Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: The Rhythm of Secrets by Patti Lacy

I've been hearing good things about Patti Lacy's books for quite a while--mostly that they have beautiful writing. But time always passes so quickly and there's so little time to read that it's taken me until this point to finally sit down and read one.

The Rhythm of Secrets centers around a woman named Sheila. One day out of the blue the son she gave up for adoption years ago calls her and requests a meeting. There are many things he wants to know and understand about his own history. She has kept him a secret from her husband so she agrees to meet with him privately. And so begins her story--a recounting of her years growing up in New Orleans, the loss of her family, giving birth to him, and meeting her husband at Moody Bible Institute. Interspersed in her story, is the story of her son Samuel and the love of his life--this story ends up taking center stage at the end of the book. This is a historical fiction novel that begins during World War II and concludes during Vietnam.

Patti Lacy does have a lovely way with words. Her language is descriptive especially in a sensory way....sights, sounds, smells. The majority of the story is told through Sheila's perspective and as such, she's the only really nuanced character. The other characters feel a bit flat and one dimensional. In some cases this makes sense since it's likely the exact way Sheila saw them, but sometimes I wished for just a bit more. Additionally, the pacing lagged at times for me...I found myself impatient for the story to pick up pace.

Having said all of that, I deeply appreciate many things about this book. In recent conversations about Christian fiction, we've talked about a lack of diversity, and a lack of real life responses to situations. What I found so refreshing in this book was that Lacy demonstrates a strong knowledge of the church history in this country and while it doesn't scream off the pages, it felt very accurate to me. Sheila's worried what her husband will do when he finds out about the secret she's keeping because he's a pastor involved in the early stages of connecting the evangelical church to politics. Some of the time, Sheila is with nuns and they are also portrayed very fairly I think, what they do may seem cruel but it's apparent they are acting out of love and what they think is best. When a church service came up I almost groaned, certain the big conversion scene was coming and was I ever wrong! Sheila's "conversion" feels so authentic and true to life that I wholeheartedly approve of its portrayal. It's beautiful the spiritual journey Sheila takes throughout the book. She questions God now and again--who is He? What is He like? But it's a journey that reaches it's heights in the final pages well past conversion. And Sheila is also biracial but passes for white, but her son is clearly darker skinned.

And the way she writes sexual attraction is so...ON! I've read a few romance novels in my day and I'm not sure anyone has managed to capture it quite so well before. This is not meant to scare anyone away, I just appreciated how very REAL this book felt. Sometimes I think we (all of us, not just Christians) are guilty of trying to sanitize our fiction. I think Patti Lacy masterfully captures reality and depicts it in it all its messiness without descending into the crude. This is really a rare feat.

Also, the book is one long love letter to music. Every chapter is the name of a song and music is the healing and creative force in Sheila's life.

So overall I do recommend The Rhythm of Secrets. While not perfect, it's still very enjoyable and greatly appreciated.

Rating: 4.5/5
Things You Might Want to Know: Christian fiction, including depictions of life at Christian places in historic times like, Moody Bible Institute. Also use of racial slurs recently removed from Huck Finn.
Source of Book: Received from publisher for review
Publisher: Kregal Publications


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