Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Review of "Song of Renewal" by Emily Sue Harvey
Emily Sue Harvey published her first novel, Song of Renewal, in 2009. Apparently she thought she could do better, because she went on to add 35,000 words for the paperback version, which will be released in February 2011.
Song of Renewal is the character-driven story of a nuclear family, each member described in great depth with third-person omniscient narration. Liza, a prima ballerina, gives up dancing to be the devoted stay-at-home mother of her little ballerina. Garrison, a gifted painter, puts his artistic dream to the side so he can better support his family through his commercial art business.
At age 16, Angel is struggling with living up to her mother’s dream for her to be a dancer, while she wants to be a doctor. She is in love with the boy next door, and one fateful, rainy night they go off to a show. Troy is killed and Angel is left in a coma.
The couple is left to pick up the pieces of their marriage, once passionate in their early and idealistic years, now in a cold stand-off. Liza struggles with feelings of abandonment, based in childhood trauma; Garrison is unable forgive her for letting the couple drive that night. Angel’s thoughts, as she lies in a coma, reflect the experiences of coma survivors, well-researched by the author.
Later in the novel Liza’s hard-as-nails-on-the-outside sister Charlcy enters the picture, with her own marital issues to resolve. Other secondary characters include Penny, Angel’s best friend from cheerleading, who seems to be ever at Angel’s bedside and a great support to Liza; and a doctor who has herself recovered from paraplegia.
Harvey knows how to choose her words. She uses the language of artists and dancers to describe the passions of her main characters. She is able to speak about marital sex in a dignified way that preserves its holiness. And she is able to explore the depths of each character’s soul in a way that makes the reader feel the character is real and knowable.
She also knows how to carefully construct a story, using preludes, flashbacks, personal thoughts, and dramatic conflict. When you reach the climax chapter, you will know you are there, because the emotional tension is as tight as it can get before it is released, and you cannot remain unaffected by it.
Although never preachy, the values of this book are thoroughly Christian, maintaining the importance of a whole marriage, and demonstrating the healing power of forgiveness. Both Old and New Testaments of The Bible are referenced with the characters’ thoughts. The chapel is an important room within the hospital.
Song of Renewal is a delicious read from cover-to-cover, extremely well-written, with a satisfying ending.
The book was originally released in hardcover in 2009. The new paperbook version, which has 35,000 additional words, was released on Feb.22,2011.
For ordering information please visit the publisher’s website “The Story Plant”
Emily Sue Harvey hosts her own website, “Renewal Stories”, which offers some of her own short stories and allows readers to share their own stories of renewal.