Friday, August 6, 2010

Review: Wounded by Claudia Mair Burney

I know things about Jesus just because I've suffered. Sometimes I wonder if suffering isn't a secret initiation into a special kind of intimacy with God.

This was our very first Faith 'n Fiction Saturday Round Table book, and it was an excellent one for discussion. I've done a bad job of writing follow up reviews for these books, but I'm going to try to correct that now!

Wounded is primarily the story of Gina Merritt a young single mother. She struggles to make ends meet, but she has a strong faith. At a church service for Ash Wednesday, she receives a special vision from God and her palm starts to bleed. This is known as stigmata and it's the first time I've ever read about it, and that aspect alone was fascinating to me. Anthony Priest, a drug addicted journalist is sitting next to her when this happens and a special connection is forged between them.

Gina continues to receive the visions and the wounds and Wounded is the story of how she and the people in her life come to terms with this happening.

I loved this book. Absolutely loved it. It stayed with me as I read, and long after. It's my favorite kind of book, one that grapples with faith on a very deep level. The characters were realistic and deeply flawed. You wouldn't look to them as models of how to act as a perfect Christian but even so their faith was touching.

I think Burney accomplished several things with this novel and asked many excellent questions of her readers. This book is about suffering and the role it plays in our lives and also the degree of suffering we're willing to endure to experience intimacy with Christ. It also really forced me to look hard at my prejudices. Gina is mentally ill and therefore people like her pastor wouldn't believe the stigmata was a gift from God but rather a manifestation of her illness. Priest as a junkie is the last person many of us would trust in this situation, but it reminded me my wisdom is not the wisdom of God. I like that she brought together an unlikely group of people in her story and that in many ways she flipped the tables and exposed man made righteousness for what it is.

Gina compares her intimacy with God to a marriage bed. I really loved this, though it was something that really divided our group when we read it. I think the idea of Jesus as our bridegroom is something we sing about in church to happy songs, but we rarely explore the actual depth of intimacy that it suggests. And Wounded raises the idea that the path to that sort of intimacy with God is through suffering.

Burney has given us a compelling story told from multiple viewpoints with multi-faceted and complex characters. It's a searing examination of faith, how we react when confronted with a miracle, the kind of spiritual manipulation that can happen from seemingly faithful folk, identity and race, and the role of suffering in the life of the believer. It pushes the envelope for Christian fiction in almost every way, and it's a book I won't soon forget. In fact, I think it's the kind of book that has made me a better person for having read it.

Rating: 5/5
Things You Might Want to Know: This is a book about the Christian faith
Source of Book: Received from publisher for review
Publisher: David C Cook


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