In McArthur’s introspective debut novel, a Christian woman undergoes a crisis as she struggles to make sense of her religion and her world.
In the 1960s, Alex Ferguson, a young woman attending a fundamentalist Christian university “in the heart of the still smoldering, largely segregated South,” finds that she is an outsider everywhere she goes. At home, she’s the only Christian in her family, having been “born again” in her teens; at school, she grapples with an ever-growing list of religious questions and doctrinal issues. As Alex attempts to deal with the death of her younger brother, the divorce of her parents, and her growing dissatisfaction with her school’s practices and views, she’s driven closer to a breakdown as visions and memories tumble into her waking life—or, possibly, to a breakthrough in her relationship with God. In this highly philosophical narrative, McArthur keeps readers firmly anchored in Alex’s complex, troubled outlook on the world. But despite the novel’s nearly exclusive focus on Alex, the narrative pace never flags. Although none of the other characters approach the level of Alex’s depth and dimensionality, McArthur presents enough information about them to make them come alive as real people instead of mere background. As a bonus, McArthur also manages, despite the largely cloistered setting, to salt the story with enough historical information to provide an engaging context for Alex’s struggles with the contradictions of her faith and her understanding of God’s demands. Overall, the author delivers an intriguing, multifaceted portrayal of Alex’s spiritual journey.
A moving, dynamic debut, centered on a strong woman of abiding faith.