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Life in Defiance

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Overview

In a town she personifies, Ouisie Pepper wrestles with her own defiance. Desperate to become the wife and mother her husband Hap demands, Ouisie pours over a simple book about womanhood, constantly falling short, but determined to improve. Through all that self-improvement, Ouisie carries a terrible secret: she knows who killed Daisy Chance. As her children inch closer to uncovering the killer’s identity and Hap’s rages roar louder and become increasingly violent, Ouisie has to make a decision. Will she protect ...

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Life in Defiance: A Novel

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Overview

In a town she personifies, Ouisie Pepper wrestles with her own defiance. Desperate to become the wife and mother her husband Hap demands, Ouisie pours over a simple book about womanhood, constantly falling short, but determined to improve. Through all that self-improvement, Ouisie carries a terrible secret: she knows who killed Daisy Chance. As her children inch closer to uncovering the killer’s identity and Hap’s rages roar louder and become increasingly violent, Ouisie has to make a decision. Will she protect her children by telling her secret? Or will Hap’s violence silence them all? Set on the backdrop of Defiance, Texas, Ouisie’s journey typifies the choices we all face—whether to tell the truth about secrets and fight for the truth or bury them forever and live with the violent consequences.

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
“Mary De Muth is a stunningly talented storyteller and wordsmith. Life in Defiance—a compelling read on so many levels—is pure De Muthian artistry.” — Susan Meissner

“Mary De Muth is an evocative, beautiful storyteller. She will move you emotionally, she will impact you spiritually.” — Tosca Lee

“With uncanny precision, Mary De Muth has become a master at beautifully exposing ugly truth. Life in Defiance is completely compelling.” — Allison Bottke

“Life in Defiance will stir up emotions of anger…and forgiveness. It will disturb you. It will enthrall you. It will draw you out and pull you in. And it will fill you with hope. Beautifully written, it’s proof that Mary E. De Muth is one of our finest novelists.” — James L. Rubart, , Author

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Mary De Muth is the author of several southern novels, including A Slow Burn, Life in Defiance, and the Christy award finalists, Watching the Tree Limbs and Daisy Chain. She’s also written four parenting books and a memoir, Thin Places. She’s passionate about the written word, teaching, and mentoring writers. Mary lives in Texas with her husband, Patrick, and their three children.

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Read an Excerpt

Life in Defiance


By Mary E. DeMuth

Zondervan

Copyright © 2010 Mary E. DeMuth
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-310-27838-2


Chapter One

Defiance, Texas, December 1977

When Hap swift-kicks me in my stomach, the last thing I see is the retreat of one well-polished pastor's shoe. Mama always said you could tell the value of a man by the shine of his shoes. How he treated them reflected how he treated his women, she believed.

"If you can find a man with polished shoes, Louise," she told me, "then you'll find the world."

The world I find today is a dirt-embedded yellow linoleum floor, no longer reverberating from rushing kids preparing for school. I can't even remember what brought on the kick, what inciting words I said to deserve Hap's rage. I try to stand, but the world twirls around me, nearly the same feeling I get when I drink a little too much, though not nearly as sweet, not as beautiful an escape.

I re-taste my breakfast, then swallow it again. I'm terribly good at swallowing things these days-particularly secrets. The children gulp down their share, too. If the church body would dethrone Hap from his pulpited pedestal and truly look him square in the eyes they'd see these secrets, but no one bothers - not even the elders and deacons who actually know more than they let on. So we ingest secrets like gravel, our stomachs distended in the effort, never really feeling fed or alive.

But this is not my only secret. A few months ago, someone killed my son Jed's best friend, Daisy Chance. A waif of a girl, thirteen and gangly, and the love of Jed's life, though he wouldn't say such things. And as sure as I know the streets of Defiance, Texas, I know who killed her. Hap believes I'm slow; he doesn't understand the real Ouisie Pepper. When I'm holding my head in our curtained bedroom, convulsing under the spasm of another headache, I think, and remember the man in the woods.

You want to know, don't you?

You want to know what kind of person would strangle a sweet teenage girl. Isn't it ironic that a woman people pass on the street, nod politely to and gossip about, actually knows Defiance's most horrible secret? But I'm not telling. Not yet. Don't fret yourself, though, I'm pretty sure Daisy will be the only one taken.

