Lights on the Mountain: A Novel, by Cheryl Anne Tuggle

Cheryl Anne’s writing reminded me at first of a wood carving. There’s that same firm, careful line in her imagery, that prick of wonder that the solid words drop the reader so deeply into the picture, into it and through it, into the story.

The sound and cadence of the words, both in dialog and narrative, are well suited to the characters and their natural setting. That setting is fully, carefully experienced for all five senses, yet lightly, clearly, never bogging down.

But as I fell deeper and deeper into the novel, the wood carving became a tapestry, thick with colorful threads, embroidered with subtle illusion, possessed of layers. A thread would seem to drop, but then it would appear again, like warp and weft, weaving in and out as first one thread and then another was brought to the fore and pressed back again.

At some point in the story, it became difficult to remember that it is fiction. So much of the deepest, hardest parts of life are written into these pages. Our human struggle with the idea of suffering, and the ways we come to terms with it, our temptation to grieve and doubt, our tumultuous journey up and down the waves of self-discovery are all there, and if you have lived through any of them yourself, you will feel a strong sense of recognition. This is the best kind of fiction, the kind that is woven together out of well-learned fact.

The novel has an extra depth for me as it takes place near where I now live. The area’s history, the evolution of these green hills from their farming roots, through industrialization, depression, and, more recently, new growth, has been the backdrop of my life in recent months. This lent an extra fascination and truthfulness to Cheryl Anne’s tale for me, suggesting deep knowledge or excellent research on her part.

As a fellow Orthodox Christian writer, I must add that this book is a major landmark for Orthodox literature as a possible genre. It is exquisitely well written, and at no point does it throw itself into the theological arms of its reader and beg for loyalty. Its power is earned, its artistry is fully executed, and it sets aside the myriad stereotypes about novels written by Christians.

If, as we say, Orthodoxy is not a religion but a way of life, our art should not be amateur or overdrawn. Beauty demands beauty. If we follow the ascetic path in our spiritual life, how much must we also command its endurance in our creative life. It is a great satisfaction to read this book and feel how deeply I may ponder it and find no effort lacking. All of the threads are fully spun, all woven together. It is a well-made whole.

Lights on the Mountain is available HERE.

Lights on the Mountain: A Novel by Cheryl Anne Tuggle

Cover image: Paraclete Press

Featured image photo: Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

Magical 40s

I think there’s some kind of magic about being in your 40s. You finish figuring stuff out. You can say, “Actually, I prefer to pay attention to four things at once. No, I don’t care for dresses with belts. Yes, I have eaten sunflower butter out of the jar with a spoon, but you’re right, it’s a really ugly color.” You have found your own geeks at this point, and you stop caring about how weird other people think they are. You know what’s not OK, and what is OK. You know how to say goodbye, but you also realize how free you are, always, to say hello.

-Photo by Murat Ustuntas on Unsplash

Raising Awareness – Or Not

Soapbox alert!

#NoBraDay

For real??

Facebook, do not be putting “Raise awareness” campaign signs on my page. You should know better, you big social media giant. You make it possible for people in China to know what people in Argentina wore to prom last year. You can’t possibly think we don’t have enough “awareness.”

In most cases, doing something simple to “raise awareness” for a good cause is ineffective at best and harmful at worst. Pink ribbons, anyone? They don’t cure breast cancer. Neither does going bra-less. Going braless doesn’t make people get mammograms, either. It just makes riding the bus a little more interesting than usual. Continue reading