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Voices Carry

Yes, another song about domestic violence and another post about fiction that deals with this sad but real problem. A few months back I mentioned Rajdeep Paulus’s Swimming Through Clouds in my post Luka. If you haven’t snapped up this book, you are missing a fantastic story. And Rajdeep’s sequel Seeing Through Stones is even better. I almost deducted a star from my 5-star review of Swimming Through Clouds because there were dangling threads. But my reader-sense tingled and I knew there had to be a sequel. Glad I have that super-power, because both Swimming and Seeing are 5-star reads.

Without giving away anything for those who haven’t read Swimming Through Clouds, Seeing Through Stones picks up where the story left off. Well, not exactly. Chapter 1 adds a new POV character, Talia’s brother, Jesse. So minimal background. Talia and Jesse are the children of Gerald Vanderbilt. For those of my generation who saw Mommy Dearest and cringe at “no more wire coat hangers”, this generation will say “no more hot tea”.  Talia and Jesse’s father make Joan Crawford look like supermom.

In Swimming, Talia gains an ally through a sticky note friendship with classmate Lagan. Life looks promising for Talia but what about her brother Jesse? In Seeing Through Stones, Rajdeep binds those loose ends with the skill of a master seamstress. While I’m sad this is only a two-book story, the ending is so satisfying that any more would be too many beads on the perfect dress.

I’ll ask it again, do you prefer escapist stories or those that cover gritty topics or a little of both?

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Luka

You know the song. That haunting and beautiful song by Suzanne Vega. The happy music with words about a very deep, dark issue–domestic abuse. I recently read the literary version, Swimming Through Clouds by Rajdeep Paulus. One of my favorite books of 2013, it is one that I enjoyed more after I read it, and one that I am likely to reread, at least in part.

The story is about Talia, a girl forbidden to make friends or discuss her life at home. Nearly silent with a habit of biting her lips, she is the lowest of social outcasts at her new school. Lagan a popular athlete sees past this in his attraction to her. Allowing her silence, he communicates with her through sticky notes. I was privileged to hear Raj read an excerpt from one of my favorite scenes. Lagan draws a smile and a frown on sticky notes. All Talia has to do is cover one of them to tell him her feelings on single words. A story that is primarily Talia, Lagan, her brother Jesse, Father, and the Gardener could have been claustrophobic, but it reads like an intimate play. The small cast allows us to enter Talia’s world on a personal level. The gardener is really two characters, the actual gardener who is her employer, and The Gardener, a character in a book Lagan gives her. It’s a beautiful Easter egg that I won’t spoil by explaining.

In sequence with Swimming through Clouds, I read Blue Skies Tomorrow the third and final book in Sarah Sundin’s Wings of Glory series about the Novak brothers, three very different B-17 pilots. The last book focused on the oldest brother, Ray, and his courtship with Helen, a single mother and war widow. She and her late husband were briefly introduced in the first book but not enough to know the secret she carried. With a small child, she’s at the mercy of her father-in-law, a wealthy and influential businessman the town admires but isn’t the same man when the doors are closed.

Both of these stories focused on a terrible reality. Only in the last few years have Christian books even dared touch difficult topics as they’re evidently not popular among the core Christian book reading demographic (read: church ladies 30-60). But as readership has expanded to include all genres and reader types, the market is pushing boundaries. Swimming Through Clouds really doesn’t even address Christianity in a traditional sense. But that element is there in a way that is oh so satisfying. Blue Skies Tomorrow is a very traditional Christian book written for its primary demographic but with fantastic skill and attention to detail that shows great care in research.

Many readers don’t like tough topics. Reading for many is a form of escape. The same goes for television and I had a great exchange with a friend on Facebook regarding a television show about this topic. She likes escape. I like challenge. There’s nothing like entering a world that is not my own and experiencing things I hope to never experience in reality. I used to shy away from suspense, danger, and gore but now I enjoy it. Crave it even. Although, I still write tame action, preferring psychological tension over an adrenaline rush.

And I’m sorry if you have “Luka” in your head all day. Or maybe I’m not. You should be looking for someone who is hiding a dark secret. And pray for them. Maybe you will be a Lagan or a Ray to them.

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