Friday, January 20, 2017

“Of Redemption and Forgiveness”: A Review of Smoky Zeidel’s Redeeming Grace

 (Deltona, FL: Thomas-Jacob Publishing, LLC, 2017), ISBN-13:  978-0-9979517-1-4
By Joey Madia
Some writers have a gift that sets them well above the rest. Being a teacher of writing as well as an author, Zeidel deftly augments her natural talent for storytelling with sharply drawn characters, tight plots, seamlessly woven research, and a high level of symmetry and macro/micro structure.
            I was first introduced to her work several years ago, when I received The Storyteller’s Bracelet for review. I was very taken with the mythological nature of the Native American–based tale she told, so it was with great pleasure that I received this special release.
            Engaging the dogmatic/religious more than the mythological, Redeeming Grace centers on a family’s ongoing struggles following the separate deaths of two children and their mother in late 1920s rural Maryland.
            The title character, the oldest daughter of a hardcore minister named Luther, marries a somewhat older man, Otto Singer, to get her and her sister away from Luther’s physically and emotionally abusive ways. His grief has poisoned his mind and instead of being the kind-hearted family man and well-respected religious figure of years passed he has become an abusive mis-interpreter of the Bible.
            But all is not well as Grace and her sister Miriam move in with Otto and his brain-damaged brother Henry, because, as good a man as he is, Otto holds a terrible, terrible secret.
            With descriptions of Depression-era America that rival those of John Steinbeck, Cormac McCarthy, and Nick Cave’s And the Ass Saw the Angel, and a subtle but inescapable resemblance to George and Lenny in Of Mice and Men in the relationship between the two brothers, Redeeming Grace examines the foundations of family and cautions that the ways in which we interpret the Word of God and the stories of the Bible can be as destructive as they are uplifting.
            Perhaps the greatest compliment that I can pay to this well-told tale is that I could not put it down during the final third of the book despite surpassing my allotted reading time on three consecutive days. I found myself genuinely rooting for redemption, vindication, and forgiveness and Zeidel ratcheted up the tension in the most delightful of ways.

            If you are looking for a well-crafted, insistently paced story with good old-fashioned humanity and complex characters, I highly recommend Redeeming Grace. In an age of CGI and blockbuster building-bashing, both on screen and in our literature, it’s all the more necessary for us to engage with books like this.

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