I steady myself at the kitchen sink, washing cereal bowls one by one. I scrub in circles, round and round until they squeak beneath my sponge. And I watch the winter from my window. It's not a cruel winter, not terribly chilly as you might expect this season. But this is Texas after all, prone to doing its own thing. As I settle myself into the day's plain mediocrity, the wind musters strength, bending trees, ripping browning leaves from stark branches. There are no clouds shifting in the wind, no birds protesting. It's a silent torrent, threatening to unhinge everything anchored down. Leaves spiral to the ground, but I can't hear them. And even if I could, I couldn't stop their demise.

In the quiet of my afternoon, a knock at my front door ends the day's silence.

I open it to Emory Chance, face afluster, eyes telling a story I cannot understand.

"Can you be married to a dead man?" she asks.

"Let's sit on the porch," I tell her.

She slides slender hands down the legs of her blue jeans. "He was fixin' to marry me. He asked me once." She reveals a simple gold ring, the ring she's shown me several times this week-a symbol of her confusion and a testimony to her grief.

I look at Emory, her blonde hair so much like Daisy's, though the past months have made her old, with tiny lines that crease around her downturned mouth. She smells of smoke, but her eyes don't hold fire anymore. It's a strange thing to me, and should be to you, that Emory has recently become my closest friend on this earth, because standing in our midst is that terrible truth of her affair with my husband.

I wonder if Hap still loves her, still sees the beauty beneath the lines, behind the smoke. Or maybe it was plain, undecorated lust.

"I said no." She sighs then, like she's letting out every hurt she's ever felt into the cool Defiance air. She owes her every breath to a man named Hixon, who rescued her from herself, hauling her from a burning church, though I'm sure she scratched and scraped at the earth as he pulled her from the fire's destruction.

She wanted to die.

And he, saint that he was, wanted to marry her.

"You said no. Now you regret it. I say give it to Jesus. He keeps our grief. Holds it." The words feel like sandpaper on my tongue, the abrasive shaving my taste buds. Head in her hands, she grapples her skull with thin fingers.

"He loved Jesus so much. Me, I'm restless. Loving folks, Jesus in particular, doesn't come easily for me. Religion feels more like a trap."

"Jesus said the truth will set you free." The word truth slips out of my mouth like preferred vocabulary, like I'm accustomed to telling the truth with every sentence. But me saying "truth" is its own lie.

"Freedom." She says the word like it's Moon Pies on a high unreachable shelf of the Piggly Wiggly.

"He will bring it, but it's never easy to grasp or understand. God gives His freedom and love like a mystery."

Emory hushes in and out. I know because I see her breath turn to mist. She looks at me. "Do you ever feel you deserve love like that?"

"No," I say. I don't deserve anything but rage. Certainly not affection. They say folks define their relationship to God with how their daddy treated them, but my daddy was benevolent. It's Hap I see in the Trinity now.

She stares at me, examines my face. "Has he been at you again?"

I shake my head, hoping tears won't bother my eyelids. Hap is adept at hurting me so it doesn't show now that the elders and deacons got a sneak peek into his "home issues." He kicks me in the gut like he did this morning, below my ribcage. I see myself crumpled on the kitchen floor, grabbing at breath.

"Ouisie?"

I shake my head. "I'm sorry."

"I'm not the marrying type." Emory holds herself. She shivers too. She pets her gold ring. "I loved him," she whispers-the quietest declaration of love I've heard, yet the loudest. "But I never told him. And now he'll be scattered atop the earth with so many unspoken words hovering above the ground."

With those hopeless words filling the space between us, Hap pulls into the driveway. My heart grows colder than the December afternoon. Emory gives me a frightened look as Hap opens the door to his Chevy, a smile etched into his pastor face. "Well," he says. "Look here."

"I'll see you later." Emory haunts each stair, barely touching the risers.

Hap approaches her, puts up his hand. "What's that?" He points at the gold ring on her left index finger.

"Hixon asked her to marry him." I raise my voice when I say it, then cough, hoping he won't notice.

