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The last two words I said to my brother David that Saturday were "oh" and "no," and not in the same sentence—though they should have been.
On an otherwise ordinary, cartoon-filled morning, my son Ben sat at the kitchen table spiraling a limp bacon slice around his finger. His last ditch effort to forestall doing his chores. I was having a domestic bonding experience with the vacuum cleaner. My last ditch effort to forestall the house being overtaken by microscopic bugs, dead skin, and petrified crumbs. I'd just summoned the courage to attempt a pre-emptive strike on the intruders under the sofa cushions when the phone rang.
I walked into the kitchen, gave Ben the "don't you dare touch that phone with your greasy bacon hands" stare, and grabbed the handset.
It was David. "I wanted you to hear this from me," he said.
An all-too familiar sensation—that breath-sucking, plummeting roller-coaster feeling—I'm thinking he's been fired, in a car wreck, diagnosed with cancer, six months to live, but, no, it wasn't as simple as that.
He told me he was leaving in a few days for a vacation. With a man. Leaving with a man.
Crossing state lines from Louisiana to Mexico to share sun, sand, and sheets with a person of the same sex.
My universe shifted.
He came out of the closet, and I went into it. For perhaps only the second time in my life, I was mute. Not even sputtering, not even spewing senseless syllables. Speechless.
"Caryn, are you still there?"
No. I'm not still here. I'm miles away and I'm stomping my feet and holding my breath in front of the God Who Makes All Monsters Disappear.
I think I hear God. He's telling me I'm the monster.
Wisps of sounds. They belonged to David. "Did you hear what I said? That I'm going away?"
I hung up. I didn't ask "Why?" because he'd tell me the truth my heart already knew.
"What did Uncle David want?" Ben asked.
I spun around and made eye contact with my unsuspecting innocent. "Get that bacon off your finger right now, mister. Wash your hands, and go do whatever it is you're supposed to be doing."
He shoved the bacon in his mouth, his face the solemn reflection of my emotional slap. From the den television, the Nickelodeon Gummy Bears filled the stillness with their "... bouncing here, there, and everrrrrywherre ..." song.
"And turn that television off on the way back to your room."
"Okay, Mom," said Ben, his words a white flag of surrender as he left the room.
Now what? I decided to abandon the vacuuming. Really, was I supposed to fret about Multi-Grain Wheat Thin crumbs and popcorn seeds when my only sibling was leaving for Mexico with a man?
The phone rang. Again.
"You hung up on me," David said.
"I don't know what to say." I opened the refrigerator. The burp of stale air cooled my face as I stalked the shelves of meals past and future. I'd find solace in one of those containers. Maybe more than one. I'd solace myself until the voice on the phone went away.
David reminded me there were alternatives to hanging up.
Alternatives? You want to talk alternatives? How about I'm hung up on your alternative lifestyle?
Between the sour cream and a stalk of tired celery, I found an abandoned crusty cinnamon roll in a ball of crinkled foil. I unwrapped it and plowed my finger through the glop of shiny, pasty icing smeared inside and said, "But you and Lori just finished wallpapering your bathroom. You remember her, right? Your fiancée?"
"Lori knows," he said.
I grabbed the two fudge brownies with cavities where Ben already had picked out the walnuts.
"Uh huh." I fought the urge to hang up again.
"Is that all you're going to say?"
No, that wasn't all I could say. I was going to say I was ever so sorry for answering the phone. I wanted to say that I hate you. I wanted to say that of all that things you could have been, gay was not what I would've chosen. I wanted to say that I didn't want to imagine you in bed with a man. I didn't want to know that what we had in common was that we both slept with men. I wanted to say that if our mother hadn't already died of cancer, she would've keeled over with this news.
"Lori and I are working this out," he said.
I fumbled for words like keys in the black hole of my purse. My brain rummaged for syllables and sounds, buried under a clever adage, a witty phrase. But all I could choke out was an "Oh."
"Don't you even want to know who I'm going with?" He sounded small, like he was the one being left behind.
Then, with a level of intimacy I reserved for nighttime marketers of exterior siding, I told him good-bye.
