Monday, July 18, 2011

Christa Allan's The Edge of Grace

A true Southern woman who knows that any cook worth her gumbo always starts with a roux and who never wears white after Labor Day, Christa is a writer of not your usual Christian Fiction. She weaves stories of unscripted grace and redemption with threads of hope, humor, and heart.

Walking on Broken Glass is her debut novel. Her next novel, Edge of Grace will be released by Abingdon Press in August of 2011. Her essays have been published in The Ultimate Teacher, Cup of Comfort, Chicken Soup for the Coffee Lover’s Soul and Chicken Soup for the Divorced Soul.

Christa is the mother of five adult children, a grandmother of three, and a teacher of high school English. She and her husband Ken live in Abita Springs, Louisiana, where they and their three cats enjoy their time playing golf, dreaming about retirement and dodging hurricanes.

You can find Christa online at her website, www.ChristaAllan.com.





The Edge of Grace

An early morning call shatters Caryn Becker's world. Her brother David announces that he is gay, and Caryn completely rejects the one person who stood beside her during her husband's illness and death. Unable to cope with David's news, Caryn disappears into her own turbulent life as a single mom and new business owner.




Here's an excerpt of The Edge of Grace:

The last two words I said to my brother David that Saturday were “oh” and “no,” and not in the same sentence–though they should have been.

On an otherwise ordinary, cartoon-filled morning, my son Ben sat at the kitchen table spiraling a limp bacon slice around his finger. His last ditch effort to forestall doing his chores. I was having a domestic bonding experience with the vacuum cleaner. My last ditch effort to forestall the house being overtaken by microscopic bugs, dead skin, and petrified crumbs. I’d just summoned the courage to attempt a pre-emptive strike on the intruders under the sofa cushions when the phone rang.

I walked into the kitchen, gave Ben the “don’t you dare touch that phone with your greasy bacon hands” stare, and grabbed the handset.

It was David. “I wanted you to hear this from me,” he said.

An all-too familiar sensation–that breath-sucking, plummeting roller coaster feeling–I’m thinking he’s been fired, in a car wreck, diagnosed with cancer, six months to live . . . But, no, it wasn’t as simple as that.

He told me he was leaving in a few days for a vacation. With a man. Leaving with a man. Crossing state lines from Louisiana to Mexico to share sun, sand, and sheets with a person of the same sex.

My universe shifted.

He came out of the closet, and I went into it. For perhaps only the second time in my life, I was mute. Not even sputtering, not even spewing senseless syllables. Speechless.

“Caryn, are you still there?”

No. I’m not still here. I’m miles away and I’m stomping my feet and holding my breath in front of the God Who Makes All Monsters Disappear.

I think I hear God. He’s telling me I’m the monster.

Wisps of sounds. They belonged to David. “Did you hear what I said? That I’m going away?”

I hung up. I didn’t ask “Why?” because he’d tell me the truth my heart already knew.

“What did Uncle David want?” Ben asked.

I spun around and made eye contact with my unsuspecting innocent. “Get that bacon off your finger right now, mister. Wash your hands, and go do whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing.”

He shoved the bacon in his mouth, his face the solemn reflection of my emotional slap. From the den television, the Nickelodeon Gummy Bears filled the stillness with their

“. . . bouncing here, there, and everrrrrywherre . . .” song.

“And turn that television off on the way back to your room.”

“Okay, Mom,” said Ben, his words a white flag of surrender as he left the room.

Now what? I decided to abandon the vacuuming. Really, was I supposed to fret about Multi-Grain Wheat Thin crumbs and popcorn seeds when my only sibling was leaving for Mexico with another man?

The phone rang. Again.

“You hung up on me,” David said.

“I don’t know what to say.” I opened the refrigerator. The burp of stale air cooled my face as I stalked the shelves of meals past and future. I’d find solace in one of those containers. Maybe more than one. I’d solace myself until the voice on the phone went away.

David reminded me there were alternatives to hanging up.

Alternatives? You want to talk alternatives? How about I’m hung up on your alternative lifestyle?

Between the sour cream and a stalk of tired celery, I found an abandoned crusty cinnamon roll in a ball of crinkled foil. I unwrapped it and plowed my finger through the glop of shiny, pasty icing smeared inside and said, “But you and Lori just finished wallpapering your bathroom. You remember her, right? Your fiancĂ©?”

