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Violette Between by Alison Strobel Morrow

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Review of Violette Between

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The Advocate

Violette Between by Alison Strobel Morrow

Reviewed by Kevin Lucia

"...a good, emotionally moving tale about two very different people making a relationship work."

Violette and Christian are survivors of their lost spouses; trying to build a future together in spite of their painful memories. Drawn together after their respective grieving periods, they’ve forged a tenuous bond, taking tentative steps forward in new, awkward love, as well as getting to know the God they’d previously blamed for taking their loved ones from them.

Violette--a free-spirited painter--struggles with losing her husband Saul to a sudden heart attack, and even though she’s found new love with Christian (a relationship psychologist who’s also recovering from losing his wife Cynthia to cancer) she finds it hard to let go of the past.

Despite lingering doubts about Violette’s love for him, Christian is happy. His practice is thriving, he and Violette are at least enjoying each other, and both of them are growing in their relationship with God. Inside, he still questions her true feelings, wondering how much she still hangs onto Saul, but for the moment, life is good.

Tragedy comes with Violette’s fall while painting a mural, leaving her unresponsive and in a coma. While she wanders a ghostly hall in her mind, forced to watch moments from her past with Saul, Christian is once again faced with losing a loved one, and he desperately searches God’s will for peace of mind, while paradoxically blaming Him for threatening his love once again.

Violette Between admirably tries to take us to a place few Christian novels dare meddle with---the interior halls of the mind. We experience this place as Violette works through her past anguish at losing Saul, reconciling her love for him and the growing love she feels for Christian. Though not about a trip through the afterlife, Between invokes thoughts of What Dreams May Come starring Robin Williams and Cuba Gooding Jr.

The goal is ambitious, and though well written, Violette’s flashback sequences are somewhat awkward. The author paints a ghostly Violette observing the past Violette, and while this might be effective in a movie or television show, the POV (point of view) narrative was somewhat confusing for me. I would’ve preferred the author either make Violette re-experience all these moments unknowingly, with a flutter of déjà vu here and there, or provide a guide for her, ala Cuba Gooding in What Dreams May Come.

The book does touch on some tender moments, and kudos to Strobel for not “moralizing” the experience of grieving spouses. There’s no “spiritual band-aid” here. Violette and Christian struggle with God, they wrestle, they feel pain and question their faith, as well as themselves.

Given some of the heart-warming moments of sentimentality, I really wanted to give this book a top rating. I was leaning that way most of the story. But the entire narrative consists of flashbacks; Violette’s flashbacks of Saul, and Christian’s flashbacks of meeting Violette. There came a moment in the book, for me, when I suddenly realized there had been no forward progression, and Violette was still in her coma, Christian still by her bedside.

Overall though, Violette Between is a good, emotionally moving tale about two very different people making a relationship work – both Violette and Saul, and then Violette and Christian. It also grapples with the important question of how to move on from a passed spouse to love again, without dishonoring their memory.

Kevin LuciaKevin Lucia Kevin Lucia writes for The Press & Sun Bulletin and The Relief Journal. His short fiction has appeared in Coach’s Midnight Diner, The Relief Journal, All Hallows, Darkened Horizons Vol. 3 & 4, NexGen Pulp Magazine Issues 1 & 4, From the Shadows, Morpheus Tales Magazine, Bohemian-Alien, Shroud Publishing’s horror anthology, Abominations, and Tyndale House’s inspirational anthology Life Savors. He’s currently writing a novella for Shroud Publishing’s upcoming novella series, The Hiram Grange Chronicles. He resides in Castle Creek, New York, with his wife Abby, daughter Madison and son Zackary. He teaches high school English at Seton Catholic Central High School in Binghamton, New York; and is finishing his Masters of Arts in Creative Writing at Binghamton University. Visit him at his website and Myspace page.