I have been eagerly awaiting the release of the third and final book in the Healing Fiction series by Nancy Rue and Stephen Arterburn. It definitely
In the struggle for healing, when do you fight and when do you surrender?
Ryan Alexander-Coe is a talented photojournalist who has been on assignment all over the world. But when her two sons choose to live with their father after her divorce, Ryan must give her career up for a small-town newspaper job in order to be near them.
Life spirals out of control when her fifteen-year-old son is arrested. Desperation--both over the fact that she cannot believe her son commited this crime and that he refuses to talk to her--sends her anger level soaring . . . and eventually sends her storming into Dr. Sullivan Crisp's office in search of ways to cope with her anger. Sully is in town assisting at one of his clinics and continuing his search for Belinda Cox, the woman whose guilt-inducing counseling caused the death of his wife and daughter. When Sully's search ends in disaster, both he and Ryan will have to fully rely on God--rather than themselves--to survive these storms.
Like its first two predecessors, Healing Stones and Healing Waters, Healing Sands is an incredible book. Ryan's pain and anger are palpable. And her response to therapy is spot-on for so many of us: fix the problem, but don't dig down for any root issues that might have caused it! Her interactions with the other Christian soccer moms are classic and will resonate with any woman who has been part of a group filled with tensions and unofficial, yet unconsciously assigned, roles. Sully's own quest for justice - or is it revenge? - adds an additional dimension to this story. A Reading Group Guide in the back of the book makes this an ideal choice for small groups or book clubs. This is truly Healing Fiction - dealing with real issues that folks face and pointing them to Truth.
Thanks to Thomas Nelson publishers for providing a copy for review.
Nancy Rue is on my "short list" of must-purchase authors. But beyond her phenomenal writing, I have had the amazing blessing of getting to know her and call her a friend. She is an absolute delight. When I was at the Expo, we had breakfast together and she spoke extensively about her writing.
You have written a series of books with Stephen Arterburn that you call Healing Fiction, beginning with Healing Stones, then Healing Waters, and now Healing Sands, which just released. Tell me about how the fiction works with the purpose.
We had our purpose first. We knew we wanted to tell stories of people who were really on the tough journeys, who were facing the hard things for which there just doesn’t seem to be an “I can look at the Scripture, claim this verse, live it, and I’m going to be fine.” There are many, many situations where you have to get to the root of what’s going on there, and that’s still very difficult. How many times did someone ask Jesus a question and He didn’t answer that question: He addressed what really needed to be addressed. So that was our focus at first. And that was Steve’s idea, to write that fiction, except he [is a non-fiction writer] and needed someone to flesh that out.
We had worked together on the Lily series. Lily was his idea. That’s part of the Young Women of Faith library. So we brainstormed for some things that people really do face. And we came up with the first one being infidelity. There have been a lot of books written about people whose spouses have been unfaithful to them, but we couldn’t find any where it was about the person who had committed adultery, and immediately it came to us that, well, that’s about forgiveness. What if you are completely remorseful and repentant for what you’ve done. You know that God forgives you, but no one else will, and these are Christian people, and that is their job to do that rather than to judge you and allow that to define you for the rest of your life. . . .
The story is in a sense the retelling of the woman brought to Jesus [when she was found] in the act of adultery. The people who brought her to Jesus really didn’t care what happened to her. We have no idea what happened to the guy she was committing adultery with – he just sorta disappears. It was more about trapping Jesus – “let’s see what He’s gonna do here.” So that’s how Healing Stones begins, which is someone using that to get to the president of the Christian college because they are Pharasaic and he is a grace-filled person, and they think he is soft on sin. I spent a lot of time studying that story and commentaries.
So we came up with the outline and then he leaves me alone and I write for several months, and when I have about ten chapters, I send them to Steve and he reads them and we talk and he makes suggestions. In the very beginning, when we were planning the series, it was just going to be separate books, and he said, “I just feel like we need something to tie them together. What if it’s a therapist?”
But we agreed that he should not be the man with all the answers – he has issues of his own – and that his approach to therapy needed to be somewhat quirky and sorta zany. Steve came up with the game show theology and then I came up with the buzzes and the ding-ding-dings. And it worked and Sully became his own person and developed so wonderfully well.
When it was time to start talking about the second book, Steve said “I want to write about a woman who has a weight problem” because his Lose it for Life seminars are so successful; he’s written extensively about weight and what the issues are. There were a couple of people who said “Nobody’s going to want to read a book about a fat lady!” And we said, “Then all the more reason for us to write one.”
And I never could figure out – and I know you purposely did this – just how fat she was. From her perspective, she sounds humongous, but from everybody else’s it sounds like she’s just barely plump.
