This is one of those books that kept coming up. Seemingly every person, and by person I mean woman, I know read and adores this book. I can’t remember how many ladies encouraged me to read this novel to better understand women, love, and even my relationship with God. Strong motivations. My wife finally tackled it and almost begged me to read it, but still I found other pages to turn. Since then, I began working at a Crisis Pregnancy Center and I regularly have the opportunity to meet women who have been battered, abused, and raped. (I write a blog on our website if you’re interested in checking it out.) A few of the ladies on staff have those words in their story and they’ve been courageously educating me on all I didn’t know. One of those conversations ended with the recommendation to read Redeeming Love and I finally relented. (I had just finished Chasing Fireflies so it timed up perfectly. Read What I learned.)
I’ve read two other novels from Rivers – The Atonement Child and The Shofar Blew – and I’ve enjoyed them both. The Atonement Child would be on my must read list, if I had one. She’s all about the third-person omniscient narrator which I find fun to read but intimidating to write. I struggle simply placing the elements of a story in the correct order much less providing motivations and reflections from every character. An author really has to understand his characters to write in that point of view.
This is another novel that inspires me as an author because it tactfully but directly deals with important issues. There are quite a few women who connect with this one because Rivers uses her characters to reveal the thought life of a woman who has been sexually abused. Those who have been there seem to appreciate her candor, sensitivity, and accuracy. So much so they recommend guys like me to read it and better understand. I say, “Well Done Mrs. Rivers!”
But what did I learn? I learned we can let fictitious characters reveal the hearts and minds of real people, and in doing so give the silenced a voice. Oh to be that talented. A literary issue does come up in this story though – the inclusion of sexually descriptive scenes. There’s nothing graphic in the novel at all, but she describes moments and settings in such a way that you know what’s happening. More specifically, she lets the reader into Angel’s mind as she considers Michael and vice-versa. It made me squirm just a bit. At the same time I came across a blog post written by Charles Martin about his latest book, Thunder and Rain. It’s titled “Sexual Innuendos,” Reader Mail, and the Power of Words. Apparently there are some descriptive scenes in his book that took some readers aback. The focus of this particular debate seems to be on the reader and their convictions, but I’m considering it from a different perspective. If an author is truly getting inside his character’s heart and mind, and they are investing the creative, imaginative effort to create a multi-sensory scene, would it not require the author to direct his thought life to unhealthy places? As a married man, I think it unwise to imagine one of my characters in a sexual encounter. It would require me to create something that is reserved only for my bride and that’s not a picture I’m willing to paint. At the same time, I thought Martin’s motivation was sound and we’ve, my wife and I, sincerely appreciated the way he has written about similar issues in other books, particularly the magazine scene from When Crickets Cry.
What do you think? Is there a place where there’s a little too much of your character’s experiences invading your mind? Can an affair be vicarious? How would you feel if your beloved wrote a scene about his characters that was “descriptive?” I’m curious to learn your thoughts.
Keep Discovering Writing.