Reviewed by Dave N.
Emory Chance is engulfed by conflict. In Mary E. DeMuth’s A Slow Burn, the story begins just as Chance, a single mother, encounters the truth about her abducted and slain daughter, Daisy.
Daisy had been missing for weeks, a victim of kidnapping, and also her mother’s neglect. We find out little about the facts of Daisy’s disappearance, and know less about the struggle for her young life. Instead, it is Chance doing the fighting. She’s a cold and confused individual, ruined by a careless mother long before she struggled with motherhood herself. She is only one of DeMuth’s compelling narrators though. Her counterpart, in both plot and narration, is a black man named Hixon Jones.
As the narration changes from one life to the other, at its best when Jones’ and Chance’s presence overlap, there emerges a deep connection between them, from the reader’s vantage point. And as the story goes on, we realize the two fit together, as if pieces in a jigsaw puzzle.
Jones, a black man in Texas in the 1970’s, also has an unenviable past. A victim of abandonment and racism, he’s even had a brush with suicide. That is his past, though, and throughout valiant actions in the book, Jones is shown to be redeemed. That’s in no small part thanks to his devout religious beliefs. It’s the very redemption Jones found that Chance is lacking.
As the story expands, DeMuth brings the reader to terms with the single mother’s flaws. In her addictions, we feel her need to escape a tormented existence. In pointed memories lie the effects of full-force regret for being as bad a mother to Daisy as her mother was to her. All her relationships are strained and on the verge of cracking. At the time when she needs others the most, Chance is pushing away. She’s even pushing away from Jones, who through divine intervention, takes up the task of endlessly courting her.
A Slow Burn is full of hope and powerful religious symbolism. DeMuth’s choice of two opposing, yet intricately linked narrators makes their meanings even more succinct. In the face of death and doubt, the storyline rings with the redemption of the battered and broken.
The story encourages, offering a beacon for change. As the plot begins to shift to its conclusion, the way becomes clearer. Chance’s path was never brighter lit than when she forgave, not only those around her, but herself.
DeMuth does a fantastic job of planting the story’s seed in the reality we all live in, harsh, but not without comfort.
Dave is a writer, songwriter and journalist from Cleveland, Ohio. He spends his work days working and the rest of his time being as creative as possible.
This book was provided free of any obligation by Zondervan. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.