Hap stiffens. His teeth leave his smile, replaced by a tightlipped grin. He sighs. "That's one I never pictured, to tell you the truth. Coffee and cream mixed together in Defiance, Texas? It's not the Almighty's plan."

Emory stops, turns and looks Hap square in the face. "I always thought cream tendered the coffee. The coffee's the better for it, wouldn't you say? Or do you like yours black?"

Hap keeps his smile, shoves his hands into his dress pants pockets. "You know folks around here don't like the races mixing."

"Since when have I cared about what Defiance thinks, Hap Pepper?" Words that only a woman not married to Hap could say. I wonder if he's enamored with her sass. Oh dear Lord, I hope not.

"There are norms, Emory. Societal standards that keep a town running smoothly. I'm just saying you and Hixon would've been in for some ugly behavior."

Emory laughs. "I'm touched by your concern."

"What's that supposed to mean?" His biceps twitch beneath his white pressed shirt. I suck in my breath. I want to say something, anything, to diffuse Hap, but the fuse has been lit, and I hear its crackling spark. The sizzling burns my voice clear away.

"I best be going." Emory turns, seemingly unaware of what she's ignited.

Hap grabs her arm.

She jerks it away. "You make your point well." She brisks away before I can beg her to stay.

We are left to stand on the cold porch, anger roaring between us like a campfire baptized with gasoline. Sissy will be home soon. Hap won't have time to take his fury out on me in the next seven minutes, so he looks at me with those secret-holding eyes. I capture a snapshot of his gaze for later examination in my memory, for one of those days the headache plagues me, because for a moment I see the hint of the man I first married, the reason I stay and don't run one thousand miles away.

"I'm hungry." He swallows.

"I'll make us a snack." I open the door, feel the warmth of our house, and thank God for Hap's hunger and Sissy's imminent arrival. That's enough grace for me today. And I guess I don't deserve much more.

In the kitchen, I watch Hap's Adam's apple move up and down his neck, note his broad shoulders, his burgundy patterned tie, the way his pants belt at the waist precisely at hole number three, how his pant legs kiss perfectly shined shoes.

Her shoes enticed the man.

The rough leather straps crudely tacked to the bottom of an old rubber tire that'd been annihilated for the sake of sandals.

He watched her tanned feet from the underbrush, the way her toes struggled to keep the too-large sandals anchored there. Something in that moment, the snap of a twig or the trigger of a grenade, ignited him to reach through the humid air. Forced his strong grip around the girl's ankle.

She screamed.

But the man silenced her with a firm palm around her mouth and nose. Her chest rose and fell to the sound of birds in the sky above him, circling as if they knew. She wrestled and twisted before her eyes blanked and lolled back into her head. When Death limped her, he laid her on the green earth, taking off each sandal like a trophy.

He left her there, staring at the sky, at the birds, at the world. While he walked one thousand paces away holding two rubber-soled sandals.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Life in Defiance by Mary E. DeMuth Copyright © 2010 by Mary E. DeMuth. Excerpted by permission.
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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 20 )
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(18)

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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 28, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    COMPELLING AND INTRIGUING!

    This is a compelling, intriguing, challenging murder mystery, set against the backdrop of Defiance, Texas that will pull the reader's heart right into the story.
    Every woman who has cowered under a man's angry hand and words will identify with Ouisie Pepper and be comforted by the company of these powerful characters. A beautifully written lesson in life that enlightens and casts a bright light in God's direction is WELL DONE!

    Others I recommend are, A SLOW BURN, THIN PLACES, EXPLOSION IN PARIS, CRACKED HEARTS and I CAN SEE YOU.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 15, 2010

    Stunning Fiction

    Life in Defiance
    By Mary DeMuth

    Review by Jeanette Morris

    In my review of the first book of Mary DeMuth's Defiance Texas Trilogy, I asked the question: why are people in Defiance so defiant? Now I know the answer-secrets. So many secrets.so much pain and grief because of them. And isn't that just like us?

    There lies the beauty of Mary DeMuth's "Life in Defiance." She writes relevant fiction-stories that mean something. In the case of this book, her impeccable writing sucked me right into the inner world of Ouisie Pepper and held me there until all the secrets holding Defiance, Texas, captive could come up for air and dissipate into the breezes of another sweet-smelling Texas spring. I identified with Ouisie and the despair caused by all the secrets she tried to stuff behind the church pew and in her secret stash of booze in the flower vase (although I never drank vanilla extract!). I also cheered for Emory Chance (previously not one of my favorite characters) as she rose out of the proverbial ashes, found redemption and forgiveness, and then was able to offer it sacrificially.