I walked to where I'd left the vacuum handle propped against the den wall, flipped the switch, and pushed the vacuum back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. I pictured the unwary bugs caught in the vortex. I knew just how they felt. I'd been in this wind tunnel before, when Harrison died and without my permission.
Sometimes husbands could be so maddening.
And, once again, Harrison, where are you when I need you? Who am I supposed to talk to about this? Not Ben. Not my father. Don't give me that condescending "life isn't fair" mantra. You're right. It's not.
I yanked the cord out of the wall, pressed the button that zipped it into the belly of the beast and steered the machine toward Ben's room.
My almost seven-year-old sat on the floor of his bedroom tying his navy Sketchers when he saw me at the door. "Hey, Mom. I washed my hands." He held them up, wiggled them in front of his face as proof. "See?"
"Where are your socks, Ben?"
Harrison again. Caryn, the world's not going to stop spinning because the kid's not wearing socks.
Ben doubled the knot, pulled the laces, and looked up at me. His sprinkle of freckles and his cleft chin, totally stolen from his dad, weakened me. How could there be anything wrong in the universe when his precious face slips into that soft spot in my heart?
"I couldn't find two socks that matched. Besides," he stood and stomped his sneakers on the floor, "these are almost too small. My feet get all squinchy when I'm wearing socks." He pulled the elastic band on his basketball shorts up past his waist. We both knew the shorts would slide right back down in minutes. A battle he always lost. "So, can I go play Wii with Nick now?"
My only child wore shoes that crushed his toes. How did I miss that? "Why didn't you tell me your shoes were too small?"
"No big deal, Mom. Anyway, remember you said we'd go shopping with Uncle David before school started." Ben grabbed his frayed purple L.S.U. cap off his desk lamp. "Can I go now?"
"Sure. Just be home for lunch." I hugged him, and when I felt his arms lock around my waist, I wondered how I still deserved him.
I must have latched on a bit too long because he started to squirm away. "Mom. You okay?" Ben stepped out of my arms, turned his baseball cap backward over his sand-colored hair, raised his arms, plopped his hands on the top of his cap, and waited.
"Of course," I said, tweaking his nose, hoping he heard the lie in my voice and didn't see the truth in my eyes. "Plug that cord in for me on your way out, okay?"
"Got it. See ya." The front door slammed. It opened again. "Oops, sorry about that," he called out, and then the door closed solidly.
Well, Harrison. Door closing. That's one lesson learned.
I moved Ben's lamp to the back of his desk and straightened the framed picture that the lamp had slid into when he'd grabbed his hat. Bacchus, his first Mardi Gras parade captured in the photograph. I'd always called it the "man" picture. Ben's crescent moon smile as Harrison hoisted him on his shoulders, my father and David flanking Harrison, both grinning at Ben and not the camera.
One man already gone. Now David. At least the David I thought I knew. Wasn't that the David that just last week sat next to me in church? The church he'd invited me to for the first time a month ago? How could he have done that? He's certifiably crazy if he thinks I'm going to church tomorrow. That's not going to happen.
I mashed the vacuum cleaner switch on and returned to the sucking up of dirt. It seemed all too appropriate for my life.CHAPTER 2
Ben told Nick you looked sad. And you didn't ask if he'd brushed his teeth after breakfast, and he warned me not to ask about his Uncle David." Julie stepped in the foyer and closed the front door. "Figured code orange. I zipped right over."
Neighbors for years, Julie and I color-coded our traumas; Julie called it our Homeland Sanity Advisory. Below yellow, phone calls would be sufficient. Yellow or above, always a face-to-face.
Standing in the den, the bug-sucking beast still at my side, I must have looked like Martha Stewart, the prison months. But Julie looked me over and didn't say anything about my stupor or my morning bed-hair, which probably poked out from my scalp like clusters of brown twigs.
"Drop the handle," she said and marched right past me, looking all the more stern with her copper hair pulled into a neat ponytail at the nape of her long neck. A woman on a mission. I plodded behind her and hoped her trail of lemony-rose fragrance would settle itself on me and maybe compensate for the shower I needed.
Julie grabbed two glasses from the dish rack by the sink, filled them with iced tea, handed me one and walked over to the sofa with hers.
