Monday 3 May 2021

Close to the Soul - Mary Jo Thayer

Close to the Soul
ISBN 9781987970234

Wow! What a powerful and moving story. This is a book that landed on my desk at a very opportune time in my life. Full Quiver specializes in books that focus on fiction around theology of the body. And this is one that is masterfully written. It is very moving. Intense events. Faith, family, and determination are the words I would use to describe this story. The description of the story is:

“Through grit and grace, Carolyn Fandel survives being raped by someone she knows and trusts. She will not accept defeat—even when confronted by her rapist a second time. Instead, she uses her tragedy to help hundreds of others, some of whom she will never meet. Set in the era of the Vietnam War and the new feminism, this book will have you crying and cheering for Carolyn as she navigates the challenges of life after sexual assault.”

Carolyn has the support of her family. Both immediate and extended. She faces many hardships. And Learns to work and work hard to support herself and her daughter. But throughout the events there is a young man courting her. But she has a desire to learn to stand on her own feet. And life takes many turns. The dedication of the story states:

“For all the babies—born and unborn—since the
beginning of time till the end.
And for their mothers—those who have rejoiced,
those who have grieved, and those who could do neither.
You are loved forever by the One Who Is Love.”

This is a story set in a time when abortion was still against the law. It follows a young woman with an unplanned pregnancy after an assault. But we also find out about another who ended her pregnancy. Both have a lot of work ahead of them to become whole. One has the support and love of her family. The other did not. This story follows Carolyn as she is assaulted, becomes pregnant, goes away to have the baby. And learns to make her way in the world. The story begins with these words:

“Back then, no one talked about such things. It wasn’t polite to speak about them freely. It happened at a time when real men stood up, and boys disguised as men went on their way without as much as a backward glance. Girls in such circumstances were labeled as if humans could read not only minds but also hearts and souls.

The young woman often got saddled with the total responsibility—even by her parents—which she accepted without choice. Most practically, the young lady had to go into hiding—and out of town was preferable. “It” was discussed in hushed tones, cloaked terms, and shared with a select few. The key players, which generally involved those needed to help conceal the incident, were informed on a need-to-know basis. If word got out, an embarrassing black mark might be cast upon the family name.

It was a natural set-up for stuffed emotions and a gigantic web of long-running lies. Lifelong secrets were kept hidden close to the soul, often only between the young woman and God.

At least, that’s how Carolyn thought it would go—especially being raised in a conservative Catholic bloodline and given a classical education, as if this somehow made her immune to the ugliness of the world.”

It is a moving and powerful story set in the 1950’s. Life was different, and society was very different. But the story is of great value for readers today. I mentioned at the beginning that the book landed on my desk at a critical time. I had just found out I have a 25 year old daughter I did not know about. Reading this I could not help but think about this daughter and her mother. This is an amazing read. And an incredible debut novel. Christian fiction at it’s best. Excellent Catholic literature.
Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan

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