This is the first fiction novel by RIchard Bothelho and it is surprisingly good. The main character is a female and it is often difficult for a male writer to communicate understanding of a female character in a way that resounds with truth throughout the novel. Richard does a fair job of it, but there is something slightly “off” in the novel. I’m not sure I can put my finger on it, but I feel somewhat uneasy with it. It may be simply the overwhelming sadness I felt for Leah and the barren life she seems to have lived. It was a bit monotonous experiencing all the little things in Leah’s life throughout her many years. Some of the experiences shed a great deal of light on her own reasoning and desires, while others seem to be a bit extraneous.
It is a novel about a woman’s search for meaning in her life. At different times, she centers her life around others such as her baseball husband who is going to deliver her out of her monotony of small-town life into a life of wealth and fame. The other is her son whom she eventually loses because of her poor choices and an extra-marital affair. She focuses her life on her church and her teaching of Sunday School all the while unhappy and living a “double life” of “all is well” at church with a life devoid of real meaning and happiness in her daily life: a husband she futilely realizes she never loved and never will even though he has loved her faithfully; a family with siblings that she seldom sees or hears from and who remind her of too many unhappy memories from childhood.
Finally, she finds herself destitute and living out of her car, traveling around the United States seeing the sites and meeting interesting strangers. When the pain of watching this pitiful woman becomes too much to bear, she finally reconciles with God, discovers the purpose of her life, has a one-on-one conversation with God Himself, and eventually succumbs to illness and death. The conversation with God took far too long for my liking. It was too fantastical for my liking. Too typical of what a movie conversation with “God” might be portrayed as.
I found that the author has some real “gems” in his writing – a turn of phrase or a description that speaks of real talent. For example,
“….After all, one can only pretend for so long, as the absence of love devours the soul and renders the heart unavailable.” (pg. 159, Leah’s Way)
“The big house was even emptier than before, for even the illusion was gone this time.” (pg. 173, Leah’s Way)
However, I also found that the author seems to be “sermonizing” on time to time. Trying to convince the reader that “Less is more” and that we should be satisfied with little and that the Lord will sustain us and that’s all we need. It is too contrite or pat on many occasions.
While I found this a depressing story, it did make me want to appreciate the people in my life whom I love dearly. It encourages me to make the right choices so that I can please God and follow in His will and not my own.
The overall lesson of “love God” didn’t really ring true for me in this novel. If Leah was so faithful to God, why was she so wretchedly unhappy and dissatisfied? Really loving God and growing in a relationship with Him helps to cultivate joy and a satisfaction in any type of life (even one of devoid of material possessions like Leah was at the end), but Leah does not seem to discover this as she is always, always, always dissatisfied. I hope that is not the author’s view of all women. (giggle)
This novel could be said to be an accurate representation of someone’s life – I just hope it is never mine! It is filled with the mundane ness of ordinary life as well as with the acute introspection of self that comes with reflection on the past by a character who is searching for the real meaning of life and finally discovers it. You may really enjoy picking up this novel and perusing it at your leisure. Be ready for self-reflection and a melancholia that permeates every page of this novel.