Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Saints in Limbo Reviewed

River Jordan
(Waterbrook Press)

Ever since her husband Joe died, Velma True’s world has been limited to what she can see while clinging to one of the multicolored threads tied to the porch railing of her home outside Echo, Florida.

When a mysterious stranger appears at her door on her birthday and presents Velma with a special gift, she is rattled by the object’s ability to take her into her memories–a place where Joe still lives, her son Rudy is still young, unaffected by the world’s hardness, and the beginning is closer than the end. As secrets old and new come to light, Velma wonders if it’s possible to be unmoored from the past’s deep roots and find a reason to hope again.

River Jordan is a critically acclaimed novelist and playwright whose unique mixture of southern and mystic writing has drawn comparisons to Sarah Addison Allen, Leif Enger, and Flannery O’Connor. Her previous works include The Messenger of Magnolia Street, lauded by Kirkus Reviews as “a beautifully written, atmospheric tale.” She speaks around the country and makes her home in Nashville. You can learn more about her at her website.

This is a book that is receiving much acclaim, but personally, I just didn't get it. It may be somewhat a matter of taste. Just as I love a thick, juicy filet mignon but don't like Chinese food, some books just are not my cup of tea mocha. But beyond that, I found the book difficult to follow and honestly, just plain bizarre. I loved the title and the concept that, as believers, we are Saints in Limbo - living here while anticipating our eternal home. (Although on her website the author comments that "we are all Saints in our small ways yet we are all also in this stage of transition, growing from one thing into another", which sounds a bit New Age-y to me.) But Velma seems to have stepped beyond limbo and a bit off the edge of reality. The mystical elements got stranger as the book progressed and I began to feel a little bit in limbo myself. I'm having a hard time deciding if I consider this Christian fiction or simply literature. Not everything that has a "spiritual" element is Christian. Some reviews refer to it as Southern goth and/or magical realism. Publisher's Weekly ends its review by saying "Velma True's mystical adventure will speak to an audience interested in a thrilling, often touching, gothic tale about conquering fear and regret with a stubborn, Southern love." And while there's nothing wrong with reading a book that isn't blatantly "Christian," if one is presented as such, I want to be sure it qualifies.

An expert I am not, however. Decide for yourself. You can purchase it directly from the publisher or here.


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sara said...

You don't like chinese food?!! I can't imagine!

thanks for another good and honest review!!

Kim said...

VERY well done, Linda!! Not only did you give your opinion, you validated it by doing your homework on the author and what others are saying!


And no Chinese food?? Poor Linda!! :)

Xandra@Heart-of-Service said...

Great point, Linda. There are many books out there that are touted as "Christian", but are just touchy-feely, we're all going to heaven in our own way books. If it's labeled Christian fiction, it should be Christian...otherwise it should stay on the regular fiction shelf.


Anonymous said...

You're right, that does sound very New Age-y. Thanks for being honest in your review!

And I have to echo: no Chinese food??? :)

PS I got my book yesterday. I can't wait to read it!

Shauna said...

I loved this book (I'm a huge Lost fan, so the magical realism intrigued me, as did the characters), but I would classify this as faith-based fiction, not Christian fiction per se.

Lisa writes... said...

I read and reviewed it as you know! :-) Not my favorite but an interesting read when it was all said and done. Certainly the faith element was more obscure than other CBA titles.

Lisa writes... said...

And I adore Chinese food.