Thursday, September 6, 2012

"Mourning Heaven"

Review - "Mourning Heaven" by Amy Lane

Beautiful, intense, masterfully done

Very Highly Recommended

At age ten, Peter Armbruster was brought to live with his Aunt Aileen and his cousin Michael. His mother, bless her heart, wasn’t able to provide for him and thought he’d do better there. It took him a while to blend in, especially when he was taken to church in the small town of Daisy, California. Sitting there in in the pews, he looked around and saw the stained glass and thought of the words his mother had told him about small towns and the choices he would have to make and how he chose to live his life.

Just look at those windows, he thought. This must be their favorite part of the story. The part where somebody bleeds. Nothing that had happened since that day led him to feel any different.

He did learn to fit in, to an extent, thanks to his cousin Michael. And later, Michael’s friend Bodi, the boy he would love from afar.

But then things kind of exploded and life changed, as it has a way of doing. And six years later, Michael was being shipped home from Afghanistan in a pine box, and Peter was forced to go tell Bodi. And maybe finally claim what he wanted.

How will Bodi react? Will Peter finally confess his love? And how will the town that hated them all react to the prodigal sons’ return, one in a coffin, the other with Peter?

Amy Lane, usually so gentle, took me by the throat and dragged me into this raw and angry stunner and forced me to watch and live and breathe the heady mix of grief and love and redemption. I was moved beyond words, shaken to the core, and ultimately left gentled by her sure and crafty hand.

This book is Amy Lane at her best – broken and betrayed men forced to look their pain squarely in the face, to deal with it somehow, and to confront the loss and acknowledge the new possibilities. There is no room for weakness here, because pain and loss and hurt demand more.

“You give thanks to the things that save you,” Bodi acknowledged.

Peter dominates this book. His seeming passivity and resignation to his life in Daisy gives way to a slow, deep-seated fiery anger at the lies and hurts heaped on him and those he loves. The awakening we see in him as he unfolds and reaches for his power – just remarkable.

And Bodi. Broken, shattered, tossed aside by family, friends and a heartless town, he’s been out of the picture for six long years. Or has he? And his slow climb out of the hell he’s been in – sharp, stunning, powerful.

But it’s Michael, the missing leg of the triangle, who I am most intrigued by. Why he made the decisions he did. How he died a little every day for six years, before he ended up being buried and mourned for all of his strengths and flaws and weaknesses by the two men who knew him best and loved him most. And how he was so much more – and less – than anyone ever expected. A hero with feet of clay.

Regret is the sound of the ghosts of our own making. I will live with mine until I die.

There’s no regret for me in recommending this haunting book. Grief and loss by their very nature demand pain, and it’s a beautiful sadness and joy that transforms those emotions to peace and love. Amy Lane has truly outdone herself here, and I’m just glad she invited me along for the ride. It was magic.