In this novel, a mother confronts the powers of good and evil to explain her baby’s sudden death.
Xenia grew up in a New York foster home. She knows nothing of her past but cherishes the spiritual guidance of her foster mother, Ms. Bailey. At 18, Xenia leaves home, studies special education at college and meets Paul. She’s naïve about men and romance, but after yielding to Paul’s insistence, they marry. During this time, Ms. Bailey dies and turns Xenia’s guidance over to God. Frequent prayers steer Xenia through her first years of marriage, first sexual experience and first pregnancy. All appears well until Xenia encounters a strange woman. Each time they meet, the woman simply crosses her arms over her chest, allows tears to fall, and stares at Xenia’s pregnant “tummy” and, later, at her newborn baby. Tension builds: The once-placid baby cries incessantly, and once-happy Xenia is tortured by fears and hallucinations; eventually, the woman pushes into their home to find the child. When the baby dies in his crib soon after, Xenia blames Paul, leaves him and returns to teaching. The final chapters consist mainly of conversations between Xenia and Mrs. Smith, grandmother to one of Xenia’s students. Predictably, Xenia learns that the strange woman was an angel who tried to protect her baby from the “evil spirits.” Through this lengthy and contrived exchange, Xenia is told that what doctors call sudden infant death syndrome is actually the work of bad spirits and that SIDS can be prevented with the right sort of prayer and religious “products,” and she’s told that “only Americans…are ignorant about these things.” The introduction makes clear that the author praises God, sees and fights evil in its myriad forms, and aims to persuade; but her story reads as part fantasy, part polemic. Unfortunately, stilted dialogue, grammatical errors and a transparent plot may deter even readers inclined toward the supernatural. Skeptics searching for information about SIDS might be turned off by the exhortation and would probably require a more substantiated argument.
An unsatisfying spiritual account of sudden infant death syndrome.