"Come. Sit." Julie patted the suede sofa cushion next to her. Its original pewter shade had been softened by the patina of lazy weekend movie watching, shuffling visits of family and friends, and the bouncing of a round-faced toddler.
I sunk into the sofa as she wedged an over-sized throw pillow behind her back. Julie kicked off her beaded flip-flops and plopped her toenail-polished feet on the glass coffee table between a chipped stoneware vase and a wicker basket holding an assortment of pine cones.
"Okay. Give it up. And don't give me the microwave version," Julie demanded. "You're still wandering around in your jammies, so I know it's gotta be big."
Julie and I gave up boundaries years ago. She was the sister my parents never gave me, and the only person allowed in the dressing room when I shopped for bathing suits. Once someone charted every dimple in your thighs, it wasn't a long way to knowing every dimple in your life.
"It's ..." Deep breath ... "Well, it's David." I set my glass on the July issue of Good Housekeeping, right over the picture of the Year's Best Banana Pudding. The room felt as steamy as asphalt after a hard August rain. I leaned against the back cushions, closed my eyes, and flipped through the memories of my life that'd unfolded on this sofa, in this room, with Julie by my side. Gain seemed outscored by loss. But, no matter what, we'd always depended on faith and friendship to buoy us as we navigated life's rivers. Like today, when an undertow threatened to yank me away.
She leaned toward me. "What happened? Is he okay?"
I opened my eyes. Gazed out the den window. Fingerprint smudges and splattered lovebugs almost blocked the view of the weeds that had overtaken what was supposed to have been a vegetable garden. I waited for the tidal wave of sorrow that would deplete itself in my sobs. Nothing. Maybe empty's the new full. Like orange is the new pink or something.
The words tumbled out of my mouth like marbles dropped from a jar. "David called this morning. He's gay. He called to tell me he's gay. Well, not that he said he's gay. No, I guess he didn't have to say that because he said he was going to Mexico with a man, by himself, and why would he being doing that if he wasn't, right?" I rubbed my temples with my fingertips. Was I massaging reality in or out? "My brother's gay."
I waited for Julie to react. I stared. I waited.
Whatever anxious concern she'd carried, she must have flushed it out with the tea she'd just finished.
"Uh-huh. Go on." Julie shifted, recrossed her legs on the table, and looked at me.
Her expression was, well, expressionless.
A sour bubble of anxiety popped in my stomach. "Uh-huh? Go on? Go on to what? To where? What do you mean? You did hear me, didn't you?" My voice stretched so thin it grated leaving my throat.
"I heard you. I'm just not all that shocked," she said with a tender weariness—like when I tell Ben for the umpteenth time to stop digging snot out of his nose when we're in the grocery store—and patted my hand. "Caryn, click your heels together. It's time to leave Oz. Your brother's gay. He's still your brother. The same brother you loved seconds before the phone call."
"Seriously? You're telling me this is okay?" She couldn't be. Of all people, Julie would share my outrage, not intensify it.
"He's your brother. Want to ignore him? Sure. Who's left? Your father married the step-monster after your mom died. That's all you've got. You're going to adopt her?" She was on the verge of endangering her best-friend status. "Don't be ridiculous."
"There are some advantages here. Maybe we could think about those."
"No, let's not," I said. "And why are you smiling? This isn't funny. At. All." I didn't need a mirror to know I wore my injured-morose expression.
"I'm not laughing at you or your brother. I'm still surprised you didn't suspect this. In fact, I'm a bit shocked—"
The dryer signal blared from the laundry room and startled me. It reminded me today was still an ordinary Saturday. "Julie, I'm stunned. Horrified. The thing is, this is my brother. My only brother. My only sibling. It's different somehow when it happens in your own family. I mean, how would you feel if we were talking about your brother?"
She shrugged her shoulders, raked her bangs off her forehead with her fingers, and looked at me as if seeing me for the first time. "How would I feel? I wish my brother was gay. Instead, he's unemployed, he drinks too much, and he's an idiot."
"You don't understand. You can't understand." I rolled up the short sleeves of my cotton T-shirt. If only I could sweat out the pain and frustration. "It's not that simple. If he was your brother—alcoholic idiot or not—you'd be afraid to close your eyes because when you do, there's a snapshot of him and his other holding hands on the beach." I gulped my tea hoping it would lower my body's thermostat.
