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Every year I
select one book that I designate as the best book that I read that year. This
year that book will probably be, The Awakening by Donna Boyd. This book has
challenged me to think differently about life, death, and freewill. I read a
lot of books, personally and professionally, this level of praise from me is
rare, but this book is a rare find and earned every word of it.
Awakening is set in a
lakeside home in Mercy, North Carolina. The novel has two stories. One is the story of Penny and Paul Mason and their troubled thirteen-year old daughter,
Elsie. After Paul, a one book bestselling children's author and college
professor, is fired for having an affair with a student, he moves to the lake
house to try to rebuild the summer home and with hopes of rebuilding his
marriage. Penny, a surgeon and now sole breadwinner in the family, seems
interested in the salvage projects, but is forced to spend long hours tied to
her practice and city apartment. As the family members struggle to keep it all
together, Elsie seems to be slipping deeper into a world filled with strange
visions and voices. Meanwhile in a second plot, a woman awakes in a sanitarium
from a coma resulting from a trauma that has robbed her of her family and her
memory. Working with a psychiatrist named Michael, the woman is permitted to
return home only after she remembers that her name is "Mary". Her
return home is however far from the comfortable joy she expected. Her home and
her family - if these strangers are her family - are much different. Mary, like
Elsie, is also suffering from strange visions and voices, but she chalks it up
to her trauma. Too reveal much more about the story is to reveal too much, and
to deprive the reader of the many "aha" experiences throughout the
What makes this novel so
extraordinary is its challenge to the standard views about death. It raises the
very intriguing question - is there freewill after death? If so, what are the
dead free to do? What limitations would they have? Most people, I would guess, if given freewill after death would not choose to move on
to…whatever, but would rather return and be near their loved ones. So, what
would encourage them to abandon this world and to "cross over" to the
next? If the concepts of freewill and death seem like an oxymoron then I am
with you, but then I read this book and it made me re-evaluate the topic. If there is freewill in life, why not the possibility of freewill
"Donna Boyd" is the
pseudonym for Donna Ball, who also writes as, Rebecca Flanders, Donna Carlyle,
Leigh Bristol and Taylor Brady. Her first book, Winners (St. Martin's Press), was serialized
in Good Housekeeping magazine and was published in 1982. As Donna Boyd, she has
previously published two novels about werewolf The Passion (1999) and The
Promise (2000), and another metaphysical book entitled, The Alchemist (2002). Ball/Boyd lives in
North Georgia on the land they purchased from the
Cherokee in 1782. The Awakening is
her fourth title published as Donna Boyd.
The Awakening by
Donna Boyd will give the reader a lot to think about and for
those who do not wish to think, it is an excellent ghost story. I HIGHLY
recommend this book.
© 2004 Su Terry
Su Terry: Education:
B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S. in Library Science from
Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S. in Religious Studies/Pastoral
Counseling from Fairfield University, a M.Div. in
Professional Ministry from New Brunswick Theological Seminary, a Certificate in
Spirituality/Spiritual Direction from Sacred Heart University. She is a
Licensed Minister of the United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor in
Library Science at Dowling College,
Long Island, NY.
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