Reviewed by Cheryl Russell
Resurrection in May by Lisa Samson
"Resurrection in May has death as a theme. But in Samson’s deft hands, what could be a depressing book is, instead, one of hope."
Seventy-one year old Kentucky
farmer Claudius Borne meets May Seymour, a University of Kentucky graduate,
on Route 11. He’s driving back
home after a morning visit to Natural Bridge, when he narrowly avoids hitting
May, who is crawling alongside the road. He takes a drunk May back to his
farm—Borne’s Last Chance—to sober up. That chance beginning—or
is it an answer to Claudius’ prayer a few minutes before driving
back home?—leads to an odd, but lasting friendship.
After May sobers up, Claudius discovers May has just graduated with a journalism degree, with a photography minor. A week later, May returns to the farm, bearing thank you gifts of framed flower shots she’s taken herself. As they visit, Claudius learns from May she needs a place to stay until she leaves for Rwanda in August, several months away. She’s going to help Father Isaac, a friend of a friend, around his mission. Before he’s aware of what he’s saying, Claudius offers her a place to stay until she leaves and May gladly takes him up on his offer. Claudius, Borne’s Last Chance, and the people of Beattyville, KY—especially Sister Ruth Askins, diminutive and fearless driver of a red Suburban—become May’s lifeline after the genocide in Rwanda. May returns to the peaceful farm and small community the only survivor of her Rwandan village, suffering from undiagnosed post-traumatic stress syndrome and survivor guilt. Her trauma is so great she is unable to leave Borne’s Last Chance for years. Only when she reaches outside of herself to another does she her own resurrection begin.
Resurrection in May has death as a theme. But in Samson’s deft hands, what could be a depressing book is, instead, one of hope. Through her characters, Samson explores the tension between life and death, but with a twist. At Borne’s Last Chance, life and death are a cycle—flowers and crops are planted in the spring, nurtured throughout the growing season, harvested in the fall. There is purpose in death—sustaining the farmer, his neighbors and the customers that purchase Claudius’ bounty and later, May’s flowers. There is pain in the death of family—years after she dies, Claudius still misses his mother, Violet. But as May discovers Violet’s journals and recipes, the flower gardens and dishes of Claudius’ childhood are renewed. But death in these contexts are an expected part of life.
But how does one handle death that is brought about by violence, driven by hatred? After she is rescued, a shattered May returns to Borne’s Last Chance, and for her, the name is fitting. The sole survivor in her Rwandan village, May is unable to talk about what she witnessed—lifelong acquaintances slaughtering each other, as well as turning their hatred on May. She keeps the details of her horrific experience to herself, leaving those close to her at a loss as how best to help her. It is only when she reaches out to Eli Campbell, on death row for inflicting the same senseless death on a family that she is able to begin to work through her own pain.
Sampson, through the use of story, raises troubling questions about good people committing deadly acts of violence, without hesitation. Through May, Samson raises the age-old question—where is God in all of this violence? Why does He seem to ignore the prayers of those who call Him Father? May arrives at some answers, eventually, but they come with a price that is tempered by grace, and girded by hope.
Cheryl Russell lives in the Midwest with her husband and three children. Her short stories, as well as a few articles, have been published in print and online. She's loved to read for as long as she can remember and puts all that time to good use writing book reviews for Infuze, Novel Reviews, and Title Trakk. She's also a member of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, FIRST network, Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour and American Christian Fiction Writers. She's currently working on her first novel. If she could, she'd spend her time hanging out in the thermal areas of Yellowstone in general, Norris Geyser Basin in particular. Another favorite spot is Kennicott, an old copper mining town in Wrangel-St. Elias National Park, Alaska, which is at the end of a 60 mile dirt road, 8 hours west of Anchorage. She and her family are frequent hikers in the national parks, and have pounded the dirt trails in Virginia, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming and Alaska. You can visit her at her blog, Unseen Worlds or at her website.