Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dead man talking

Talking to the Dead, by Bonnie Grove
Published by: David C Cook
Release: June 2009
ISBN : 978-1-4347-6641-0

Where “, mulls Kate Davis, the narrator and central character of this book, “did we get the idea that the best approach to facing death is to eat Bundt cake?” These words set the tone for Bonnie Grove's debut novel, by turns humorous and reflective, about self discovery and coming to terms with loss.

Young and newly widowed, Kate grieves for her beloved husband Kevin by withdrawing from her life and family. All of a sudden, she begins hearing Kevin’s voice speaking to her. Even as she wonders if she is losing her sanity, his presence becomes increasingly hostile. Her attempts to seek help from psychics, counselors and priests leave her steadily disillusioned, before she begins to look inward for the roots to her predicament . As she slowly unravels the bitter secrets of her marriage,she finds both betrayal among those closest to her, and allies in unlikely places. In her quest to find the strength and conviction to get past her sorrow and anger, she also moves from agnosticism to faith. Most of all, Kate realizes the need to forgive herself for the poor choices she has made in an effort to hold onto a relationship that was not as ideal as she believed.

Talking..’ charts Kate’s rocky path to emotional and spiritual recovery with empathy. The book paints a rather bleak picture of the mental health industry with its over-reliance on prescription drugs, and is also critical of over zealous evangelists and their harsh interpretation of the gospel. Grove mines familiar territory here; she is trained in Christian counseling, has authored a self help guide in the past, and is also married to a pastor.

The character of Kate is drawn well; despite the emotional blows she suffers, she emerges a survivor, and on her own terms. The plot involves finding both love and God, but these never overshadow Kate’s own quest for closure; rather, they emerge as natural consequences of her own passage from hurt towards healing. It is also open ended on the reasons Kate hears her husband’s voice; it chooses to stay focused on her journey towards life. However, in a narrative that is otherwise very believable, the religious experience she has towards the end feels both contrived and hurried - this story would have been just as strong without it, and just as much about finding faith. The book sags in the middle too, and could have benefited from tighter editing. Some characters appear rather stereotypical – the psychic and evangelist are cases in point, as also the tearful Blair, Kevin's best friend. But these are still minor issues in an otherwise interesting and readable book about one woman’s journey toward finding herself.

Thanks to Audra Jennings at The B&B Media group for sending us a copy of the book to review.

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