Monday, July 14, 2014

TO DARKNESS AND TO DEATH by Juilia Spencer Fleming

Reading Julia Spencer-Fleming's To Darkness and to Death (2005) is like watching a blockbuster action movie. The plot is frenetic.

Every major character in the book faces either a crisis or a life-changing decision. One person has been kidnapped. Another lost his job and is about to lose his home. A third, faces the forced sale of his long term family-owned business.

Another is about to lose the forest which embodies his family's history. And the two main characters Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne and Episcopalian priest the Reverend Clare Fergusson watch their love for one another grow as Russ' marriage dissolves.

And that's just the beginning. The book involves kidnapping, murder, terrorism, and a total change in the town of Millers Kill, N.Y.

The change in Millers Kill is at the heart of the story. Nature advocates and a foreign company are about to take over control of the old growth forest.

Anyone who reads about these issues knows control of New England's old growth forests is a real issue, not a fictional issue. Foreign companies and outside groups are taking over the woodlands.

I suspect most people read the Clare Fergusson books for their unrelenting action. I read them for their characters.

The most interesting character interaction in To Darkness and to Death was Clare's connection to a minor player, a stodgy old man, the bishop's assistant. That old man seems to be as conservative as you can get. He has come to chastise Clare for blessing a gay marriage, but after talking to Clare, he suspects something more ethically challenging is happening in her life and ministry.

Yet he is an old man filled with Christian love. He and Claire have what is the beginning of real compassion for one another based on their love of Jesus Christ. (The Clare Fergusson books do have a religious component!)

I'm reading through this series. I've read a few of them previously, but this time I am going in order. Sometimes I get frustrated with these books. Some of the action seems contrived to keep the plot driving along. But, oh!, the characters. They make these stories live.

P.S. I tried to look up what denomination Clare serves. The Episcopal church we belonged to (until the bishop and his “man” closed it because it was a failing new church start) was open-and-affirming. We welcomed and had many active gay members. Our minister could have performed a gay marriage had that been legal in our state. The Episcopalian church I know has ordained gay clergy and bishops.

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