    And yes, we find out who killed Daisy Chance. But I'm not going to spoil that one for you. I will say that we get to know him before we know his identity . . . and that was, for me, an unexpected treat as I stayed up later and later pursuing the ending, but wishing the story wouldn't end.

    Too bad B&N's highest rating is only a "5." This book deserves a 6! From the first chapter, which in my estimation qualifies for one of the top 10 best first chapters EVER, to the last, somewhat mysterious sentence, I found not a single flaw. Mary delivered far beyond my high expectations. This trilogy is not to be missed, and I believe that any discerning reader will be changed in some (good) way because of reading these stunning stories.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 15, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Life in Defiance: A Novel (Defiance Texas Trilogy)will rock your reality!

    This review is for: Life in Defiance: A Novel (Defiance Texas Trilogy) (Paperback)

    I was torn between wanting the savor the book as I knew it was the last one in the Defiance Texas Trilogy and hurry up and finish so I could see who killed Daisy Chance. It was so hard to put down and go about what I needed to do during the day; my reward was coming back to the book as often as I could. I will savor it the second reading. I love everything that Mary E DeMuth has written! I will always be a fan of her writing, her overcoming spirit and her fiction story telling.

    Daisy Chain (Defiance Texas Trilogy, Book 1) A Slow Burn (Defiance Texas Trilogy, Book 2) must be read first, although there is enough background for this to be a stand-alone book. But you don't want to miss a word that Mary has written. Powerful, scorching, melodic and spiritual words that will sear your soul.

    I will always love Mary's characters and Hixon is still my favorite but Emory grew to be a close second. Strange how things can change from the first book to the second. And in Life in Defiance she became a woman after my own heart.
    Perhaps it was a bit harder for me to read this one as I lived through seeing my own mother abused horribly when I was a young child. Not only her, but I still remember the purple welts on my brother's back. Maybe I didn't want to read deeply and find those memories and flashbacks are still deep within me; forgiven but who could forget memories like those?

    I so love this trilogy that I had to email Zondervon Publisher and ask: Why would you let Mary end with only 3 books when the story's characters call out to be elaborated on in many other books; Defiance, Texas trilogy surely is only a beginning? Mary's readers are crying for more.

    Mary, you are a magnificent writer and I feel you deep in my soul. I only wish I could buy all your books for all my friends and family. Blessings, peace and fruitfulness I pray for you and yours.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 13, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Life in Defiance

    A good author writes a good, enjoyable book. A great author grabs your heart and does not let go until the last page is turned. Mary DeMuth is a great author. Life in Defiance brought out a range of emotions in me: I was angry at times, had deep compassion during other times, and grieved at the loss of innocence. This book will disturb you, it will shake you to your core, but it also offers redemption and forgiveness.

    Life is like a tapestry, when you look on one side the picture is beautiful, but underneath there are knots and jumbled threads. Defiance Texas Trilogy is all about life underneath the tapestry. We put forth the beautiful side in front of others, but God sees what is underneath. God says, "Come I love you just the way you are, no matter what you have done. No matter how many knots there are in your life." Then when the healing begins God makes the tapestry beautiful on both sides.

    I will be honest Life in Defiance is not a happy book, but it is real redemption for real life people. Many who live in difficult homes or live a life of secrets may this book offer you hope and freedom. The Defiance Texas Trilogy is listed on my top must reads for Summer 2010!

    About:

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A satisfying conclusion to a suspenseful trilogy

    It is hard to know what to write in a review of the much-anticipated third book in a trilogy suspense series without spoiling the ending. As with both of the other books in this series, "Life in Defiance" is wonderfully crafted and beautifully written. Truly it's a work of beautiful art.

    Mary DeMuth's writing certainly does not disappoint. Once again we can taste the dust, feel the bruises on a chilly winter day, and strongly sympathize with our narrator. I strongly identified with Ouisie for her desire to please others, with her never-ending quest for perfecting herself, and with her reluctance to lead a women's Bible study.

