About this book: (from the publisher) Ada was born into a fringe religious sect named for her father, The Prophet. But her lifelong habit of absolute obedience was shattered when she fled the family compound to elope with photographer Julian Goetz.
Katherine Walker’s marriage was a sham. She and Will rarely spoke without yelling—and never touched. Her affair brings her both escape and guilt.
When a tragic plane crash takes Julian from Ada and exacerbates Katherine’s sense of shame, both women become desperately unsure of where they belong in the world—until the devotion of an artistic young boy conspires to bring them together.
From award-winning novelist Christa Parrish, Still Life is a cunningly complex work that captures themes of abusive religion, supernatural love, and merciful escape. It will resonate with anyone who has ever felt called to a drastic change—or tried to hear the small whisper of God’s voice.
About the author: (from her website) Christa Parrish is the award-winning author of four novels and founder of Breaking the Sea Ministries. She lives in upstate New York with her husband, pastor and writer Chris Coppernoll, and they have four children in their blended family. When not writing, she is creative director of The Mission Community Church and produces a weekly radio show.
First impressions: Appealing cover, hook beginning. Check and check.
If this book were a movie, I would rate it: PG
Reminds me of… Far From Here by Nicole Baart
Will especially appeal to…photographers and those who have been wounded by religion.
This story matters because…it reminds us that art has the power to bring people to “the doorstep of the divine, stirring them not only to compassion but to action.” (from Still Life, page 182)
My take: I was a happy girl for the days I was reading this novel because this is what I love: Christian fiction that reads like mainstream, with all the gravitas, grit, and nuance that that entails, but without the profanity, without the sex-without-consequences, and with a healthy shot of hope for second chances.
I found Still Life to be a page-turner, and a masterfully constructed one at that. The set-up kept me asking questions, which in turn kept me turning those pages as swiftly as I could. For the first third of the novel, I asked how on earth Ada had come to be Julian’s wife. Somewhere in the middle I feared for Ada’s life and asked how she was going to escape the strong pull of her past. Then for the last third, I wondered how Ada was going to make it without Julian, and whether Katherine could possibly restore the wreck of her marriage and family, and whether both women could hope for a brighter tomorrow.
As in all her novels, Christa Parrish writes from the heart to the heart. Passages like this exchange between a kind pastor and a hurting boy darted beneath the surface to find resonance with my soul:
“There has to be a reason [Julian Goetz is dead.]”
“Oh, yes, there’s a reason. There are a million reasons. But none of them matter one single iota unless you can fall on Jesus, wrap your arms around his neck, and weep.
“I don’t know what that means.”
“It means…hope isn’t an explanation. It’s a person.”
One of the many reasons I like Parrish’s style is how she writes close to the earth, with very little gloss over what it means to be human. And she knows her characters to the core, imbuing them with astonishing grace and depth and originality. The more I read of this novel, the more I appreciated its title’s multi-faceted meaning, and when I turned the last page, I was satisfied.
[Tweet “Transcendent, earthy & already a fave: Still Life @breakingthesea”]
Thanks to BookLook and Thomas Nelson for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.
After words: Though it didn’t take up a disproportionate amount of story-space, one of Still Life‘s underlying themes pushed all my buttons: religious abuse and the accompanying unholy dis-empowerment of women–which surely accounts for my strong emotional reaction to this novel. What are some themes you’ve recently encountered that have pushed your buttons?