Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rachel's Contrition

There is a novel I read last spring that I have not yet reviewed simply because it was part of a contest of which I was one of the judges. The contest being over, I am now allowed to publicly speak about how much I enjoyed the book, which incidentally won the Catholic Arts and Letters Award (CALA), or Lily Award, for adult fiction at the 2011 Catholic Writers Guild Live Conference. It is Rachel's Contrition by Michelle Buckman, an author who has already made her mark in the world of young adult and teen fiction. In Rachel's Contrition she moves boldly into darker themes, exploring the pain of a woman trying to recover from one of the greatest horrors in life. Miss Buckman adroitly delves into Rachel's psyche so that the reader feels quite well-acquainted with the heroine after the first few pages although, as we later discover, there is much that is hidden. Rachel is a rough girl from the other side of the tracks who manages to marry well and find happiness as a wife and mother before her life begins to hideously unravel. Her initial inferiority complex lays the groundwork for the breakdown she is enduring when we first meet her. It is easy to identify with her pain; a box of hankies is recommended throughout the book. By helping a troubled teenager, Rachel begins to find her way back to health as well as acquiring the strength to face the unthinkable.

Set in North Carolina, Rachel's Contrition has a distinct southern flavor which reminds me of Harper Lee or Carson McCullers. Injected into the drama, however, is the radiance of the Catholic faith, which keeps the story from being morbid or depressing. In fact, the novel offers a clear vision of hope. Amid battered dreams and memories, Rachel finds peace in the present moment with the aid of a certain French Carmelite nun. The Little Flower intervention is not as fanciful as it might seem; all my life I have heard of similar manifestations making the difference in the path certain individuals choose to follow. In Rachel's case, it is a matter of life and death.

*(NOTE: Rachel's Contrition was sent to me by the Catholic Writers Guild in exchange for my honest opinion.)

1 comment:

Julygirl said...

In spite of the tacky cover it is an interesting read.