    It often seemed to me that other book reviewers seemed to throw the word redemption around like confetti when writing about the first two books. I am very happy to say that I found it in this novel, at last. There is a turning point scene at Lake Pisgah marking the beginning of the end of the novel for me, and it made me cry it was so beautiful.

    As I read this novel, I kept picturing a scene from Mary's book trailer for her book Thin Places: A Memoir, of her walking on a Texas road. With Mary's writing, it's all about the journey, not the destination. For those who are anxious to find out who killed Daisy, I know your impatience. I felt the anxious waiting myself! But don't skip the descriptions. Don't forsake the journey for the destination.

    Just a note about the mystery at hand. I am happy to report that the mystery is solved well, and it was not who I suspected it was. This makes me happy, because there's nothing worse than an implausible ending to a mystery. Stump me without a red herring or a deus ex machina and I'm a happy reader.

    Mary is known both for her moving fiction and her nonfiction parenting books. She's one of those rare authors who can write both and write them well.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Another Page Turner

    I read all three books of the Defiance Texas Trilogy as they were released. I know the story is too long to be one book, but it was hard to wait for the next installment so to speak. New readers will not have this same situation as all three are available now.

    I have read mystery/suspense from a young age. And I have a knack of suspision and figuring out "who done it." But this series had me puzzled throughout.

    Mary DeMuth is a gripping story teller and by the end of the story the loose ends are tied up and the ending was satisfying.

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  • Posted June 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Real Life!

    Mary DeMuth's masterful artistry of words have made their presence
    known in the conclusion of this trilogy once again.

    This story of a family has suspense mounting many times as Mary's words
    depict a family left out to dry as Ouisie Pepper endures the unmerciful
    tyrant of a husband and father that dares to call himself a preacher.
    Her description of the verbal and physical abuse can make a reader cry
    in sympathy for the victim and have revenge etched in their brain for
    the perpetrator.The story is set in a era of your imagination that would
    make a reader see what goes on behind closed doors and affects a whole
    town that could either bring a healing or a death.

    The killer of Daisy Chain must be realized in this third book and the
    end cannot be read until the whole is completed.

    Respectfully submitted,

    LaJoyce Shrom, author
    Learning About Life
    Revealed Secret

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  • Posted June 6, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Life In Defiance: Literally!

    Life In Defiance left me in a vague disquiet. When I closed the book, I didn't know whether I wanted to cry or celebrate with Ouisie in her well deserved triumph. I recall getting ready for bed, brushing my teeth, and chewing over the story in my head because I couldn't shake the emotions it left with me.

    In book one, Daisy Chain, Daisy Chance abruptly disappears. 14-year old Jed Pepper searches for answers. In book two, A Slow Burn, Emory Chance grieves and struggles with a vision of who killed her daughter, Daisy. Now in book three, Ouisie struggles because she thinks she knows who killed Daisy. Ouisie is the wife of pastor in the town's small community church. She struggles with her secrets, her anger, and struggles to do the right thing by her abusive husband.

    I felt as if I were reading the pages of a book right out of some of my friend's lives. There were times when I couldn't seem to catch my breath as I struggled right along with Ouisie. The book is written from Ouisie's perspective. She talks about the voices in her head berating her for not living up to the perfect wife, for not doing anything good, and for defying God. Her pastor husband is not only the head pastor of the church, but he seems to own the church. Everyone knows Ouisie is abused, but no one wants to go up against the pastor. The pastor uses God's Word to further break her spirit. (to read more go to www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com)

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  • Posted June 5, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Life in Defiance

    I usually say a little prayer before I start a book review. I always try to do my best when talking about the books I read. Authors work so hard at crafting their stories and I feel it is important for me to ask for God's guidance when writing a review. I needed some extra help for this review because I just don't know where to start.

    I suppose the best place to start is with the overall feeling I had while reading Life in Defiance. I don't know how Mary does it, but despite the tension and painful subject matter of this book, there is a tremendous amount of peace and grace that can be felt especially during the most difficult times in the story. The entire Defiance Texas series has been that way and I feel that this third and final book is a perfect ending to a tragic journey for this group of people. Mary never fails to remind readers of God's grace and healing as she lets us into the world of Defiance, Texas.

