I trust Jamie Carie. Her novels have not yet disappointed me--and Angel's Den is no exception. Within the pages of Angel's Den I found no slugging of plot, no perfect (or perfectly evil) characters, no sermonizing--in other words, nothing to distract me from the artful storytelling I've come to expect from Jamie Carie's novels.

I respect Jamie Carie as an author. She isn't afraid to dig her claws into touchy subjects--a rarity in the CBA (aka Christian) arena of Historical Fiction. In Angel's Den Jamie explores spousal abuse (mental, physical, and sexual) and very clearly depicts the effects of such treatment on the abused. The female protagonist, Emma, is a sympathetic character and the reader aches for her while a deep seed of anger grows against the man who would continue to treat her with such degradation. Ms. Carie doesn't just stop with domestic abuse, however. She delves her characters, both protagonistic and antagonistic, into the realms of deception, adultery, and the desire to commit adultery. She touches on childhood traumas which result in mental fissures, and has her characters experience forgiveness in unconventional ways. Whereas the miracle of forgiveness is often portrayed in glossy, churchy purity within so many CBA novels, Jamie Carie shows the true struggle for her characters as each is faced with the ramifications of forgiveness being offered, refused, given or denied. No one in the story seeks and receives instant forgiveness, which I found refreshing--because forgiveness between human beings is a difficult and imperfect practice of the divine.

Ms. Carie doesn't hesitate to call her "good" characters to the carpet. I like that. My favorite line from the novel, found on page 142 and spoken compassionately by the character of Judge Littleton, reads:

"You might be real surprised how fragile your goodness is."

Now there's some truth we should all be reminded of--regularly; especially when gazing into the lives of those we see as "not good." I love that line.

My one complaint with this novel is the addition of an epilogue. Don't get me wrong: I HEARTILY RECOMMEND THIS TITLE. But... I felt the epilogue was superfluous. Unnecessary. (Like the addition of the word "unnecessary" after "superfluous.")I was completely satisfied with the open-ended hope at the end of chapter thirty-three on page 298. Without the epilogue, I still knew what would happen within the lives of the characters. I may not have known the specifics, such as the timeline of those happenings, but Ms. Carie layered her subplots well enough throughout the novel that I "knew" the epilogue without having to have it spelled out for me in a "7 Years Later" sum-up. The epilogue was... too neat for my personal taste. Feel free to disagree of course, but to have the two main characters sit down on the porch and, through one conversation, tie up every loose end seemed, to me, a tad unbelievable after such a vivid and credible story. I think the flow of the story would have been better served if the book stopped on page 298. That's just me.

Epilogue aside, however, I greatly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone, regardless of their faith affiliation. And isn't that the whole point? Cross the lines. Meet people where they are. Show skeptics that not all people of faith subscribe to the lie of perfection after salvation. Ms. Carie is a talented story weaver--one whose mirror reflects a scene of the past which translates into the addressing of a painful contemporary issue.

Congratulations to Jamie Carie and her most recent triumph, Angel's Den--a novel which takes the reader to some very dark places of the soul. Places where fiction mirrors truth.

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