Friday, July 10, 2009

Book Review: Falling Into the Sun

From Amazon:
Product Description
After discovering her neighbor's suicide, Kate Nardek realizes that the same kind of despair that spurred her neighbors self-destruction fuels her teenage son's violent blowups. She seeks psychological help for him, a decision that changes both their lives. In her quest to vanquish her son's demons, Kate must face down her own, and consequently rethink her beliefs about mental illness, good and evil, death, and her own self-worth. Michael's journey parallels Kate's as his soul flies into the center of creation. There, he discovers something has noted every twist of his life. This being's perfect knowledge generates the healing salve of perfect compassion. If Michael confronts the truth behind violent episodes in his recent life, he too can learn compassion. Gripping, poetic, and powerfully uplifting, Falling into the Sun explores spiritual truths of Hindu, Native American, and Christian traditions as it tenderly grapples with the generational legacy of alcoholism and mental illness.

About the Author
Charrie Hazard, an award-winning journalist, worked as an investigative reporter and then as an editorial writer and op-ed columnist for the St. Petersburg Times in Florida, before leaving journalism to pursue teaching and fiction writing.

My Thoughts:
Well, its not Christian fiction or a trashy romance novel, so why am I reading it? Just kidding, I do read more than those two genres, just some folks find it odd that I read both.

Falling into the Sun was different from most books I read. It was highly religious, and mostly Christian, but it lacked the "my way is the right way" orientation of Christian fiction. Even though it talked about religion much more than many books labeled Christian fiction, the altar call, the overt or subtle urging by the author for the reader to adopt (or maintain) a certain faith wasn't there. As noted above, this is the story of how seeing a neighbor's suicide scares a mother into getting her son the help he needs to deal with his mental illness. The main character, Kate, is an Episcopalian and talks with her priest are an integral part of the book. He approaches things from a Christian perspective, though at times he refers to, or affirms Kate's reference to God as "Her", but this isn't a book about feminist spirituality either; rather, Kate is a searcher, she is trying to find God and meaning in the sorrow and pain in her life, and unlike what is often seen in Christian fiction, this book offers no easy answers; hope, but no "find Jesus and your life will improve".

The afterlife, particularly as it relates to the suicide victim, also figures into the story. At various points in the book we hear Michael, the suicide victim, speak to us using italic print. While there are a couple of different ways his fate could be interpreted, I think reincarnation is the most obvious.

When people are physically ill we don't hesitate to send them to doctors. As a general rule, we are pleased to leave the doctor's office with a prescription for our child--it means the doctor knows what's wrong, and has a way to help, if not fix the problem. Mental illness is completely different. Seeking help is seen as a sign of weakness; of being unable to cope. Do we consider cancer victims "unable to cope"? What about those with broken bones, or gallstones? When doctors offer psychotropic medications, we ask "Can they do without it?" Kate has all those feelings in this book, but finally realizes that her son needs help. If you are a parent struggling with whether to seek mental health help for a child, I'd recommend this book.

All in all, it was a good read. If eclectic spirituality in others bothers you, it might not be the book for you, but if you can enjoy reading about beliefs different than yours, or if your spirituality is on the non-conformist side, I think you'll enjoy this book.

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