I love challenges. Especially the writing kind. Song of Renewal, my first full length paperback release, provided many during it’s creation. So did Flavors. But writing Flavors, the story of twelve year old Sadie Ann Melton’s coming of age during a summer at her grandparents’ farm, living amid a passel of kids who rivaled Ma and Pa Kettle’s brood, was so delightfully fun that I hated to finish it. Then, another recent full length paperback release, Homefires, chronicles the fictional experiences of a preacher’s family. It’s told from the wife, Janeece’s perspective and reveals the good, bad and ugly of life in the glass house. Victims of ecclesiastical circumstances, Janeece and Kirk Crenshaw face the challenge of their lives. Yet—despite their prayerful lives, a solution is not so simple. Forgiveness and unconditional love are in abundant supply for the parsonage family. But then loss and betrayal tear the family asunder. Can Janeece and Kirk even go on together? Is love enough to put them back together?
Another of my novels, Space, is the story of a nucleus family of three who face some of the greatest challenges that I—as an author–have ever encountered. The Stowes, Dan, Deede, and Faith, their nearly-thirty, recovering drug addict daughter, battle a universal dilemma when Faith comes back home to live.
Faith–the Faith they’ve always known–is gone away. In her place is a stranger—a needy, demanding, neurotic, clamorous individual who steals their golden years, idyllic life. Faith has lost everything, her marriage, her child, and her health. Worst of all, Faith is the black sheep of the remarkable Eagle family clan, one in which no one, save her Aunt Priss and soul-mate cousin Jensen, trusts her. During her dark drug days, she lied, stole from, and betrayed all who loved her. Now, in post drug rehab, the rubber meets the road when Faith has to face the consequences of her actions and must learn to co-exist with her aging parents. Faith must find her space in life.
Faith is, under the best of conditions, a trial to bear, as Dan and Deede soon learn. First, her needs bankrupt them financially. Beyond that, they wrestle daily with guilt—they want her gone; and resentment—she’s stolen their space, their time together. Their very peace. Some sage advice to them is to simply throw their daughter out. But in this particular situation, we learn that this is not ‘simple’ and not possible. Faith was their “miracle baby,” one that was not supposed to happen.
When? Deede and Dan both wonder, does one give up on a child and throw them under the old proverbial bus? In Faith’s case, it would mean prison.
While Dan gets stuck in the “do not be her enabler” counsel, Deede is imbedded in the “as long as she’s trying to change, help her” advice. Faith doesn’t know who she is anymore or where she’s headed. Her frustration, anger, and dishonor toward her parents brings much heartache and stress. The collision course is wide and long. Unavoidable.
This story challenged me more than any other I’ve done because of the complexities of three people living together under one roof, while each is forced to sacrifice chunks of their own space for the survival of the family unit.
Deede Stowe says it best, “We each need our own little corner of the universe.” So true. Without our own space, life can turn on us and, at times, even bring us down. This happens, in turn, to each of the Stowes.
Deede’s wise mother, Noni Eagle, teaches the entire Eagle clan that “Eagles always fly high!” Noni illustrates with the American Eagle’s aging odyssey during which—to live beyond its 40th year and survive another 30–it must experience tremendous agony, first by banging and dislodging it’s misshapen beak against stone, and then growing a new one. It then plucks out its talons and waits for new ones to grow. All this is paramount to its capturing prey and surviving. Lastly, it plucks out each heavy aged feather until it is naked, then waits in the mountain top nest for a new coat to emerge. This entire ordeal lasts 150 long days, after which the eagle takes its famous flight of rebirth and lives to be 70.
The Stowes each ‘get it’ as to why this process of painful change applies to them during their own quest for healing and rebirth. They survive by ridding themselves of old memories, habits and other past traditions. Dysfunctional Dan has to learn to forgive while Deede must endure Dan and Faith’s clashes and maintain her own equanimity. Faith must reclaim herself by somehow freeing herself from past entrapments so that she may take advantage of the present and begin a brand new life.
“You see,” Noni Eagle tells them, “when it rains, birds head for shelter. Of all the birds, only the eagle can avoid the rain by flying above the clouds. So, go spread your wings and soar with the eagles.”
The Stowe’s victories are hard won. The story teaches us that no one is beyond redemption. It shows that familial love endures beyond our wildest expectations.
It teaches, too, that everything meaningful begins with family and ends with family.
Emily Sue Harvey is The Story Plant’s Author of the Month. This means we are offering sensational deals on all of her works. You can learn more at our website.