    Ouisie Pepper is a very interesting character and I really enjoyed this book being told from her perspective. I also liked how she was written in the first person and actually addresses the reader throughout the story. That was a unique approach and one I liked very much.

    I will not soon forget the people and events that make up Defiance, Texas. I was really pulled into their world and even though I have finished Life in Defiance, I feel like a part of me is still there. I'm sure that feeling will last for a while. Mary DeMuth is a tremendously talent author who continues to captivate me. My prayer is that this review has done the book justice and readers will find the love of Jesus that Mary has shared beautifully.

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  • Posted June 1, 2010

    Compelling and interesting!

    LIFE ING DEFIANCE by Mary E. Demuth is a murder mystery christian fiction set in Defiance, Texas in the 1977's. It is the third in the Defiance Texas Trilogy series, but can easily be read as a stand alone. It is well written with depth and detail. It is very compelling with issues of abuse, it weaves mystery and intrigue with life's issues and challenges. It has redemption and justice for some with while others remain blind to injustice. It is a sad gut wretching story. If you have not read the other two in the series I would suggest reading them also.(Book #1 Daisy Chain and Book #2 Slow Burn). This book was received for review and details can be found at My Book Addiction and More and Zondervan.

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  • Posted June 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Sinful Secrets Revealed

    Every family has its secrets. In book three of the Defiance Texas Trilogy, "Life in Defiance," Mary DeMuth exposes the destructive power of secret sins. The heart-breaking, soul-healing, emotionally satisfying revelation of the secrets in Definace make this book one to savor.

    Mary deftly brings all the pieces together so that none of the puzzle is blank. She writes so skillful that the ending seems natural, not forced.

    Not light reading for a summer day, the Defiance Texas Trilogy brings us too close to lives that might have been ours but for the grace of God. These lives, while not real, could easily be found in many small towns. I came away with a new appreciation of the pain that destroys lives because of their secrets.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 31, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Mary DeMuth's Life in Defiance

    As Ouisie Pepper's mysterious new friend, Elijah, observes of her, Ouisie has "prisons aplenty." To Hap's abuse, to the knowledge of Daisy's killer, and to alcohol addiction Ouisie remains captive. But what grieves her most is her disobedience to the Lord. The Voice beckons her to baptism, for only by dying to herself will she be set free from her burdens. But she consistently resists.

    Ouisie confesses, "All I know is that someone seems to be watching me out behind the woods, Sheba's bent on fixing me, and Hap's not going to be thrilled with the state of the house when he gets home. It's all too much, really. Too much for a woman to bear." All the secrets she holds inside drag her down and hold her under. They stifle her, suffocate her hope. She fears releasing her secrets will unleash a torrent and "send [her] drowning on a river [she] never knew was there." Ousie's longing to make God smile outweighs her fears, though.

    Justice. Finally.

    Readers of Life in Defiance, Mary DeMuth's third book in the Defiance Texas Trilogy, anguish in Ouisie Pepper's hesitance to expose Daisy's killer, reel from the blows of Hap's fists, and sighing relief, revel at her release from burdensome secrecy. Read all three in the series and find it is better to reveal truth than to live with the consequences of burying it forever.

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  • Posted May 27, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    An empowering, enthralling story

    In Defiance, Texas, Ouisie Pepper seeks a perfect world. She's the pastor's wife. How could she be defiant? And yet, she defies her husband and the hunters of Daisy Chance's killer, keeping secrets that could change the lives of all the people around her. Ouisie knows the pastor is not the all powerful, all knowing, all kind and generous leader he's believed to be. She knows Daisy's killer still lurks close by. She knows her son and daughter deserve a better life. And she knows she shouldn't drink. But sometimes the drinking is all that seems to hold her together.

    Ouisie Pepper sets out to improve her marriage with the aid of a sweetly religious self-help book. And the author, Mary E DeMuth, brings Ouisie, self-help author Sheba Nelson, bereaved mother Emory Chance, and a host of other characters to vivid life, all through Ouisie's lonely clouded eyes.