Yes, and I’m going to always leave that up to the reader because it is about self-image. You know, Wesley gets her into a bathing suit, and yet you know that she’s not svelte. She has some bad eating habits; she binges, and that is really the sickness. So I went to a LIFL conference.
I learned so much from them about all of the deep hurts. I would say six out of the eight of us had been sexually abused as young women. And everyone was very open about what it is that they were burying, because that is Steve’s main philosophy about people who really struggle with major weight issues: is that we bury things – emotional issues – but we bury them alive and we have to feed them. So we need to get them out there where we can look at them. . . and say “but I’m not going to feed you any more.” So they were wonderful, and I would send them chapters and they would comment and say “No, she would never eat in front of people.” And that’s for people who wonder “How is she so fat when she doesn’t eat anything?” They were just amazing.
And the other piece of the book is the toxic faith. And both Steve and I are very much against the “Name it and Claim It” and you can have whatever you want, because what that implies is, if things are bad in your life, then you did something wrong! God doesn’t love you as much as He loves everybody else. Sonia typifies that when she loses everything and people start falling away from her.
In our third book, Sully goes in search of the therapist whom he feels is responsible for his wife’s suicide, lo those many years ago. So he takes us to New Mexico, and the research for that was incredibly wonderful! That’s Healing Sands, referring to the White Sands of New Mexico. I spent a lot of time in Las Cruces and Mesilla and learning about that whole culture and learning about anger, because that’s the deep-seated issue, and racial issues. And we’re dealing with a murder in that book. And Sully really hits absolute rock bottom. But we see him emerge in the end having really fought his demons and really come to an understanding of what forgiveness is and surrender and suffering, and in this book righteousness is really the theme: when do you seek justice and when do you surrender to “God is going to take care of this one.”
So the third book is all about him? He’s not helping someone?
Oh, yes! Yes, he is. And this girl is a pistol. She has anger issues. She’s a photojournalist. She’s the most resistant of the three women to therapy. She just wants him to tell her how to get control of her anger and she’s going to move on. And of course, he says, “It doesn’t work that way.” And she quits! She goes off. But then she comes back and says, “Okay, I’m ready.”
It’s very sad to see the series come to an end. But Sully is at a good place in his journey. And Steve and I are working on a new series.
The next series is called The Reluctant Prophet and it’s about a woman who one day in church God just speaks to her and says “I want you to buy a Harley.” So she does and the story takes off from there. She realizes she has this prophetic gift, meaning “I know what God wants us to do” and she starts working with prostitutes and turns her home into a home for prostitutes in the middle of historic district of St. Augustine Florida. So she’s riding around on her Harley – it’s going to be very very different! But the theme is – it’s very hard for people to say “I’m going to give it all to God, I’m going to surrender.” We can say “Let go and let God” and then in 10 minutes take it all back. So why not take it one step at a time and simply comply. It’s about compliance rather than total surrender – step by step. What you’re really surrendering if the need to know what’s going to happen all the way through – what’s the next step and the next step and the next step. And I have learned that in my own life. That’s the only way I’ve kept my sanity, is by asking “Is this the next step?” rather than saying “I’ve got the whole vision, the whole plan.” I don’t need to know the next twenty years. We’re really excited about this new series.
There will be sort of a mentoring character, a rather unlikely mentor, unlike Sully who you know is this famous Christian writer and does the podcasts and the TV shows and is someone you know you can trust. This is someone who is a very unlikely but very wise person and a very strong male character. I have learned from Steve that we need that. I think too much women’s fiction is “gung ho, women are the best” – we all have our part, and where would we be without men? I love men!
Working with Steve has just been a treat. And he is very generous – because he is a celebrity – in sharing. . .he’s not a lightmonger. He’s not seeking the glory for himself. So sharing this project, he’s the one who insisted that my name be first on the book. Those are the kind of things; he’s a very humble person, but wacko! And that’s what makes it fun and what brought such life to the books.
These books are not fun to write. But they are deeply satisfying. With Healing Stones I opened a vein. It was extremely hard to let people suffer that way. But the response has been incredible; that’s the most rewarding thing. People send us emails and say “This changed my life.” And people say, “I’ve learned not to be so judgmental.”
This is already rather lengthy and it's just the tip of the iceberg! She's also one of my girl's favorite authors. Be sure to check out her blogs for women, for mini-women (tweens) and for teens. What a treat to spend some time with Nancy!
I have TWO copies of Healing Sands to give away. Please leave a comment on this post by 8:00 PM Thursday (12/10) and I will choose 2 winners. If you do not have a blog, please be sure to include a mailing address so I can contact you. Winners will have 72 hours to respond (until 9:00 PM CST Sunday, 12/13); if no response I will pick new winners. US Residents only, please.
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