Sunday, May 18, 2014

In This Small Spot by Caren J. Werlinger

Publisher:       Corgyn Publishing

Is it necessary to say anything about a book after the word “Magnificent” is used?  Only if anything else helps to get someone to read this book.  If you read the blurb on the cover, just remember that this is not a book about religion, but about how religion can be one aspect that enriches a person’s life.

In This Small Spot is a powerful story about love, not just of the heart, but of the soul.  It juxtaposes two plot lines, one dealing with the profound love between two people and the other about the equally profound love of a woman for God and the community of women who bring her closer to his will, whatever that may be.

Dr. Michele Stewart suffers a loss that would devastate anyone.  Her partner Alice, her life and her breath, dies young from cancer and leaves Mickey adrift in the world.  Though she is a highly successful surgeon and teacher, with many people who admire and love her, Mickey feels helpless.  She’s lost her anchor and realizes that she is losing the ability not only to connect to others, but to understand herself.  She’s drawn to St. Bridget’s Abbey with the hope that joining the contemplative life will provide her with the peace she needs to reestablish herself.  Mickey is not running away from what happened to her, but towards something more that she hopes she can become.

Mickey is forced to give up her career, possessions and everything, but learns that, when you strip away the facades, you find what is truly in the person.  Things do not always go smoothly.  There are personality conflicts, difficulties with cursing and a powerful temper that needs to be curbed.  With a lot of prayer, her share of penance and some humor, Mickey gradually taps into what Alice loved about her all along; her strength, gentle caring and gigantic heart.  Mickey is one of those people who makes other people better for knowing her and that begins to transform the abbey.  Just as Mickey feels comfortable with her new life, she discovers that the healing she has sought has opened her up to the love for another woman.  That, plus an incident that nearly costs her life, has Mickey reevaluating everything again.

Caren J. Werlinger is emerging as one of the most powerful voices in dramatic lesbian fiction.  Her stories are always different, strong and interesting.  She doesn’t feel the compulsion to write the same story over and over with just a change of names, but comes up with compelling characters with unique stories to tell.  Once you start reading one of her books, it becomes almost impossible to stop reading until the end, even though you keep hoping the book won’t end.  Werlinger weaves a spell with her stories that draws the reader in and won’t let her go.  The reader will wish she knew these people.

Werlinger also shows great confidence in her stories.  She doesn’t write according to a formula and isn’t afraid to include things that some would rather not read.  This is a good place to say that In This Small Place has an appropriate, but sad ending.  Not unhappy, but poignant.  It takes courage for an author to do that when most readers say they want “happily ever after” in each book.  Readers shouldn’t focus on the ending of a book, but on the quality of the experience of reading it.

If you haven’t read any of Caren Werlinger’s books, start here, but don’t let this be the last one you try.