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Copyright for the journal © 2005
M. S. Thirumalai
AT THE SCENT OF WATER
Linda Nichols' Writing Mission
LOVE BUDS AGAIN AT THE SCENT OF WATER
Linda Nichols' recent novel, At the Scent of Water (Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, 2004), is a fine novel, presenting the interior monologues of many characters. The characters in the novel struggle to resolve their conflict with themselves, with others, and with God. The conflict is not in any sense materialistic.
The tragic death of their young daughter brings a sense of guilt to both Annie and Sam Truelove. It creates a wedge between them because of Sam's pre-occupation with his work as a surgeon, and this leads to separation. Annie begins her own career far away from Sam in Seattle. However, Annie comes across several people who have faced such tragic loss and have learned to live with such loss because of their trust in God as the Sovereign. Events slowly unfold which bring Annie back to North Carolina. Meanwhile Sam recognizes how he could have helped Annie in her grief. Love buds again at the scent of water.
The phrase at the scent of water is taken from a beautiful and descriptive statement of Job in the Book of Job: "At least there is hope for a tree; If it is cut down, it will sprout again, And its new shoots will not fail. Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant" (Job 14:7-9).
Job declared to his friends, "I am not inferior to you. But I desire to speak to the Almighty and to argue my case with God. You, however, smear me with lies; you are worthless physicians, all of you!" (Job 13:2-4). The characters in this novel are not afraid of talking to God, while seeking to find a rational explanation for the tragedy they faced.
THE CURTAIN TEARS, AND WHAT DO WE SEE?
Consider some of the monologues:
Annie noticed Essie's necklace. She wore a mustard seed, and Annie remembered that she herself had owned one at the time. Papa had given it to her on her thirteenth birthday. She stared at it, that miniscule fragment of faith encased in glass. Rather than reminding her of truth and hope, it seemed a cold picture of her own heart, and she felt a moment of longing. She had not always been like this.
"How do you keep hold of your faith, Essie? When the curtain tears." The sound of her own voice blurting out that question shocked her. She felt her face grow warm with embarrassment, but Essie didn't seem put out in the least. She calmly put the receipt in the sack, handed it to Annie, then considered for a moment.
"The curtain... ?"
Annie shrugged and tried to explain. "I used to never see evil and pain. It was hidden away from me."
"But then the curtain tore," Essie murmured softly, and Annie nodded, her throat tight.
"Your question joins two realms that don't shake hands," Essie said, and Annie frowned, trying to understand.
"You asked how you keep your faith when the curtain tears. The curtain tearing is seeing, isn't it? Seeing the pain and the ugliness of living in this fallen world."
"Yes. That's what it is." Annie answered her quietly.
"But you see, you'll never make sight and faith agree. Not in this world." (Page 82)
WE ALL CARRY OUR BURDEN
"I'm Annie," she answered back. "Annie Dalton."
"How about you?" Rosalie asked her, "Do you have any children?"
"I did have," she said, and she felt that Rosalie Cubbins deserved a truthful answer from her. "I had a little girl, but she died. Five years ago."
"That's how long Kelly's been sick," Rosalie said, and it struck Annie odd that she would use such a euphemistic phrase. Shorthand for the pain and damage, and understandable, she supposed.
She nodded. She knew how long Kelly Bright had been here. She knew exactly.
"What happened to your daughter?" Rosalie asked without apparent embarrassment.
Annie supposed it was natural, considering what she had lived with herself. Unbearable facts had become a part of her everyday life. "She drowned. She was four years old. Her name was Margaret."
"Sorry." Eyes that understood even if the words were short.
Annie nodded. "She was a sweet child. She could be a little headstrong sometimes. My papa said she got that from her mother." She gave Rosalie a rueful smile. "She loved to play outside, no matter what the weather, and I tell myself I should have told my mother-in-law to watch her. She'd been getting up from her nap and slipping off to play, and I should have known that she would do that. And them having the creek so close. But I didn't know my husband was going to take her to his mother's house, or I would have warned her."
"What happened?" Rosalie ground out her cigarette and lit another.
"He got called in to work," Annie said. "And he dropped her off at his mother's."
Rosalie nodded. "This was my husband's fault too," she said. (Pages 352-353)
A STORY TO REMEMBER! LINDA NICHOLS' MISSION
Linda Nichols' narrative is a powerful story of how we could easily get estranged from our loved ones, how our guilt works within us to create a wider wedge between us, and how at the scent of water the tree of love buds again. The scent of water is from above, but seen and experienced below on earth through testimonies often unwittingly tendered to us even by well-meaning unbelievers. If only we have eyes to see in faith, miracles do happen. Linda's mission is to get people to come together and love once again, instigated and nurtured by the Word of God. Also accepting the Sovereignty of God where we are not able to see any reason seems to be the foundation of her writing mission. She has a beautiful way of subtly foregrounding the emotional conflicts through her sensitive language and style.
CLICK HERE FOR PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION
WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN? | CULTURAL REALITIES AND TRENDS IN MISSIONS - An Informal Report by a Team of Missionary Trainers | AT THE SCENT OF WATER - Linda Nichols' Writing Mission | CHRISTIAN MATURITY - GLIMPSES FROM 2 PETER | SHAPED BY GOD | WHAT GOOD IS YOUR SCRIPTURE ALONE THEORY?
A Timely Book by James R. White | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR
M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Bethany College of Missions
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