"Okay. So in that snapshot, my brother's throwing up on the beach."
The annoying, insistent dryer blared again. "I'm going to turn off that obnoxious buzzer of yours and get us a refill. Don't go anywhere." Julie smiled, kicked her shoes out of her way, and headed for the laundry room.
Because I am a mother and doomed to guilt, I wondered if his gayness is my fault. If I hadn't been such a nerd in high school, I could have saved him. If I hadn't devoted my college years to Harrison, I could've spent more time with David.
Julie returned, and my train of thought ran off the tracks. "Here you go." She placed my glass on the coffee table and sat on the sofa facing me. "Look, I suppose I haven't sounded sympathetic, but I'm sorry this is so painful for you. Thing is, Caryn, I don't feel sorry for you because you have a gay brother. Maybe it's all semantics, but I do feel sorry for your having to struggle through this. Without Harrison. Without your mom. But you don't have to do this alone." She reached over and hugged me. "Would it help you to talk to Vince? I could go with you."
"As in Pastor Vince? No. Definitely no. It's hard enough to talk to you about this." As if I'm going to tell the pastor I barely know that my brother, who's been going to services there for years, is gay.
"Okay," she said, but with a voice that made it sound not okay. "But that's what he's there for you know. And for all you know, Vince might already know that."
"I know, but he and I just met last week to talk about catering his daughter's wedding. One issue at a time. Besides," I twisted my watch around my wrist to check the time, "that catering contract could be big."
She swallowed the ice she'd been crunching. "Like the boys say, 'Get cereal.' Get serious Caryn. Like David being gay has anything to do with your catering business." She grabbed her flip-flops and slipped them on her feet. "And don't worry about Ben. Trey wanted to take the boys to the real bowling alley. He's probably tired of them beating him on Wii."
Excerpted from The Edge of Grace by Christa Allan. Copyright © 2011 Christa Allan. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted October 5, 2011
The Edge of Grace is a Christian fictional drama.
On the day that Caryn Becker receives a phone call from her brother, David, her world and all she knew about it, comes crashing down. David has just told Caryn that he is gay and will be heading off to Mexico with his new lover.
Caryn is shocked, David had been planning his wedding to his long-time girlfriend, Lori, and this announcement leaves Caryn with feelings of disgust and revulsion.
Caryn is a single, widowed mother of a seven year old boy. Her husband, Harrison, died when their son, Ben, was only a toddler. Caryn's best friends and neighbours, Julie and Trey, help Caryn through life's difficulties and offer her advice and wisdom.
Caryn ignores her brothers messages and her friends advice, she is angry, hurt and feels like she never knew her brother. Her friends think Caryn is over-reacting and cannot understand her feelings. She believes there is nothing that will mend the hurt that she is now experiencing.
On the day that David is beaten and left for dead, Caryn has to adjust her thoughts and remind herself that love can conquer all. Caryn begins to heal from the betrayal she feels was bestowed upon her and tries to understand her brothers life choices.
I thought the story started out great. The introduction of Caryn and her brother began right from the beginning and the reader is immersed in Caryn's thoughts and feelings. The feelings and questions are real and her reactions are not uncommon to the situation before her. However, not knowing David before this phone call, one cannot feel for David and his plight.
I thought the editorial issues were more than common, at times Lori, David's finance is called Lauren and I had to reread the passages a few times to make sure who it was being discussed in the chapter. Mayhaps Lori is being used as a short form version of Lauren, but it isn't explained as such and from her first introduction, we meet her as Lori.
I didn't like the missing quotations around dialogue, you are left wondering if the characters are talking to someone or are they in thought mode, it was very confusing at times. I found that most of the book played out like a commercial, there were too many product placements throughout and just came across as the author looking for anything to fill the pages.
The first half of the book is meandering thoughts and confusion about David's homosexuality and is rather ho-hum, however, after you get past that portion, the book does pick up and you are left with a read that is rife with human emotions and actions.
I would give this book two and a half stars out of five. The editorial issues were annoying as was Caryn, she came across as a spoiled rotten brat in which the world should revolve around her. I enjoyed Julie and her open minded, level-headed character brought much to the book.
