29 October 2013

The Healing Power of Fiction: A Review of Undertow by Amber Lynn Natusch

You can’t live your life through the eyes of the past forever.  You’ll never be able to move forward with that fear tethered to you, holding you back.  Whatever it is that haunts you, you need to learn to either accept it or push past it.  You’re too strong to let it bring you down.  Don’t drown yourself in the sorrows of what has been.
~ Decker, Undertow (Amber Lynn Natusch)

In October, I am writing about all things autumnal: from art to spooky books, author interviews, recipes, and autumn-inspired writing prompts AND participating in the Two Pages-a-Day writing challenge.

arents have superpowers. 

They can equip you with the wings and air support you need to soar to great heights.  Or they can beat you to an emotional pulp with words that cannot be completely forgotten.

And sometimes, the lies they tell us to protect us, end up blowing a hole in our childhood wide enough to sail the Titanic through.

Norwegian Ice Queen
Aesa (pronounced Ice-ah) left her small Alaskan hometown in a fit of rage and grief.  Almost a decade later, she comes home older, jaded, but hoping to mend her relationship with her stoic fisherman father.  She finds more than she had hoped for.

Her story is my story. 

And your story. 

It is the story of the wounds that a broken parent unintentionally inflicts on their child.  It is the story of an adult trying to reconcile the truths the child thought she knew about her parents in general, and her father in particular. 

Hard-wiring the Human Heart
I am not ashamed to admit that I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish Undertow.  Not just because I wanted to give an honest critique.  But because Aesa’s struggle was riveting. 

And hit an emotional femoral artery for me.

His words echoed through my mind, contradicting so many things I had thought as a child, those thoughts coloring my adult truths.

Parents are human.  And because they are human, they are broken.  Just like us.  So they make mistakes.  Just like us. 
Image Credit: Amber Lynn Natusch

They get tired, cranky, become frustrated, watch their dreams die a slow death.   So it’s no wonder that their pain touches those who are closest to them.  

But only the most sadistic parent purposefully and cruelly inflicts pain and suffering on their child.   

Most are just fumbling around in the dark, repeating the same mistakes that their parents made, adding another link in the chain that imprisons families.

I reminded myself that I was no longer that child and he was no longer that man.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  All it takes is one person ~ someone who has also suffered the pain of loss, rejection, and has emerged whole, healed ~ softer.

Somehow, he was repairing my hardwired responses with merely his presence, making me see how my mind had failed me over the years. . . .If anyone could heal me, it was him. . . .Sadness didn’t need to be the way of my life.

And it doesn’t need to be our way of life either.

The Healing Power of Fiction
Undertow is categorized as a romance novel, and as such, there are some who would dismiss it as being a waste of time and energy.  If it were a “dime-store” romance ~ those atrocities to the written word that have no plot, no meaning, nothing but voyeuristic sex and p*rn in word form, I would agree.  But it is not. 

It is a story about children, parents, growing up, healing, and yes, romance.  And it provides a vital benefit for the reader: healing.

G. K. Chesterton said it best:

Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.

Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear.

One of the greatest burdens the broken heart carries is the conviction of isolation.  I am alone.  No one knows what I am going through.  It isn’t true, but it feels like it.  And sometimes, the isolation is physical: there is no one near you who can understand what you are going through.

Unless you have a library card or live close to a bookstore.

A true writer is able to weave a story thread so strong, it reaches in, pierces the darkness, and pushes the reader to ask questions, examine the status quo, and reach out for help. For me, Amber helped breach a wall I once thought impenetrable.  And she did it by telling me Aesa’s story.

And that, my friends, is the mark of a master storyteller.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

I received an ARC so I could write this review before the release date.  Undertow will be available for download tomorrow, October 30.  Make sure you don't have any early morning meetings on the 31st. You will not go to sleep until you turn the last page.

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