CFBA Blog Tour—To Dance in the Desert

I first “met” Katy Popa on a discussion forum called Faith in Fiction.

It doesn’t take long when people interact regularly to get a flavor of what they’re about. With Katy, who writes as “Kathleen,” I was impressed with several things—her thoughtful comments, her peace-making ability, and her beautiful prose.

Much later I had the privilege of meeting her at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference and found the on-line Katy and the in-person Katy to be one and the same.

The night we met was the night she found out her first novel To Dance in the Desert had found a home with RiverOak, an imprint of Cook Communications. Thing was, this was back in 2005, and the book wasn’t due out until 2007. To me that seemed like an eternity, and I can only imagine what it seemed like to Katy. But to look at her, you’d have never known she didn’t get news about contracts nearly every day of her life.

A year later we were in the same Gayle Roper mentoring clinic, so I had the privilege of reading Katy’s chapter we’d be critiquing and was impressed with her talent as a novelist.

This past spring, when we were both at Mount Hermon again, her first box of books arrived, and she got to see To Dance in the Desert for the first time. That’s when I got my autographed copy, too.

Because this was pleasure reading, I didn’t sit down to read To Dance in the Desert for some time. I took it with me to jury duty, but was called into a courtroom before I had done more than read that first chapter as it now appeared in the finished product.

After the short stint with the judicial system, I was back at the tasks with deadlines. Then along came the CFBA Blog Tour, highlighting To Dance in the Desert! Yea! 😀 No guilty feeling for reading a book I wanted to, not if I was doing it as part of a blog tour.

Well, I didn’t mean to get into that saga. Here’s my review.

The story. To Dance in the Desert is classified as general fiction. I think that is the euphemistic way of saying “literary.” Understand, this is not my genre … or, non-genre. General fiction means there really aren’t any conventions to adhere to. Literary fiction means characters are more often than not the focal point rather than the plot. These things are true of To Dance in the Desert.

But there is definitely a story here, one that opens with an intriguing incident that generates more and more questions, even as facts are sketched into place.

I’m not telling you much, am I. 😉 I don’t want to spoil it. This is a story about hurt, abandonment, fear, failure, joy, friendship, redemption, restoration. It’s about people’s lives, how they affect one another and how God uses it all. It is a story that needs to unfold, and if I tell you the short version, you’ll miss that experience. (For a very good story summary that doesn’t tell too much, check out Deena Peterson’s review.

Strengths. The story is intriguing. As I almost always do, I was reading to find out what happened. But it mattered because the characters were so real, so true, so interesting. Katy’s prose is beautiful. I can’t say enough how striking it is to read something that is such a pleasure.

I just opened the book at random—you can find wonderful passages on most any page—and here’s a sample:

“You see?” she shouted. “It’s not a safe world! People … people matter to you, and they come along, and they step on your soul! And they don’t mean to, they’re just not paying attention. But it hurts you just the same. And that,” she said as she poked the air with her finger, “that’s if you’re lucky! If you’re not, they squish you under their work boots.” She stomped the ground wihile Tom stood gaping at her. She twisted her foot back and forth and continued. “They grind it in, and they mean it to hurt, they hope it hurts long and hard, you know?”

It’s great writing. There are wonderful action sequences. I always felt like I was there watching what was going on. There were great descriptions, especially of the desert. The characterization and development was outstanding.

And the theme? This is the kind of book that makes you think. In fact, I was listening to a sermon on the radio today. About Jonah. The pastor, applying his point to today, said that people are not to come to us for salvation, they are to come to Jesus. We are to go to the people. And I thought of Jane from To Dance in the Desert. She had that “go to them” part down pretty well.

Weaknesses. If there is one, I didn’t see it.

Recommendation. A must read for anyone who loves literature. This book will win awards, or should.

Published in: on July 26, 2007 at 12:42 pm  Comments (10)  

10 Comments

  1. Becky,
    I can’t wait to read Katy’s book! Thanks for the great review. I met Katy back on the Faith in Fiction discussion board too (at least that’s what I remember, way back when).

    Congratulations, Katy!!

    Blessings–

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  2. Okay now I have to read this book, especially since you didn’t find any weakness. LOL. I’ve been hearing a lot about it.

    Beth

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  3. My, Becky! Thanks for saying such nice things about me. And what a lovely review. Can I carry this one around with me for awhile?

    One day soon I’ll get to see what you look like, walking around with a new book contract!

    KP

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  4. I read the excerpt to this last month and I thought it was EXCELLENT. It’s on my to-get list, and the only reason I hadn’t ordered it is that I’ve got an enormous array of TBR piles and I need to get to some I already have.

    But this was definitely one that caught my eye. I encourage readers to read the excerpts available online. Good, good writing.

    Mir

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  5. Heh, heh, heh! 😀 Carry the review around as long as you need to, Katy.

    But in all fairness, I did think of one weakness. For some time, I didn’t know how old Dara (the protagonist) was—and that affects how I looked at some of her relationships. Could be I missed the context clues that I should have noticed. But there it is.

    Merrie, Mir, Beth, I encourage you to run to your nearest book store and get your copy. I hope you’ll like it.

    Becky

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  6. Sigh. I already did run to my nearest Christian bookstore. Over my stress-relieving lunch. They didn’t have Katy’s book. Soooo, I think I’ going to order it from Katy’s Web site: http://kathleenpopa.typepad.com/

    I checked it out after lunch and saw that you could order her book there.

    Yes, I want the book. Now.

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  7. Great review, Becky!

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  8. Yes, Becky, I did like it as much as you. Nice write up also.

    Thanks for stopping by my place.

    Can’t wait for Kathleen’s next one. This was an excellent read.

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  9. Kelly, thanks for adding your voice to the numerous people lining up behind this book. I appreciate you stopping by.

    Thanks for your affirmation, too, Rachel. And Merrie—at least the bookstore now knows someone was looking for that book. Their loss. I hope it comes soon from your online order.

    Becky

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  10. […] who loves literature. This book will win awards, or should.” ~Rebecca Luella Miller, at A Christian Worldview of Fiction (Becky also said the novel had no faults. But then she thought of one – […]

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