In this tense, well-paced novel about belief, Kiernan explores what happens when faith and love test the limits of family fealty. In southwest Florida, college student Marshall Tobias is in search of something to believe in. He thinks he’s found God and the woman he’s always dreamed of when he falls in love with fundamentalist believer Ada Sparks. But Ada’s against medical intervention for illness, and tragedy results when she sets out to “help” Marshall’s 12-year-old sister, Meghan, overcome her life-threatening allergies. Switching points-of-view between Marshall and his mother, Chloe, Kiernan (Catching Genius) movingly portrays a 20-year-old marriage gone flat and torn apart by crisis, a troubled son, a daughter hovering between life and death, and the hard-to-discern boundaries between true faith and unhealthy fanaticism. She handles her difficult material respectfully. Most interesting is her portrayal of the well-meaning traps parents fall into when encouraging open-ended exploration of faith without context, or choosing to remain silent. The thoughtful themes, interesting characters and page-turning drama of this novel will likely make it a book club favorite.
Honestly, the reason I decided to read this book is because of my son’s food allergies (click here to read more about this); I thought than any book touching on this topic deserves a chance from me. Of course, this book isn’t a novel of food allergies (thankfully!) – it’s an intimate look at one family dealing with multiple crises all at once.
As I thought about this book and how to explain it – without too many spoilers! – I found myself thinking of the recent tragedy in Steven Curtis Chapman’s family. The situation in Kiernan’s book is not the same, but the parents in both situations are facing the same reality: harm has come to one of their children as direct result of another of their children. How you deal with life from that point on is one of the main ideas in Matters of Faith.
Kiernan’s real strength is in her description of the emotional issues the characters – but mostly Chloe - face. As I read through the book I found myself over and over saying “yes! I know exactly how that feels!” The way a mom looks at her children and is both proud and heartbroken over the way they’ve grown up so quickly, how a married couple can “read” each other after so many years of being together and expect their spouse to respond appropriately, how what we see as patience with our spouse can often in reality be a passive battle to see who outlasts the other, the recklessness of being a teenager in love believing that THIS love can see you through anything … all this and so much more is what Kiernan makes you feel in this book.Kristy Kiernan within the next few days. If you have any questions about Matters of Faith, or her first novel, Catching Genius, please post them in the comment section and I'll be sure to ask them for you. Matters of Faith will be released on August 5 but you can preorder it on Amazon.com now.
And as always, if you decide to read this book please give me the link to your review and I'll post it here.
UPDATE: Click here to read my interview with Kristy!
* According to the current results of the poll at ReadingGroupGuides.com, the majority of readers want to think or feel. I’m in the minority because I read mostly to learn. Hey, me in the minority … that’s nothing new!