Friday, October 2, 2009

A Slow Burn by Mary E. DeMuth

I finished the book at 6 AM (thank you, Mica, for the 5 AM wake up call). I was satisfied.

A Slow Burn is the second book in a planned trilogy. It follows several months in the life of Emory Chance, a pothead, single-mother whose thirteen year old daughter Daisy is abducted and murdered in their small town of Defiance, Texas. Sounds lovely, doesn't it? You might be surprised.

Emory has lived a hard life. Her own upbringing was a quilt of abuse, neglect and hardship. To me, it was a miracle she did as well as she did with her daughter. The soul of the story is the soul of Emory Chance, a guilt-ridden sinner's soul desperately in need of forgiveness and redemption.

Another major player in our story is Hixon, the town handyman who had it from On High that he is to marry Emory or "Missy," as he knows her. Hixon has lived his own life of troubles, and his heart is burdened to care for this "orphan."

Our supporting cast includes a woman dying of cancer, a family suffering under an abusive father, the absent father of Daisy who puts in an appearance only after the child's death, the widowed owner of the local diner and the hallucinated ghost of the murdered girl. Sounds a bit like Peyton Place. Or Passions.

One other person fills nearly every page of the book: Jesus. This is a story of redemption, after all. No hole is so dark Jesus will not go down with you or so deep Jesus cannot lift you out.

What I liked about the book was the stellar grammar, the sense of southern drawl in the dialogue without the annoying phonetic spellings (why I hate Mark Twain), and the sense of grounding. I had no doubt this story occurred in a tiny, dusty, at-the-poverty-line kind of place, where everybody struggles to get by.

What I didn't like was that I hadn't read Daisy Chain, the first book. I kept wondering if I was missing something important. I did read an Amazon review of the first book and it turns out it's the story of the young man from the abusive family, so I think I'm good. Once I knew that, I relaxed a little. Mary also has a fondness for similes that was occasionally disruptive to my focus. On the other hand, I overuse still, parentheses and modifying phrases after the object, so I'm not going to throw any stones.

To the geeks and nerds of my acquaintance, start with the first book. It's about an angst-ridden boy, and geeks get that. Also, nerds with a fondness for Joss Whedon's heartless sacrifices for story impact will like A Slow Burn.

To the readers of horror, don't bother. There isn't enough suspense or terror in this story to hold your interest. A fine line between clarity and voyeurism exists, and Mary does a respectful job of telling just enough to show the pain that Emory's drug use is trying to mask without over-indulging in the gory details. Stephen King would never hold back like Mary does. He would benefit from reading this book, though.

To readers of secular, historical romance, beware. This is a love story, but not the kind you expect.

For the remaining 80% of the population, I see no reason why you wouldn't enjoy and benefit from this book. I teared up a few times, although not in the expected places, I'm sure. I read a few chapters that yanked me along to see what happened. I yelled at Emory when she stupidly followed a potential murderer into her own house! I thought even a pothead would have more sense than that. Guess not.

So, Mary, congratulations on yet another book completed and out there for stuffy-nosed, unpublished upstarts like me to read and review. Following your example, I have tried to be both honest and respectful. I hope I succeeded.

God's blessings on you and your family.

2 comments:

  1. I so appreciate your honesty and the fact that you read and reviewed the book. Thanks so much for taking the time.

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  2. Mary, it was an honor. You have amazing writing skills. Thank you for a great book about hard truths and for stopping by to get my take on it.

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