Tag Archives: religion

Define “Normal”? Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

fakingnormalcoverCourtney C. Stevens’ debut novel “Faking Normal” takes on some tough issues.  It opens at the funeral for a neighbor who has been killed by her own husband.  The dead woman’s  teenaged son, Bodee, is a bit of an oddball and outcast already– a boy who dyes his hair with KoolAid and keeps to himself.  After the tragedy, he is taken in by Alexi’s family to live with them for a while, and is the only one who notices that Lexi has a dark secret of her own.  She’s been “faking normal” and has convinced her two close friends, Liz and Heather, her parents, and everyone else around her that she’s living the life of a normal high school teen.  But Lexi is not doing such a good job in suppressing her internal demons, and has turned to hiding in her closet at night and tearing at the back of her neck until it bleeds.  Stevens keeps the reader guessing as to the specifics of Lexi’s incident, but it is clear that it involves some form of sexual abuse. Bodee, mature beyond his years, supports her until she seems stronger and then presses her to make a full disclosure.  In turn, Lexi is pressuring him to swear out a disposition against his father.  It is a lovely story of the two teens growing closer, the mis-steps they take along the paths of high school dating, break-ups, drinking, and other pitfalls.  Lexi, in love with an imagined boy who leaves song lyrics on her desk, almost misses the real flesh-and-blood boy right in front of her.  If I were to find fault with the novel, it is in the portrayal of the minor characters around Lexi and Bodee: the girlfriends Liz and Heather are not fleshed-out individuals and the football player boyfriends are somewhat cartoonish stereotypes.  Stevens certainly has writing skills and could have made them more fully formed.  Also, Bodee speaks at times with the voice of a wise sage years older than his teens, which jars at times, but he is such a sympathetic and lovable character, it is forgiven.   One thing I must applaud Stevens for is her bravery in including references to God and religion in a Young Adult work.  The mother attends a prayer meeting, the kids have attended church school, and there is a definite thread of a religious nature throughout.  The author also in the back of the book has provided a special message to any boy or girl who has suffered rape or abuse, telling them it is never their fault, they can find help to a normal life again, and they must learn to trust again.  It is a beautiful, honest and brave footnote to the book.  Thank-you, Courtney. courtneyStevens

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Life After Death?

butterflybowlOn this snowy day in Maryland, trapped in the house, what better time for blog updating?  …and tackling the weighty issue of whether there is life after death, and if not, what?  If you search on “life after death” in Amazon or any other search engine, you will find a host of books written on the topic, ranging from personal Near Death Experience (NDE) accounts and physicians’ testimonies,  to religious tracts, to downright fanciful frauds (my opinion).  Two books which I recently read on this phenomenon are worth mentioning.  The first is called Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander, M.D.  It is a short book in which Dr. Alexander recounts his experience of falling into a coma for seven days after contracting a rare brain infection,  a description of what he experienced during the coma, and his miraculous recovery.  He described a low-level world of nothingness, and then seeing a musical light which brought him to a higher plane.  When he described sitting on a butterfly’s wing and talking to a beautiful female guide, I started thinking, “Uh, oh, this is a bunch of bunk…”  But the compelling twist to this story is the fact that his brain was in such a non-functioning state that he should not have been able to experience these visions, so it brings up the question of what is consciousness, if it is not coupled with, or is an off-shoot of brain function?  It is a very compelling story for skeptics, seekers, or outright atheists just on the face of it: the trials of a mysterious, deadly illness and miraculous recovery.  But beyond the surface, it is a fascinating exploration of the human mind, the concept of “spirit,” and the nature of consciousness.  In order to make it a more balanced story, Dr. Alexander proposed nine neuroscientific hypotheses to explain his experience, and why each one of them was not sufficient to explain it.  Much of the book is taken up with the story of his illness and the background his own personal struggles, but in the chapter entitled “The Enigma of Consciousness” he steps into the role of a more objective researcher to examine what he underwent in the face of what we know about consciousness (not much, it seems).  Whether you believe he “saw” heaven or not, this book opens up fascinating questions for further debate on the role of the brain in determining personality, soul, and whether it is a necessary component of what we call our consciousness.  It spurred me to pick up several books on neuroscience and how the brain works.   In my follow-on reading, I came across the opposite of Alexander’s experiential proof of heaven, in a work which takes the purely reasoned approach: Dinesh D’Souza’s Life After Death: The Evidence.   If you have never read D’Souza, you are in for a treat, because whether you agree with him or not on any given topic, he is a brilliant writer and pure logician.  How can you logically prove that there is life after death, you ask? D’Souza walks the reader through a rebuttal of the atheist argument, and examines the evidence from philosophy, neuroscience, physics, and history all in a readable, accessible style. In his introductory chapters, he puts forth his goal of making a reasonable argument that it is perfectly reasonable to accept that the immaterial consciousness does survive the material body, and that we (believers) should not relinquish science and reason to the enemy (atheists).  And, he achieves his goal brilliantly.   greenbackgroundbutter

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