By Johnny Payne, author of THE HARD SIDE OF THE RIVER
Beginning with the Book of Lamentations, Barker announces suffering and the hope that is to follow, and that is the curve of this forward-looking novel. Here, religious faith meets the imperfection implied by humanism. It is the story of a little family, modest in its ambitions, looking mainly for closeness. But there are nasty wounds, some of them self-inflicted. In other hands, sexual addiction and child abuse might set the tone for a grim, Zola-esque recounting, fatalistic in outlook. The novel begins with the excitement of home runs recounted, and Dad closing a deal. Dad’s 1950 Chevrolet gleams in the son’s future, as the latter goes to wax it. Soon this gives way to Joe, the father’s, seduction of a young woman, because his practiced eye know that “all the women come to the parties full prepared for being seduced.” Things get good and sordid, just shy of a potboiler, but walking that line mostly with success. A typical scene ends with a fist in the face by a jealous real partner. Joe’s inner struggle is Faulknerian, the family curse: brilliant martyrdom. Booze and a woman at hand, but Joe in a perpetual bad mood, with sex as a “battering ram for his aggression.” There are sloppy explanations, brusque equivocations. Underneath, the current of hope simmers. Joe wants his woman to feel safe, if he can figure out how. First, he has to figure out for sure which one she is. Julie comes, her perfume mixing with the crisp high country air. Always the shadow of the father haunts him. The sex is plentiful but not explicit. Strangely, one’s precocious child could read it and not be offended. The novel is driven by dialogue, something in the nature of a screenplay. Inevitably, Joe ends up in the church confessional. Meanwhile, Wendy agonizes over smaller sins. Much of the novel is about “release,” a word that applies both to coitus and the mystics, the ecstasy of a body and that of God, two parallel paths. As this struggle continues, dark, wounding secrets about the past present themselves. There I leave the matter. You’ve have to read the novel to know where this undercurrent takes him and you. Barker’s novel deserves readers. One feels in the writing commitment, a yen to get down under the skin and find out what the characters are all about. No one is disparaged, yet no one is spared either.
☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼
By Glenda Bixler, GABixlerReviews
“…Can I share something with you?” They nodded. “I have been giving your situation a lot of thought, Joe, and I think this applies to you, too, Wendy. It seems like you both have inherited quite a lot of hurt and anger. Listen to this passage from Lamentations:
The unfailing love of the Lord never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!
Inheritance By Lisa Barker
Two individuals, caught in the life created by their families, meet…If the book was not fiction, most individuals might have questioned, “was it fate?” that brought them together. You decide. I like to think that, sometimes, miracles do happen and people are brought into another’s life because, just because…If you are someone who still believes it’s possible, then you will love Inheritance just as much as I did…
Joe and Daniel were fraternal twins. Daniel excelled in sports and in school and was his father’s favorite. Joe enjoyed cooking and helping his mother and had even been embarrassed and ridiculed by his father questioning his son’s manhood… At the same time, that father was constantly unfaithful to their mother. It is hard to tell whether their mother had started out as she was, but later in life, she had become totally critical and judgmental.
Perhaps part of it was when Daniel announced at his graduation dinner that he was gay… and immediately was disowned… Perhaps it was the constant fighting of the parents as well. but, one day, while Joe was helping his father wash and polish one of his antique cars, he was especially affectionate to Joe and that day gave him the keys to that car (which had earlier been promised to his brother).
Then, before Joe could even get into the house, his father sat in the driver’s seat and killed himself…
For many years, Joe had gone completely into alcohol and sex to try to forget his past, but for four years he had been sober and was now the chef/owner of a bar & grill. It was on his birthday, at the age when his father had committed suicide. None of his family had remembered his birthday or its significance–after all, they had been predicting for years that he was exactly like his father and would probably follow his same path…
Joe was so lonely that he decided to go to the home of one of his former lovers, who hosted “get-togethers” routinely. That night he drank too much and became sick…
Wendy was at that party, hidden in a room so the guests wouldn’t see her. Her sister clearly was ashamed of how she dressed and that she was part of her own history of being called “trailer-trash.” Wendy had searched to find her sister since their grandmother had died. Secretly Wendy had hoped she would be met with open arms and provided a new home… Instead she had been told to leave the next morning.
Seeing Joe on the ground had brought Wendy quickly to caring about somebody other than herself. She got dressed, pulled her small suitcase and clothes together, and went out to offer help and to drive the guy, who clearly was unable to do so, home. At the same time, she would be able to leave and get some place where she could start to figure out what she was going to do.
I wish I could say that this quickly resulted in a wonderful “happy-ever-after” life… Not!
Too much had happened in their lives, leaving feelings of loss, of anger, of guilt:
“Guilt is useful because it doesn’t feel good. It should stop us from doing things that are wrong or harmful to others and ourselves. And when we do something wrong, we need to feel true sorrow and then turn to God for forgiveness. The next step is making up for what we have done…”
The author has used a wonderful story to share much that all of us can ponder. This is more than a simple love story, albeit a beautiful one. If you allow yourself the time to consider all that these two individuals did “in reaction”, you just might see yourself in some way…and, in turn, receive the joy and grace available…