Friday, June 11, 2010
Life in Defiance by Mary DeMuth
It's so satisfying to read the third book in a trilogy, don't you think? Especially when there's a mystery to solve. Let's begin with the summary of Life in Defiance by Mary DeMuth.
In a town she personifies, Ouisie Pepper wrestles with her own defiance. Desperate to become the wife and mother her husband Hap demands, Ouisie pours over a simple book about womanhood, constantly falling short, but determined to improve. Through all that self-improvement, Ouisie carries a terrible secret: she knows who killed Daisy Chance. As her children inch closer to uncovering the killer's identity and Hap's rages roar louder and become increasingly violent, Ouisie has to make a decision. Will she protect her children by telling her secret? Or will Hap's violence silence them all? Set on the backdrop of Defiance, Texas, Ouisie's journey typifies the choices we all face---whether to tell the truth about secrets and fight for the truth or bury them forever and live with the violent consequences.
And now, my review:
Mary DeMuth has a way with words. From the first book in the Defiance, Texas trilogy (and/or the first book you read by her) you pick up on this. She also is a masterful storyteller. In Life in Defiance, her main ministerial focus, as referenced by her dedication and her heroine’s plight, is that of abused wives. How even the church has told abused women they are to “submit” to their husbands and win them by their “obedience.” A sick, perverted lie. Tackling this issue by depicting abuse must not have been enjoyable for Mary. It certainly wasn’t “enjoyable” to read. But you will find hope in the story, life on the other side.
Honestly, not every one of my friends or family members would be able to stomach this book, or this series. Mary is a gutsy writer, going places in her imagination that sometimes I’d rather not go. But like while reading Daisy Chain, (Book One in the Defiance, Texas trilogy) I couldn’t put the book down. A sign of a good writer—they take you places you wouldn’t ordinarily go, whether you want to go or not. And, for the record, I’m glad I went.
I believe readers who like a deeper read, one with heavier emotions, will enjoy Life in Defiance. And while we’re visiting here upon the book’s title, I want to say the heroine spends the entire book trying not to be in defiance, but rather in compliance. (Ironic, isn’t it?) All the forces of the world around her, the authoritative influences seem to come against her, perpetuating the lies. Readers may find themselves frustrated in her powerlessness. But I also believe, like any good fiction, readers will question what they, themselves, would do in the same situation.
I liked Mary’s use of a non-fiction book (which does not exist, but whose themes do, no doubt) in her novel. She brings in an estranged wife/author to impact the heroine’s life. Just in reading that I believe readers will discern, this woman’s point of view is not truth. That was one of my concerns—will the readers who need the message of Mary’s book, get the message? For most of the novel there is so much confusion. The issues of being “a good, Christian wife” in the late 1970s were depicted with murky answers through most of the text. Of course, fiction isn’t meant to preach truth like non-fiction can. But I was hoping for more hope to be weaved in before the end of the novel. You’ll find hope, but it comes after much, much turmoil and pain.
As in her other books, I enjoyed Mary’s writerly voice. Her use of first-person. Her use of second-person, on occasion. As a writer, I delighted in the play. And of course, she used third-person, too, for the villain.
Overall, this is a well-written novel, a satisfying ending to the Defiance, Texas trilogy. A word of insight, the novels build on each other. Read them in order to follow these characters on their journey. But roll up your sleeves. These are not comedies. You’ll be looking inward and sometimes watching helplessly as this author digs around in the soil of your heart.