Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Zora & Nicky: A Novel in Black and White by Claudia Mair Burney

Today I'm featuring a book by new-to-me author, Claudia Mair Burney.

First, the back cover copy:

Two Hearts, One God.

Should Anything Else Matter?

Zora Nella Hampton Johnson knows exactly where she comes from—and her daddy won't let her forget. Of course for that privilege he keeps her in Prada and Kate Spade, Coach and YSL. He chooses her boyfriend, her car, her address, and ignores her love of painting, art, and the old ways of her grandaddy's soulful AME church—where the hymns pleaded, cajoled, and raised the roof. Her daddy may be a preacher, but some-where among the thousands of church members, the on-site coffee house, and the JumboTron, Zora lost God. And she wants Him back.

Nicky Parker, a recent graduate of Berkeley and reformed playboy, also suffers the trials of being a preacher's kid, and he can't remember the last time he saw eye-to-eye with his white, racist, Southern Baptist father. What he does remember—and it will be forever burned in his brain despite myriad prayers to Jesus—is the way Zora looked the first time he saw her. Like Nefertiti. Only better. When they meet at a bible study far from their respective home churches, the first churlish, sarcastic sparks that fly sizzle with defensiveness. But God has a special way of feeding the flames and though of different flocks, these two lost sheep will find Him and much, much more.

And now for my review:

Wow. Where to begin? I’ll give you the phrase which I began the book with, an endorsement from Liz Curtis Higgs. She wrote: “Zora and Nicky isn’t safe. But it’s good.”

The book is listed as a Fiction: General. But I’d call it a romance with a lot more going on.

I hadn’t read Mair’s earlier work so I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I knew is the cover intrigued me, front and back. I was drawn to interrupt my TBR (to be read) pile and devour it. And that’s exactly how it happened. I read it very quickly because Mair’s story seizes you and doesn’t relent.

Mair boldly tackles issues of racism, religion, sexuality, family, poverty, and I’m sure so much more that you will see yourself on the pages (whether you want to or not). One of Mair’s very effective tools in Zora & Nicky was the use of first-person, present-tense writing, in each main character’s POV – the hero and the heroine. You read the words in first person, “I” language, and it’s like holding a mirror up to your soul. Ugh! What we might see there. I think that’s why the book rings so true based on reviews and endorsements. And though I didn't always agree with the author's position on all of those subjects listed above, the story would not let me go.

This book isn’t for everyone, and yet it fairly represents the human condition of prejudice, even if we hate it about ourselves. Of temptation even while we’re seeking God with all our hearts.

If you’re looking for a read that is way outside the box in Christian fiction, and if you’re open to conviction by the Holy Spirit (on more than one level, likely), get ahold of this book. Let it change you.

Highly recommended.


  1. I appreciate your comments on Zora & Nicky, Annette. This book has been on my wish list ever since it first came out.

  2. I hope you're able to get your hands on it, Carole. It's challenging, but I'm so glad I read it. Confession--I borrowed my copy from the local library... It's not the same as having it adorn your shelf after you've read it, but for me, it was better than nothing. :-)