An interesting approach to Christianity and self-discovery through fiction and anime.
At the tender ages of 7 and 5, Spike Darbyfield and her younger sister, Margie, arrived at a women’s shelter with their mother, who led them to believe they were escaping their abusive father, Otto. Encouraged by their mother to choose new names to avoid detection, Spike—formerly Maeyken Elizabeth Janzen—chose her name the night they arrived, and she felt her emotions shut down, while her more emotional sister, Margarethe “Margie” Christina Janzen, tearfully chose to keep her own. Now adults, Margie continues to be open and giving, while Spike remains introverted, shutting herself off from everything and everyone around her—except for her favorite anime series and her sister. Spike’s work with the disabled proves she’s not totally devoid of emotion, and perhaps deep down she harbors the Christian ethics that she feels she’s been force-fed, while Margie joined a Christian peacekeeping group stationed in Baghdad. Already uncomfortable with her sister’s choice of employment, Spike’s biggest fear is confirmed when she receives word that an Iraqi militant group has kidnapped Margie. Taking a page from her own life, author Kern, who worked as a human rights advocate with Christian Peacemaker Teams, an organization that endured their own hostage crisis, creates a ripped-from-the-headlines tale. Though the plot may center on Margie’s kidnapping, the story really belongs to Spike. Much in the way the author has, Spike funnels her experiences into her writing, which serves as an outlet and hints at her efforts to make sense of her life. Kern writes in a very straightforward style, keeping the story succinct and to the point. Given the underlying religious theme, she resists the temptation to pontificate or preach and instead moves the plot forward with solid storytelling. Her rendering of characters is also well-done, in that she has created them as strong, productive aspects of the story rather than using them simply as a mouthpiece to convey an agenda.
Despite the religious thread that runs throughout and the interesting use of anime as a coping mechanism, Kern keeps her storytelling balanced and on track.