Wednesday, June 9, 2010

‘Life in Defiance’ by Mary E. DeMuth – Book Review

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One of the most amazing writers I have read since I have been reviewing books is Mary DeMuth.  I read her memoir, ‘Thin Places,’ and was amazed by her talented wordsmithing (you can read my review here).  Her latest book, ‘Life in Defiance’ is Book Three in her Defiance Texas Trilogy. 

Here is the synopsis of the book:

The killing of Daisy Chance continues to haunt Defiance, Texas, even as Ousie Pepper wrestles with a defiance of her own.  Desperate to become the wife and mother her husband, Hap, demands, Ousie pores over a simple book about womanhood.  She is sure that if she can just perfect herself, she will calm her husband’s rages – and maybe even stop drinking herself.
In the midst of her constant attempts at self-improvement, Ousie carries a terrible burden: She knows who killed Daisy Chance.  And she refuses to tell.  But as her children inch closer to uncovering the killer’s identity, Ousie has to make a decision.  Will she protect her children by telling the truth?  Or will the anger she fears silence them all?
The third book in the Defiance Texas Trilogy, this compelling suspense novel is rich in relationships and soul questions.  It is a choice we will all face sooner or later; whether to reveal the truth or live with the consequences of burying it forever.

Here is the book trailer for this emotionally powerful book:

And here is the author’s biography:

A storyteller at heart, Mary E. DeMuth is the author of Watching the Tree Limbs and Wishing on Dandelions, both finalists for the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year, and Daisy Chain and A Slow Burn, books one and two in the Defiance Texas Trilogy.  Mary recently moved back to Texas with her husband, Patrick, and their three children after spending two and a half years planting a church in France.

The main character in ‘Life in Defiance’ is Ousie Pepper, a pastor’s wife who has two children, son Jed and daughter Sissy.  The story is written in the First Person from Ousie’s perspective.  Her life has been difficult.  When she first married Hap, he was a carpenter, and they were happily married.  Shortly thereafter, Hap decided God was calling him to full-time ministry.  That did not sit well with Ousie; she was not too excited to be a pastor’s wife.  Hap become violent and argumentative in the home, while the picture of the perfect pastor/husband outside of the home.
Although this is the final book in the Defiance Texas Trilogy, the book stands alone.  Mary does a good job of summarizing the stories in the other books for those who haven’t read them or for those who need a reminder.  I appreciate authors who don’t force you to have to read all of the books, but instead write some well that you want to go back and read the other books – and that is the case with me and the other books in this trilogy.

Mary is such an amazing writer.  Here’s a terrific paragraph:

That reign ended, not a coup d’état like you’d expect.  More like dry rot brought on by year of a slow leak; all my life has been poured, then trickled, then dripped out at the feet of Hap until I am as dry as an abandoned cistern on the Texas plains.  And yet I wonder: is there something inside me that’s just too thirsty, and my thirst is what wearied Hap to rage? (p. 18)

Ousie happens upon a book entitled The Godly Woman’s Guide to Marriage, and she prays that this book will be the answer to her marital problems:      

I put my finger on the page, closing the book a moment to look at Sheba Nelson’s face on the back cover.  She wears buttoned up clothes, outdated glasses, and a smirk.  How can someone like this know everything there is to know in a marriage?  Is there such a thing as a perfect formula, and Sheba has figured it out?  Still, the words ricochet in my head and I open the book again.  There’s something enticing about all of this.  If I can do what Sheba says, I can fundamentally change everything.  All within my power.  After years of feeling like I have no influence, no voice, maybe this subversive text will help me manage my family, my marriage, my home.  When there’s nothing left in my life but to dream terrible dreams or drink away headaches, it’s worth a try.  Freedom’s worth such sacrifice. (p. 33)

As can often be the case, people were looking the other way when Hap abused his family.  Here’s a conversation between Ousie and Heloise, one of the members of Hap’s church, then Ousie’s thoughts:

“Please don’t tell.  Really, everything’s fine.  It’s just a misunderstanding.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t dream of telling.  Don’t you worry your pretty head.  He’s the pastor, Ousie.  You can’t touch the Lord’s anointed without getting hellfire shoveled back on you.  I’ll keep your secret.  And I’ll pray.”
I don’t know what I feel.  Relief?  Anger?  Will no one stand up to Hap?  My head roars; my eyes sting.  I wonder how I’ll get home.
“I need to go.”  Heloise gathers herself, pats me again on the shoulder.  “You’ll get through this.  They say God won’t put us through more than we can bear.”  (p. 195)

It’s interesting how people can so terribly misinterpret what God wants for us!

At one point, Ousie decides she needs to follow what the Lord wants for her – to be baptized.  She has it done by Big Earl, the owner of the café in town in Lake Pisgah:

His kind eyes hold me there in the moment, making Lake Pisgah the sanctuary I’ve always thought it should be.     
          No stained glass – just my stained life.
          No choir – but the chirp of birds in the trees.
          No Hap – just the well-rounded café owner with Jesus eyes.
          (p. 284)

Without giving away the ending (there are many twists and turns that I was not expecting!), suffice to say that Ousie finally feels free:

“Free,” I say.  And it’s true.  Not merely free from Hap’s wrath, but free from all the angry voices he inflamed in my head.  Free to hear the Voice who whispers grace over me like the first rosebud of spring.  Free to be the mother I long to be.  Free to live.  Free to turn my back on alcohol, though thinking about it plagues me still. (p. 352)

I admit I did find this book to be depressing at time, simply because Mary showed how life really can be in many homes.  Seeing Ousie’s life certainly made me appreciate my own life that much more!  I thank God daily for a loving and sweet husband (thanks, God, and thanks, Fred!).  Overall, I did enjoy this book.  Mary does a great job in showing the unvarnished truth, and sometimes it can be hard to take!  Her writing and her story telling are so amazing that I can forgive her for making me go through the ups and downs with the characters!  That’s what makes a great writer!

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Zondervan, and provided to me by the Blog Tour Spot for review purposes.  I am pleased to be participating in the blog tour with these other bloggers.


Mary DeMuth said...

You are such a blessing! Thanks so much for this review. I appreciate it.

Julia M. Reffner said...

Thanks for this review. I agree that Mary can be rough reading emotionally, but I find grace beyond the rough edges. She is definitely one of my favorite authors!

Andrea Schultz said...

Hi Mary and Julia -
Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Mary rocks!
Blessings -

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