Tuesday, June 24, 2014

For His Greater Glory (and Those Aren't Just Words)

In December of 2011, right around the time I was finishing up my manuscript for Finding Grace, I began to search the Internet for information about how to go about having it published.  My cyber-travels ultimately led me to this 2007 article about Cheryl Dickow, a former middle school teacher who had started her own Catholic publishing house called Bezalel Books.  I was immediately struck by the thought that I'd started writing Finding Grace in 2007, and that was the same year that this article originally appeared in Catholic Review--and I believe the same year that Cheryl started her company.  I felt an immediate connection with Cheryl and it seemed that God was pointing me in the direction of Bezalel Books.
I will always be grateful that I stumbled upon that particular article about this extraordinary woman at that particular time.  Thanks a million, Google! (Of course, my undying gratitude really goes to Someone else--whose name, coincidentally, also begins with G.)

Cheryl Dickow is not only a publisher; she is also an editor, a speaker, a blogger, and a contributor to many Catholic periodicals.  She has written both fiction and non-fiction works.  Her two novels--Elizabeth, a Holy Land Pilgrimage, and Miriam, Repentance and Redemption in Rome--are excellent books, God-centered and inspiring.  They are Catholic "chick lit" at its finest, and would make perfect choices for your book club.  In fact, if you go to the Bezalel website, Cheryl lists some other Bezalel titles that are just right for that purpose.
Now having given those recommendations, I cannot do the same for this novel, which I started on my plane trip out to MI last week and finished on the way back home.
I had made a vow to myself that I would give up reading others' novels while I'm working on one of my own (a YA novel for Bezalel), but sometimes reading is the only thing that takes my mind off flying.  It's really too bad, though, that I broke my vow for this sub-par novel...which was definitely not worth the time I gave it.  Part-way in, I thought about putting it down and not finishing, but by that point I was "researching the enemy" (as my husband and I like to call it when we watch or read mainstream things that go against our faith and conservative values--if only to see what the majority of Americans are seeing and hearing from most media outlets).

Emily Giffin is a bestselling author of five or six novels.  At least one, Something Borrowed, has been made into a movie--which I'm a tad embarrassed to say I sort of enjoyed because it starred Kate Hudson and Ginnifer Goodwin, both really likable actresses, and John Krasinski, who to me will always and forever be the all-too-adorable Jim Halpert from the show "The Office."  But the premise is just dreadful!  It all revolves around this great "love story"...where a girl sleeps with her best friend's fiancée, yet somehow is portrayed as the sweet and lovable party in the whole thing!  Why would you root for her?  And why in the world she loves a guy who would cheat on his fiancée is the 64,000-dollar question, no matter how much of a crush she's had on him since they were in law school together.

The premise of this book is similar in that it involves a character who can't keep himself from falling into bed with someone to whom he's not married.  It revolves around a couple whose marriage has hit a rocky patch.  The husband, a renowned plastic surgeon, begins to fall in love with the single mother of one of his young patients, a boy named Charlie, and eventually he cheats on his wife with her.

I wish I could have cared about the cheating husband when he realizes the gigantic mistake he's made and goes back to his wife, begging forgiveness.  But I never connected with him or thought he was such a great guy.  He showed more interest in the young burn victim he was treating than he did in his own two kids.  As a matter of fact, I never really connected with any of the characters, with the exception of Charlie.

Here are a couple of things I had a problem with--aside from the affair, of course!

The author makes a point of telling the reader that the main character (the woman who gets cheated on) doesn't think her Italian-Catholic mother-in-law approves of her, because she isn't raising her children in the Catholic Faith--or in any other religion, for that matter.  That's how it always seems to be in modern fiction: characters are either irreligious or anti-religious.  It's not only annoying and disturbing, but so predictable it's downright boring.

The term "MILF" is used.  Eww.  Enough said.

There's plenty more not to like about Heart of the Matter, but I'd be embarrassed to spell it all out for you here, as this is a family-friendly blog.  And I'm not alone; I actually read some one-star reviews of the book, in which the readers commented that they wished Amazon would allow them to assign zero stars.  I personally could not possibly give this book more than one star.

And I'll bet Giffin's publisher didn't take her contract for this book over to the Adoration chapel so that it could be covered with prayers and blessings from the very beginning, the way Cheryl Dickow recently did with mine.  Cheryl really does believe in fiction that both entertains and gives greater glory to God, and she puts her money where her mouth is.  Bezalel Books may not have a slew of titles that are sitting at the top of the NY Times bestseller list or being made into Hollywood movies; but they do inspire readers, and they do give glory to God--which makes their worth inestimable.

Cheryl Dickow started Bezalel Books to offer readers something deeper and more meaningful than the mainstream fare.  And honestly, that's the very reason I was inspired to write Finding Grace.  I wanted to leave my sons--and especially their children--with something from my heart; to leave them something with a message that would provide an antidote to the poisonous and ever-growing God-lessness in this country.

When my guys were little, they had their noses in books all the time.  They knew more facts about dinosaurs by the age of four or five than most of us (the non-paleontologists, anyway) will ever know.  They used to fall asleep reading their books.
Sons #1 (with the book on his face) and #2, circa 1987.
So far, it looks like my grandchildren are cut from similar cloth.  So my darlings, keep this in mind: Grammy writes for God.  And she also writes for YOU.


  1. Replies
    1. Sorry I didn't respond to this sooner--thanks, Iris!

  2. Amen! I liked your words at towards the end of the post. So, totally off topic, my heart skipped a beat with that picture. I have the exact same "mickey's air mobile" material (on your bed sheets)! However, mine is a blanket. My mom's L&D nurse gave it to her when I was born...and I still use it. ;-)

    1. Awww...the Mickey's Air Mobile sheets--I loved them! They were so colorful and happy. We had two sets, and by the time our youngest had outgrown them, they were faded and threadbare (but I still have the pillowcases--couldn't part with them!).

  3. I, too, find a lot of novels graphic and disturbing. And I'm talking about going back to the 70's when I was a teen. Books I was interested in reading and that started out great but the questionable content left me deflated. Gratuitous descriptions, totally unnecessary. I'm not even talking about graphic intimacy scenes between adults whether married or unmarried. Minors were involved. Let me just leave it at that. Books that the jackets gave no clue as to what you were going to read on its pages. After the late 90's I quit reading fiction altogether. It was disheartening. Now, thanks to you, Laura, there's a whole new world of quality books out there waiting for me to read that I wouldn't be ashamed of having in my house.

    1. I'm so glad if any of the reviews I've written have pointed you in the direction of quality books. There are great ones out there, and they aren't getting the attention the bestsellers are getting--even though many of those have SO MUCH questionable material that can leave a reader feeling deflated and disheartened. I'm on a mission to try to read and review as many books as I can by Catholic authors who are slogging away in the trenches, producing fiction that inspires and gives glory to God--and that doesn't make you cringe with embarrassment when you're reading it!

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments! :)