Mary DeMuth has done it again. I read her previous novels, Watching the Tree Limbs and Wishing on Dandelions, and fell in love with her writing. As good as those books are, and they are very good, she has surpassed them with her latest novel, Daisy Chain.
Mary states that she wrote the book “after having some significant conversations with a friend whose parent appeared like an upstanding Christian leader in public, but abused behind closed doors.” If that is your story—suffering at the hands of someone who put on a good front in public—or describes someone you know, you will want to read this book. Unfortunately, many of us know someone who appears one way in public but is very different out of the public view. Perhaps I’m jaded by my job as a counselor, but I think there are a lot of people out there who’ve suffered this way, but not all of them share their stories. As a counselor, I appreciate Mary’s willingness to tackle difficult subject matter. In Daisy Chain she does it in a way that you feel both pain and hope. There’s no saccharin here but there is redemption, and a feeling that there is more redemption yet to come.
In Daisy Chain Mary tells the story of Jed Pepper, a fourteen year-old boy whose father is a pastor and an abuser. Jed’s best friend, Daisy Chance, has disappeared, and Jed thinks it’s his fault, a notion that several, including his father, do not try to dispel. The whole thing leads to deeper confusion for Jed, leaving him wondering: Who is telling the truth? Who can I trust? Can God be trusted? Mary’s rich description of and faithfulness to her characters, along with a bone-chilling mystery, keep you turning the pages. It’s one of those put everything off so you can read, I’ll-do-the-taxes-later-the-laundry-can-wait-and-two-more-nights-of-fast-food-won’t-be-that-bad, kind of books.
I love hearing people’s stories. As a counselor I’ve found that most people minimize their stories. I’ve heard terrible things accompanied by, “it was nothing, no big deal.” I want to help people honor their stories and to grasp how their story fits into the grand story of redemption that God is telling. In Daisy Chain Mary puts a couple of good friends around Jed who glimpse the larger story. The single most breathtaking moment in the book for me was when one of Jed’s friends was talking about a mural scene another friend painted, and the scene was a winding path with deep ditches on either side. “One ditch is our full-fisted rebellion. The other, she said, is our response to someone else’s rebellion. She told me, ‘The Devil couldn’t care less which ditch we fall into, he just wants us off the road.’” That caused me to lay the book aside for a few moments and consider the ways I’ve responded to ones who have hurt me. Too many times I’ve gone into the ditch. I’m feeling challenged even as I write this to leave others in God’s hand and concentrate on what he wants to do in my own heart.
I said earlier that if your story is like Jed’s you’ll want to read this book. I must say, though, that even if your family was closer to The Waltons you should still read this book. It’s a great story, and we all have something more to learn about suffering and redemption, the confusion it all brings, and God’s role in it. I don’t know what is yet to happen for Jed (Daisy Chain is first of a trilogy) but he’s found a place in my heart and I am looking forward to learning from him.
And by the way, sometimes people can be awfully weighed down by the secrets they carry. It’s often helpful just to tell someone. Mary has created an anonymous blog for people to share painful secrets. It is at http://blog.myfamilysecrets.org.