5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 26, 2012
But definitely a well written book on a very controversial issue. I thought that the author did a very good job with this story and the title is fitting. While not an easy subject for most Christians, I believe the author presents it in a way that is loving and non-judgemental. You may or may not agree with the subject, but I can bet you will not look at it quite the same way after reading this book. The perspective from that of a family member I thought was brilliant.
4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 22, 2011
Author Christa Allan isn't one to avoid the tough subjects. In her first novel, Walking On Broken Glass, she dealt with the heart-breaking problem of alcoholism. In her sophomore effort, Edge Of Grace, we find a widow, struggling to make ends meet while raising a small son, whose life is turned upside down when she finds that her brother is gay.
This novel of Christian fiction is a worthwhile read, one that will keep you engaged from start to finish. Whatever your beliefs about homosexuality, you'll find yourself re-examining them as Christa leads us through the turmoil that follows that opening scene.
4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 1, 2011
Christa Allan's sophomore book, The Edge of Grace, is a powerful work of art, delving into waters not often stirred in fiction. It made me squirm and it challenged me to consider how I offered grace. The only thing it did not do was leave me unchanged. Novel Journey and I give The Edge of Grace our highest recommendation: a 5-star must read.
3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 20, 2012
I was very disappointed in this book. It did show the importance of loving and accepting others no matter what as well as talking about how we all have issues. However, the Bible is very clear that homosexuality is a sin and this book made it seem like there is nothing wrong with being gay. None of us are perfect but sin is sin.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 21, 2011
Caryn Becker has a busy life. Following the sudden death of her husband, she has to balance being a single mother to her son Ben with running her own catering business on a daily basis. Then one day she gets a call from her brother David, telling her he is gay. Caryn already has a hard time accepting this announcement, but then comes the even more disturbing news that David is the victim of a hate crime. Now Caryn will need to do some deep soul-searching in order to reconnect with the ones she loves.
This is the second book I have read by Christa Allan, and I was not nearly as impressed as I was with Walking On Broken Glass. For one, the plot was not quite my cup of tea. I felt incredibly trapped in Caryn's unforgiving, small head. She seemed very out of place in today's tolerant world, but I am sure there are still many people out there who struggle the same as Caryn does. Still, I think I would have enjoyed seeing the point of view from others, like her friend Julie, or even David. And I liked Ben, who performed like a true little kid would speak and act. This book carried the same easy and powerful writing style that I came to love from Walking On Broken Glass. Allan's dialog really packs a punch when conveying the conflicting emotions of her characters. I will definitely pick up Allan's next book, but I am hoping for a tough issue that's more relevant to today's lifestyle.
2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 22, 2011
Not one to dance around tough issues, Christa Allan's sophomore novel dives into the debris of the homosexuality-Christianity train wreck with grit and humor. Heart fills the conspicuous hole easy answers might have plugged. Allan awakens compassion for the gay Christian as well as his loved ones whose paradigm he wrenches. She draws characters who feel more like family than fiction with her effortless prose. A book worth reading.
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Posted September 6, 2013
Posted March 28, 2013
Great, Sensitive Storey - I would rate this 4-1/2 stars. The story made me laugh, cry and do some serious thinking on the subject of gays. The story begins with a young woman with an infant son who was widowed too early and the many challenges and conflicts she had to face. One day she receives a phone call from her brother informing her, he has broken his engagement and is gay.
The story continues as she struggles with this news and worries how it will affect her and her young son.
Not until a horrific incident does she begin to understand it is not about her; rather it’s about her sibling.
This is a Christian book; but, it does not preach. The author’s writing does make one stop and examine one’s own pre-judgments and prejudices. I don't agree with everthing written, but I do agree God does want us to love each other.
Posted September 22, 2012
Caryn reacted as many of us might on learning her brothers news. Many of us might have had a similar reaction-how is it going to affect me
and how did I not recognize this before.
Posted September 7, 2012
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Posted May 3, 2012
I can't finish this book. It's a bit boring, and it reads as if someone is just rambling. There are also confusing flashbacks and unclear dialogue. I don't think it was carefully thought through. If I finish and it gets better, I'll be surprised. Might look at it again if I have insomnia.
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