From its opening lines, I was drawn into Talking to the Dead. Narrator Kate Davis possesses the most appealing first-person voice in Christian fiction I’ve read since Dr. Dylan Foster in Melanie Wells’ The Day of Evil Comes series (also reviewed on this blog). With a writer’s admiration tinged with envy, I found myself reading, and then rereading lines like, Uncertainty crept up my spine and knocked on my skull. Other passages I read thinking, Did she really dare to say that…in CBA? You go, girl. (And you go, publisher David C. Cook, for daring to put it in print.)
Each page holds tension and layered subtexts, and Kate makes a memorable protagonist. Why? Well, in addition to a fresh narrator’s voice, Kate possesses qualities larger-than-life: She throws lasagna at her sister. She crashes her red Mazda into the car of her newfound friend. She punches her nemesis in the face and lands herself in the local psych ward. Unbelievable? You might think so, but not under Groves’ skillful hand.
And then there’s Kate’s inner conflict: Her husband’s dead, and he talks to her—which she likes because it soothes her grieving heart, but… her husband’s dead and he talks to her—which she doesn’t like because proves she’s crazy (right?). She wants her husband to keep talking and yet she wants him to stop. Two mutually exclusive goals—she can’t have them both. That’s inner conflict, and a memorable one.
There’s a lot to like here, and I did, thoroughly and without reservation…until the last quarter of the novel. Then, oddly, characters and plot began to feel familiar, predicable…cliché. The ending seemed rushed, lacking the wonderful textures of the first three hundred pages. The conclusion fell flat. However, despite the disappointing ending, Talking to the Dead remains a compelling read, and I look forward to more works of women’s fiction by this intriguing author.