Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Review: Zora & Nicky by Claudia Mair Burney

Not long ago, I read a book, non-fiction, entitled Love Revolution, by Gaylord Enns. In the book, Pastor Enns reveals that the church has for most of its history passed over the one great New Testament commandment, in favor of a safer, more comfortable Old Testament one.

The commandment we favor is the one that says we shall love our neighbor as ourselves. The one we’ve passed over is the only new commandment Jesus ever gave, and that is that we love one another as he has loved us.

Do you see the difference? Does it frighten you?

Love Revolution is a wonderful book, one of a few non-fictions from this century that have blown my mind. It’s the kind of book that leaves me with more questions than I came with, and a frantic need to know: What would that kind of love, the love of Jesus incarnate in the church look like? How would it walk and talk in this world, this life?

On May 28 we will host a guest-blogger who has written a novel that comes as close to walking me through that answer as I’ve seen in any book, non-fiction or fiction. Our guest will be Claudia Mair Burney and the novel  is titled Zora & Nicky.

Madeleine L’Engle once said she liked books that have something underneath. Zora & Nicky has a universe underneath – or perhaps even a heaven.

It’s a romance, and I rarely read romances, owing to a bias that began when I was twelve and read halfway through a Halrlequin book or two, or maybe less than halfway.  I felt, even then, that something ought to happen in a story besides two people falling in love, swooning, weeping, slapping faces and waiting by the phone.

More happens in Zora & Nicky – Claudia made sure. To start, she made Zora black and Nicky white and drew them from controlling, bigoted families intent on keeping them apart, but that’s just the beginning of sorrows.  On the surface, this book is about a bi-racial couple falling in love. Underneath it is about how estranged we all are, what a failure to love and be loved has done to each of us, and how we mend the tears. The picture of restoration Claudia offers is like a heart-wrenching glimpse of a home far away. It not only walks us through the living out of Jesus’ great commandment, but it provides a compelling answer to the question of why the novel matters, and what a specifically Christian-themed novel can offer: a frank, enchanting exploration of the broken, God-soaked world we all inhabit.

Claudia Mair Burney, fearless explorer, we can’t wait to hear from you.

And you, dear readers, please discuss Zora and Nicky if you’ve read it, or any other book that came to mind as you read this post. We love to read what you have to say. 


V. Gingerich said...

The first character that came to mind when I thought of those verses was Hadassah, from A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Oh, Claudia! I'm so excited for May 28!

I'm pre-coffee, so I have nothing intellectual to share, but I do want to tell you about when I met Claudia Mair Burney.

Lisa Samson had just finished a reading of "Resurrection in May" at the Festival of Faith and Writing. I walked over to say "hello" and hope that some of her talent would rub off on me. I sat next to a smiling lady. We talked about her tattoos. I showed her one of mine. It wasn't until later that I realized who she was. My jaw dropped.

She's a really kind lady. :)

Lori Benton said...

Zora & Nicky had a huge impact on me when I read it just after its release. I remember I couldn't stop talking about it for months after. I'm so glad it also had that impact on you and I look forward to hearing from Claudia on the 28th.

Lori Benton said...

PS: I just went back into my own blog archives and see that I picked Zora & Nicky as my favorite new release book of 2008. Can it really be that long ago!

Henrietta Frankensee said...

"Needing Grace to silence me."
Wow. I have allowed many things to silence me where only Grace has the authority.
When Grace silences me it is always an invitation to write DIFFERENTLY not an edict to stop writing altogether.

Patti Hill said...

Susie! I was at that reading, too! And I talked to Claudia as well. We almost met!

I'm reading Love Does by Bob Goff who attempts to answer the question of what loving as Jesus loved looks like. Very challenging indeed.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

PATTI! Oh, man! We were so close!!!! (sigh)

Nicole said...

Loved Zora and Nicky. Love Claudia's voice. Look forward to what she has to say. Her son needs prayer too. Broke a lot of bones in his face and body.

Adding to the list:

The Passion of Mary-Margaret (Lisa Samson)

Safely Home (Randy Alcorn)

Bonnie Grove said...

Stoked to have Claudia here on the 28th.

It's hard to wait. She's the epitome of unique and original.

It was a no-brainer to put her at the top of our list of "ten writers we MUST have as guests on novel matters in 2012."

Kathleen Popa said...

Wanderer, Susie and Nicole, thank you for the book suggestions.

Susie and Patti, I wish I could have been there too. I had a similar experience, Susie, at Mount Hermon in 1999 (I think) with Francine Rivers. We talked about back pain. :\ Another kind lady and brilliant writer.

Lori, yes, it's a powerful book. I believe I "knew" Claudia when she was writing it, as we both hung out at an online forum called Faith in Fiction. F*I*F is no longer there, but it was a golden place to be, and a lot of great novels came out of there. When we ladies started Novel Matters, we hoped this would be a little bit like that, and we are so proud of the camaraderie, friendships and great writing we see happening with all of our readers.

Henrietta, that quote is just a sample of a longer poem contained within Zora & Nicky.

Nicole and Bonnie, yes, I'm so pleased and honored that Claudia will join us. When I heard about her son's accident, I asked if she'd like to postpone, and bless her, she said no. She's a wise and wonderful lady, and I can't wait to see what she has to say to say.

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

I need to read that book! I've heard such good things. (So many books... so little time...) Can't wait for the interview!

Katy, I discovered F*I*F a few years back and devoured nearly every archive. It was amazing. The most incredible meeting place of like minds. Then it finished up just a couple of weeks later. Argh! Something really ironic about that.

SO glad Novel Matters emerged to stand in the gap. :-)

Megan Sayer said...

Oh, wonderful! Thanks so much for the heads-up before the guest post, it's a lovely thought to be able to read the book before "meeting" the author.

And I've just bought it. Thanks for the recommendation (and everybody's endorsements). I'll start it this anyone lived before the invention of the kindle is beyond me! : )

Anonymous said...

I can’t get enough of the subject of LOVE right now. I will certainly be reading the recommendations – thank you. I struggled to go to church this week for the very reason of “love”. Church often reflects “doing” – running this program/event, cooking, giving, organising and serving. I am not really bitter about all that because we need to get stuff done but I find myself yearning for the old fashioned and heart felt LOVED. To be loved for being me and to love others for them being them. It’s simple and it’s beautiful and has the power to transform lives.

I particularly like this quote out of your post Kathleen – it’s awesome. "Underneath it is about how estranged we all are, what a failure to love and be loved has done to each of us, and how we mend the tears."

Time for some more mending I think!

Kathleen Popa said...

Sally, I could cry for your struggle. Of all the places you should love to hang out, but yes, I've felt the same way many times. I wish I could hug you or transform your church or something. I hope you'll consider yourself very welcome here at Novel Matters, and that you will find it a bit of a haven - we only give virtual hugs, but you won't be asked to tend the nursery.

Yes, do read the two books I recommended. They are very good, and will at least help you think in the right direction to lead the way, yourself. I have found that gentleness and acceptance does change things. We always end up with humans in these places - I do wish we had something better.

May I recommend another book? The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen was a life-changer for me.

We're glad you're here, Sally.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Kathleen for the warm welcome - I think I felt that hug! I think church becomes important especially when you write at home on your own for large amounts of time, and there is that human need to interact. Writing can also be seen as an unimportant thing to be doing because it has no short-term impact. And sometimes I think I expect too much from church too and only find myself feeling disappointed. Thanks for the book recommend - I just ordered it and I look forward to sifting through my perspective and hopefully come to a more peaceful place with it.