In relationships between husband and wife, father and daughter, mother and child, it can come as a shock to realize that—though we love and are loved—though we share a bond that unites us—we are each of us separate, individual, sometimes even, painfully, alone. Most of the time we seek and find comfort and consolation in the knowledge that the other is there, or will be there, and we aren’t alone. But if you have ever lost a close loved one to death then you know the feeling of finality, separation, other-ness, of no-more-ness that can choke the consolation out of your being.
This feeling is described well in the new novel, Gadly Plain by J. Michael Dew. The 12-year-old girl named Spring-baby loses her father to death and emotionally she falls into a chasm of sadness that “bullies her, keeps her wilted, sober.” At least she shares grief with her mother. But then her mother abandons her (because “Mom needs time for Mom”).
When the author was nine years old his own father got sick and died. The story of Gadly Plain is his artistic expression of his own inexplicable trauma and the answers he found after many years of searching for meaning in the whole experience of human history, personal life and death.
Mr. Dew is a believer and the creative vision he shares in this imaginative story is honest about human weakness and suffering, but rooted in truth and hope. The book begins with a quote: “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse whose rider is called Faithful and True” (Rev. 19:11).
The story itself is as earthy as a body in a casket, a girl in a tree, a donkey in a pasture, hay in a barn, an old lady smoking in a bathroom, a young woman driving aimlessly across the countryside, and a faithful farm hand giving a reassuring hug.
I challenge you, as a mother or a daughter, to face your own aloneness, watch and listen for the messengers the Lord of hope may be sending to you; and to help you do that, read the book Gadly Plain: A Novel.