    I read A Slow Burn, second in Mary DeMuth's Defiance Texas Trilogy, last year and really enjoyed it. There I saw through Emory's eyes as she tried to piece together a life that was already fractured before her child was lost. There I met Ouisie, the discerning, oddly non-judgemental friend, with fascinating character flaws that I longed to learn more of. In Life in Defiance I finally get to know her well.

    Ouisie wears her wounds well hidden, not just the wounds of a marriage that offers no safety, but those of a childhood too whose insecurities have molded her. Even when her husband doesn't rage, the voice in her head still reminds her that she's not perfect, not good enough. She walks round the lake drinking its peace while fearing to drown, and she can't let go of the need to help herself as she struggles constantly to help others.

    It's not hard to empathize with Ouisie. Balancing love and duty, clinging helplessly to the hope that people change, meeting each challenge head-on and always standing right back up again, she tries so hard to control her world while she watches it spin on its heel.

    The author has a deft hand with conversation, creating meetings where the reader feels so involved you almost want to speak your piece. She treats the presence of the divine with convincing realism too, never resorting to unbelievable "voices" but retaining the constant presence of another Voice in Ouisie's mind. And she ties the threads of a complex tale through the lives of complex people, leading to a surprising and genuinely plausible, sorrowful conclusion.

    I've still not read Daisy Chain, the first in the series. But it's on order at the bookstore and I'll read it soon. This series is one where you can genuinely start reading wherever you choose. But I'm sure you'll grow to love the characters and long to know more, just as I have. In the process, perhaps you'll learn more of yourself as well, and find healing for your own wounds or wisdom for your neighbors'.

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  • Posted May 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    REVIEW: LIFE IN DEFIANCE

    When one is a published author, each succeeding published book is expected to be better-greater-than the last one. Mary E. DeMuth has not only exceeded that expectation, she has soared above all expectations in Life in Defiance.

    I have read Book One, "Daisy Chain," and Book Two, "A Slow Burn", in the Defiance Texas Trilogy. Both books were well-written, insightful and thought-provoking. Both books had that "stick-to-your-ribs" quality - the characters, theme and learned lessons stayed with me long after I had finished reading.

    Book Three, "Life in Defiance," touched a chord in me that very few books have ever done. I believe it will touch a cord in every woman who reads it. Not that this is a book just for women - men can benefit from reading it as well. But there is something about the main character, Ouisie Pepper, with which most women will easily identify-her continual work on self-improvement and her constant struggle for perfection. We follow Ouisie on her path towards perfection only to discover, as if we didn't already know, there is no such thing as perfection in a human being. Jesus is the only Perfect One.

    There is another important lesson learned in this book. "To reveal a truth or live a lie".which brings me back to perfection. Are we not living a lie when we "pretend" to be perfect?

    "Life in Defiance" is full of forgiveness, reconciliation and hope. It shows us that we cannot continually live a lie. We must reveal the truth before forgiveness can occur. And forgiveness must happen before there is a chance at reconciliation and hope.

    Ms. DeMuth has taken fiery emotions and provocative words and woven them together into a quilt with characters who will insinuate themselves into your heart and mind and a message that will change your life.

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  • Posted May 27, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    "Life in Defiance" by Mary DeMuth

    I so looked forward to reading this book for long time, waiting to find out who murdered Daisy Chance. I thought I knew who it was, and figured my guess would be confirmed after finishing the book. I joined the '0% group' - those folks who have guessed the perpetrator and were wrong. After reading the book, however, it was no longer my greatest desire to know.

    What piqued my interest and shocked me throughout the book is the domestic violence between Hap and Ouisie. I've never been around anyone personally going through this type of circumstance, so it came as a shock to my senses. The behaviors and excuses, followed by apologies, are typical of abusive relationships I've seen on TV. But it was Mary's in-depth descriptions of the emotions and violence that made it so much more real and personal.

    The desperation of Ouisie trying to 'perfect' her behaviors, using a self-help book for women, so that Hap's anger wouldn't explode defied my understanding. Yet I know it happens every day to millions of women. Is anyone responsible for someone else's anger and violent behavior?

    The other basis of the storyline is choosing to disclose the truth at the prospect of rejection/betrayal or covering it up forever to keep the status quo and suffering further consequences of a murderer at large. The way Mary describes the crisis of disclosure for Ouisie while in the throes of her domestic issues was done in a heart-wrenching manner.

