10 March 2009

Mary DeMuth's Daisy Chain

Daisy Chain is Mary DeMuth's new novel, and I've had the pleasure of reading it already. Since others have covered the plot, characters, etc. and done very well with those (and because I'm tired this week), I'm not going to get into them here except to say that Daisy Chain is about a little girl, Daisy Marie Chance, who disappears and her friend, Jed, who thinks it's his fault. Click some of the links below to find out more about the story. Anyway, I'm not sure it's quite right to call my thoughts here a "review," but here are some of my musings on the book.
  • Best: Daisy Chain is a great example of Christian fiction that gets outside the box. It's not easy, or nice, or happy, or any of the things that we've come to associate with Christian fiction. The lives Mary portrays here are messy . . . possibly even messier than our own, and in that mess, they are true. I loved that about the book.
  • Worst: Some of the symbolism is heavy-handed (like vultures, or Daisy's hair clips). When I encountered these images, I felt taken out of the story, like I remembered I was reading a book and was no longer transported into Defiance, TX. These symbols also made it seem like the book couldn't decide if it was for a literary audience or a popular one. Yes, I know it's possible to participate in both, but these images seemed like they were trying to make a popular book into a literary one and so felt jarring to the reader. Luckily, they popped up rarely and it was easy for me to get back into the story when I passed the image.
  • Writing: I loved Mary's writing. Her words made the reading seem effortless. In fact, I didn't feel like I read, for the most part, but like I walked alongside her characters. I read the book faster than I often do, and felt surprised when I looked down that first evening to find myself halfway through! I didn't read by flashlight like some had to, but I definitely wanted to finish!
  • Thoughtful: For me, this book brought up a lot of questions about what should and should not be portrayed in Christian fiction and what our responsibility is a Christian artists when we're portraying a hurt, broken world. There are parts of this book that were incredibly difficult to read because of the pain they portrayed. Were these parts necessary to the story? I think so (the novel is the first of a three-part series, so it's a little hard to tell what's necessary and what isn't at this point). Does that make them acceptable? I struggle with that. I don't have any answers, but the book definitely made me think.
  • Deep: Mary definitely has a grasp on the fact that no one is perfectly good or perfectly bad, but we're all these eclectic mixes of right, wrong, good, bad, and everything in between. I hated admitting that Jed's dad, Hap, could be right, but it was so clearly true. Again, a place where this book is true.
  • Annoying: I realize that, in the practical word of publishing, it would be difficult (if not impossible) to publish all three parts of this trilogy at once. However, it really bugged me that we didn't get to finish the story (partially because of reasons I list in my disclaimer below--it would have been easier for me to sleep after finishing had I known the end).
  • Disclaimer: I feel like I should say, for the purpose of transparency and objectivity about this review, that one part of the book hit me in a particularly vulnerable place. Several years ago, I had an intense experience of God. Over the two nights following, I felt like I fought evil in my sleep. Mostly, I had horrible half-waking dreams where I couldn't stop awful things from happening and couldn't get anyone to help me. After one dream, I woke fully and, though I faced the wall, I felt sure that an evil man was standing over my bed. I couldn't see his face; he was all shadows. I prayed, and then I turned around and no one was there, but I felt sure someone, something, had been. This ties to Daisy Chain because there's a creepy man who we only ever see standing, just standing, nothing else. As soon as I read about him, I felt transported back to my bed that night. It felt so intense that I had trouble falling to sleep while I was reading and for a couple of nights after. Honestly, it was hard to keep reading, even though I wanted to know what happened, and all of this probably made the book seem darker to me than it might to others.
Overall, I highly suggest this book, but don't jump into it thinking it's going to be easy or make you smile. It might make you truly happy, though...

For more on Daisy Chain, check out:
5 Minutes for Books
A Peek at My Bookshelf
A Spacious Place
Actual Unretouched Photo
Along the Way
Amy Storms
Ashley Weis
Aspire2 Blog
Awesome God . . . Ordinary Girl
Blame it on the Loud Mouth Gene
Blog Tour Spot
Bluebonnet in the Snow
Book Nook Club
Bookworm’s Nook
Bound to His Heart
Callapidder Days
Camy’s Loft
Canadian Prairie Writer
Carla’s Writing Cafe
Cyndy Salzmann
Declaring His Marvelous Work
dreamers of the day
Faith Fuel
Faith of a Single Mom
Five Bazillion and One
Giving Up on Perfect
Heading Home
Healthy Spirituality
Home-Steeped Hope
i don’t believe in grammar
it wasn’t me

Janell Rardon’s Blog
Just Pure Lovely
J’s Spot
Kindred Heart Writers
Leap of Faith
Life is one daily adventure
Lift My Noise
Lighthouse Academy
Literary Discoveries
Literary Fangirl
Margaret Daley
Mari’s Morning Room
My Life Message
Paper Bridges
Partners in Prayer for Our Prodigal
Positive Moms
Prayerfully Penned
Rachel Hauck
Refresh My Soul
Reviews by Donna
Sarah Winfrey
Scraps and Snippets
See Ya On the Net
Simplifying Motherhood
Sips ‘n Cups Cafe
Sky-High View
The Gospel Writer
The Journey of Writer Danica Favorite
The March to Freedom
The Serial Writings of Robin Shope
The View From Here
The Writing Road
Whosoever Will Outreach Ministry
Wild Words . . . Photos and Fine Art
Wisdom Walk
Word Vessel
Write by Faith


christianne said...

You weren't sure you could call this a review, but I really appreciated the approach you took. It was a breath of fresh air as far as reviews go, since reviews are so often, well, review-y. :)

The part that gripped me most about this post was what you shared about your half-waking dreams and the image of the man standing over your bed. I'm so sorry, my friend, for your fright in this experience! It was hard for me to read that this happened to you, and I know that I'm so far removed from your actual experience of it. And I'm sorry that it was triggered again through the reading of this book. I love you and your vulnerable heart. And I hate the evil that comes against you and that beautiful heart.

Joelle said...

Thanks for the review. I love it when friends I admire and have much in common with recommend books. Will have to check this out when I finish the stacks I'm in the midst of. :) Though your response, coming back to an uncomfortable memory, was not perhaps pleasant, I think it gives a hint of how powerful story can be to transform, engage us at the deepest soul levels. I hope somehow the book brings (if not in itself or a sequel, in the Spirit's gentle work) a healing of that dream.

sojourner said...

What a font of information you are in this post! I will pick the book up and read it thank you very much!

Mary DeMuth said...

Thank you so much for your open, honest review. I appreciate it.

heather said...

My favorite part of the book is her characterization and the mix of all motives. I hated Hap in the beginning, and though I can't say I understood him by the end or liked him, I felt there was more than I knew about him.

Sarah said...

Thanks so much for all the comments...sorry I didn't get back here sooner.

Christianne--thanks, friend, for loving that weirdly scared place in me...evil is so...well, EVIL and it's a relief to know I stand with you.

Joelle--don't get me going on the power of story. Or, rather, don't get me going on it in my comment box...but yes, I think that's how human beings learn best (and I'll leave it at that)

Sojo--definitely read it!

Mary--you're welcome...I can't wait until I get to read the rest of the series (thought I might wait until it's all out to finish ;) )

Heather--what you said here is part of what I was trying to get at in my comments about nothing being black and white, I think...yeah, the complexity made it much more like the muddled realities we see before us every day.