“Worry had its way with Emory, enticing her to stay up late after her night shift, hoping against hope that her missing daughter, Daisy, would walk through the front door laughing and shouting and singing all at once.” So begins Mary DeMuth’s second book in her Defiance Texas Triology, A Slow Burn, a book that had its way with this reader, enticing me to stay up late after my kids were in bed, hoping against hope that things would turn out okay for Emory Chance.
DeMuth artfully draws us into the story of Daisy’s pot-head waitress, single mother (who we met in book one) as she learns that her teenaged daughter has been murdered and in that learning faces mountains of guilt, regret and self-condemnation. As bleak and hopeless as Emory’s story would seem, it becomes infused with light and hope through the character of Hixon, a black handyman prophet whose mission from God is to woo and marry “Missy”, as he nicknames Emory, even against his own wishes.
We watch Emory navigate through a dual series of mysterious happenings, both chilling and affirming – one her stalking, presumably by Daisy’s murderer; the other, the delivery of type-written prayers that send Emory on a pilgrimage of her daughter’s last days. Between the suspense of these activities, the struggles of faith we see in Hixon’s pursuit of Emory, and the deep emotions evoked as she wields her awkward, potentially lethal grief among her loose web of small-town friendships, we become engaged in this story on all fronts.
DeMuth’s skillful writing not only provides a rich storyline and believable characters, but also a delight for the ears through the subtly of her descriptions. Consider this paragraph from early in the book:
“But when Missy death-marched across the graveyard barefooted in the cold, Hixon’s heart thrummed his ribcage. Frail, whispery, she seemed to haunt the space around her, though he felt for sure if a stiff Defiance wind kicked up its heels, it’d blow her clear to Louisiana. Maybe that’s what she wanted. That being the case, he’d have to follow her on that wind, watch a spindly armed tree tangle her up like an out-of-control kite, and gently woo her back to the grass below. And to him.”
Yes, the subject matter is dark. To be certain, DeMuth avoids any trite telling and clichéd happy endings. But the strong themes of redemption, forgiveness and unconditional love leave the reader overwhelmed by a sense of God’s goodness in the midst of chaos. I absolutely loved this book and would recommend it to anyone who isn’t afraid to look with DeMuth at what can occur when the worst that can happen meets the best in God's people.
A Slow Burn releases this Thursday! You can buy it here. Or check out more reviews at A Slow Burn's blog tour. Visit Mary DeMuth's website here.