    Mary is the queen of redemptive prose. Be sure to read Daisy Chain and A Slow Burn before tackling this book.

    This book was provided free from Zondervan in exchange for my honest review. My thanks to Mary and Zondervan for this privilege to suggest a great set of books to read.

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  • Posted May 21, 2010

    Prepare yourself for another adventure in Defiance, Texas . . .

    Ouisie Pepper knows who killed Daisy Chance. But readers will have to wait until the end of the book. And no fair peeking!

    Prepare yourself for adventure as you rejoin Ouisie and Hap Pepper, their son, Jed; daughter, Sissy, and other residents of the small town of Defiance, Texas, in this third book in the Defiance Texas Trilogy, by Mary E. DeMuth.

    Mary DeMuth keeps readers guessing what will happen next, as she explores the difficult topics of abuse, murder, spirituality, infidelity, forgiveness and alcoholism in the intertwining lives of her quirky characters.

    Having read the two earlier books in the trilogy, I found this one the most intriguing. As in previous books, DeMuth employs striking metaphors throughout the book. Her prose is delightful! Her message, says DeMuth, is that, "that authentic, gritty faith is the kind that changes the world."

    We follow Ousie in her quest to become the perfect wife to her abusive pastor husband, Hap, and the perfect mother to her daughter, Sissy, and son, Jed. Ousie elicits advice from Sheba Nelson, author of The Godly Woman's Guide to Marriage, who surprises her with a personal visit.

    All the while, Ousie battles her own demons of addiction, grief and fear, finally finding the courage to begin facing herself and God, with the help of the mysterious, Elijah. I found Elijah the most unlikely character in the book. He is the one character, among all the others, who didn't "fit" for me.

    I might have had difficulty picking up on the story line if I hadn't read the previous books in the trilogy. But Life in Defiance, Ouisie, Hap, Jed, Sissy, Emory, Ethrea Ree, and the cast of many others will live in my memory for a long, long time. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

    Reviewed by Carole Ledbetter
    May 22, 2010

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  • Posted May 16, 2010

    Sleepless in California

    No that is no the title of Mary DeMuth's most recent book, the third book in the Defiance Texas Trilogy series, the title is Life in Defiance; yet like the two previous in this trilogy, the book kept me up at night. I simply cannot put it down. Mary is a great story teller and she excels at character development. It is impossible to read Life in Defiance and not feel transported there, hearing the noises, seeing the sights, feeling the coolness of the night. Reading Mary's writing is like reading a movie.

    Just like the other books, the characters are complex, multi dimensional just like humans are in real life. There is nobody perfect, nobody completely evil, not even the toughest character is completely void of gentleness, and the cruelest of the all still exhibit some positive traits. It is so refreshing to dive into a novel when the author does not shy away from the complexity of the human heart. Mary poses questions that are found deep in the human heart, questions without glib 5 second answers, questions that require thought, reflection and introspective. Although a novel it, deals with difficult subjects, the effects of war, the dark secrets that play out behind close doors, the phoniness of the façade we put on as we enter the world and especially as we darken the door of church on Sunday morning, the loss of dreams. Just like the characters complexity, these are not subjects with clear cut solutions and formulae answers, not subjects often discussed and dealt with in the public square. Mary is not afraid to tear away the veil of secrecy and shame to expose sin for what it is, sin. She does not shy away from uncomfortable topics, and she accurately depicts the coward behavior and lazy attitude that is so much easier to take rather than tangle with the sin, name it, reveal it, and eradicate it. She describes the hurt, the pain, the sorrow and the consequences of sin without condemnation and or the arrogance that is so common from Christian authors; there is no sense of holier than thou in her writing, just raw, real and authentic emotions.

    The writing is exquisite, and the dual perspective captivating, yet not revealing enough that one can quickly and effortlessly guess the owner of the unknown voice. The suspense and the drama by itself is enough to make this a great read; adding in the challenge and thought provoking dilemmas and it is a must read. I want to know what happens to them next! Please do not tell me this is the end..

    I received a free review copy of Thin Places from Zondervan. Nevertheless, I do not write positive reviews unless I believe in the what I am endorsing. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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