Review of Talking to the Dead, by Bonnie Grove

Talking to the DeadI’m making an effort this year to read books that have been on my TBR for more than two years. I downloaded Talking to the Dead, by Bonnie Grove from the Amazon free list on November 15, 2012. So, it qualified for my TBR challenge.

Description from Goodreads:
Twenty-something Kate Davis can’t seem to get this grieving widow thing right. She’s supposed to put on a brave face and get on with her life, right? Instead she’s camped out on her living room floor, unwashed, unkempt, and unable to sleep-because her husband Kevin keeps talking to her.

Is she losing her mind?

Kate’s attempts to find the source of the voice she hears are both humorous and humiliating, as she turns first to an “eclectically spiritual” counselor, then a shrink with a bad toupee, a mean-spirited exorcist, and finally group therapy. There she meets Jack, the warmhearted, unconventional pastor of a ramshackle church, and at last the voice subsides. But when she stumbles upon a secret Kevin was keeping, Kate’s fragile hold on the present threatens to implode under the weight of the past . and Kevin begins to shout.

Will the voice ever stop? Kate must confront her grief to find the grace to go on, in this tender, quirky story about second chances.

Before I get into the review of this book I should fess up to some discomfort. I downloaded this thinking it was Women’s Fiction and it passes as it until about 90% into the book, when the main character had a clear Transcendental experience with the “One True God” and the rest of the book was heavily Christian. Looking at the rest of the book through that religious lens also changed my interpretation of a lot of the previous events.

I say all of this because I’m ok with Women’s Fiction, not so much with Christian fiction. I literally stuck my finger in my throat and made gagging sounds at my Kindle. I would not have read the book if I’d known where it was going. This is not a condemnation of the book, just an informative statement of genre classification. So, the rest of what I have to say should probably be taken with the above in mind.

My primary response to this book was, “I’m apparently not a nice enough person to read this.” Now, acknowledging the religious bent of the book, I can understand that forgiveness is obviously supposed to be important and the book focuses solely on Kate’s experience. BUT, and this is a big BUT for me, none of the characters who do her seriously wrong ever get their comeuppance. Hell, Kate never even says a cutting word toward them let alone does anything that leaves the reader feeling satisfied that the bad guys got what was coming to them. NONE!

Yeah, yeah, ‘all things before god. It’s not her place to pass judgement. She’s a better person for not.’ Bla, bla, bla. They got off too easy and I wanted to at least see them being told what shits they were…preferably in public, with significant and measurable consequences. Didn’t happen.

The book is well written and I didn’t really see any serious editing issues. And I did really like Jack and Maggie reminded me of someone I know and love in real life. I appreciated the representation of how easy it is to get trapped in the mental health system. I’m not even blind to the small kindnesses of the people who did Kate so wrong, giving their characters a bit of grey. (Too bad all those kindnesses were in response to situations they created and threw her unsuspectingly into.) So there is something worth praising here.

I just get stuck because the very things that are supposed to provide emotional satisfaction and closure for the reader (they are there for the right reader), mean nothing to me. Therefore, I’m left in the cold still waiting for a happy ending I’ll never get because what I want to happen wouldn’t be ‘Christian.’

So, if you’re the type of reader who likes to see a woman totally and unfairly destroyed by her corporeal life in order to accept God into her life, this is a must read. I’m not that reader. In fact, I tend to actively avoid such books. It’s a shame I got sideswiped by this one.

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