Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Monday, June 16, 2008

Matters of Faith, by Kristy Kiernan

I just finished reading an ARC of Kristy Kiernan’s new book, Matters of Faith. I’m having a hard time summarizing this book, so I’m going to rely on this excellent blurb from Publishers Weekly:

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.

I read recently that readers are looking for one of three things in a book: to think, to learn, or to feel.* Matters of Faith is definitely a book that will make you feel.

I'll be posting an interview with 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 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, 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!


Busted said...

Sounds like a good book - I don't think I could deal with anything dealing with harm to a child though. Not right now certainly.


Michelle said...

Oh interesting! I just went back and read more about your son's food allergies...YIKES! We're lucky in that MAM reacts to foods (wheat, gluten, soy, dairy, and eggs) like a seasonal allergy--coughing/sneezing/congestion, and so far, that's it. Just knowing what a hassle it is for us, I can't imagine having more allergens and/or more severe reactions to look out for! (and we only eat at the outback too! well, except for chik-fil-a for the french fries)

Nan said...

I'm with you. I read a book mostly to learn, which is probably why I enjoy nonfiction so much. Yet even in the fiction I read, I like to learn.

Your book review was amazing! It was really excellent, as was your interview with the author. You give enough information so the reader knows if he or she wants to read the book, but you don't spoil the story. I think that is rare in reviewers, esp. professional ones. They tend to tell me too much. Great job!

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Busted - I certainly know where you're coming from on that. I don't read "personal tragedies" or abuse memoirs for that exact reason.

Michelle - I'm so sorry you have to go through this WONDERFUL experience with allergies as well (note the sarcasm there). Here's hoping/wishing that MAM outgrows some of hers!

Nan - Why thank you! That was a wonderful compliment. Also, I'm glad to hear I'm know the only "learner" out there. [and for anyone reading this, you MUST check out Nan's blog - she has such lovely pictures all the time!]

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