“Lori knows,” he said.

I grabbed the two fudge brownies with cavities where Ben already picked out the walnuts.

“Uh huh.” I fought the urge to hang up again.

“Is that all you’re going to say?”

No, that wasn’t all I could say. I was going to say I was ever so sorry for answering the phone. I wanted to say that I hate you. I wanted to say that of all that things you could have been, gay was not what I would’ve chosen. I wanted to say that I didn’t want to imagine you in bed with another man. I didn’t want to know that what we had in common was that we both slept with men. I wanted to say that if our mother hadn’t already died of cancer, she would’ve keeled over with this news.

“Lori and I are working this out,” he said.

I fumbled for words like keys in the black hole of my purse. My brain rummaged for syllables and sounds, buried under a clever adage, a witty phrase. But all I could choke out was an “Oh.”

“Don’t you even want to know who I’m going with?” He sounded small, like he was the one being left behind.

“No.”

Then, with a level of intimacy I reserved for nighttime marketers of exterior siding, I told him good-bye.

I walked to where I’d left the vacuum handle propped against the den wall, flipped the switch, and pushed the vacuum back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. I pictured the unwary bugs caught in the vortex. I knew just how they felt. I’d been in this wind tunnel before . . . when Harrison died and without my permission.

Sometimes husbands could be so maddening.

And, once again, Harrison, where are you when I need you? Who am I supposed to talk to about this? Not Ben. Not my father. Don’t give me that condescending “life isn’t fair” mantra. You’re right. It’s not.

I yanked the cord out of the wall, pressed the button that zipped it into the belly of the beast and steered the machine toward Ben’s room.

My almost seven-year-old sat on the floor of his bedroom tying his navy Sketchers when he saw me at the door. “Hey, Mom. I washed my hands.” He held them up, wiggled them in front of his face as proof. “See?”

“Where are your socks, Ben?”

Harrison again. Caryn, the world’s not going to stop spinning because the kid’s not wearing socks.

Ben doubled the knot, pulled the laces, and looked up at me. His sprinkle of freckles and his cleft chin, totally stolen from his dad, weakened me. How could there be anything wrong in the universe when his precious face slips into that soft spot in my heart?

“I couldn’t find two socks that matched. Besides,” he stood and stomped his sneakers on the floor, “these are almost too small. My feet get all squinchy when I’m wearing socks.” He pulled the elastic band on his basketball shorts up past his waist. We both knew the shorts would slide right back down in minutes. A battle he always lost. “So, can I go play Wii with Nick now?”

My only child wore shoes that crushed his toes. How did I miss that? “Why didn’t you tell me your shoes were too small?”

“No big deal, Mom. Anyway, remember you said we’d go shopping with Uncle David before school started.” Ben grabbed his frayed purple L.S.U. cap off his desk lamp. “Can I go now?”

“Sure. Just be home for lunch.” I hugged him, and when I felt his arms lock around my waist, I wondered how I still deserved him.

I must have latched on a bit too long because he started to squirm away. “Mom. You okay?” Ben stepped out of my arms, turned his baseball cap backward over his sand-colored hair, raised his arms, plopped his hands on the top of his cap, and waited.

“Of course,” I said, tweaking his nose, hoping he heard the lie in my voice and didn’t see the truth in my eyes. “Plug that cord in for me on your way out, okay?”

“Got it. See ya.” The front door slammed. It opened again. “Oops, sorry about that,” he called out, and then the door closed solidly.

Well, Harrison. Door closing. That’s one lesson learned.

I moved Ben’s lamp to the back of his desk and straightened the framed picture that the lamp had slid into when he’d grabbed his hat. Bacchus, his first Mardi Gras parade captured in the photograph. I’d always called it the “man” picture. Ben’s crescent moon smile as Harrison hoisted him on his shoulders, my father and David flanking Harrison, both grinning at Ben and not the camera.

One man already gone. Now David. At least the David I thought I knew. Wasn’t that the David that just last week sat next to me in church? The church he’d invited me to for the first time a month ago? How could he have done that? He’s certifiably crazy if he thinks I’m going to church tomorrow. That’s not going to happen.

I mashed the vacuum cleaner switch on and returned to the sucking up of dirt. It seemed all too appropriate for my life.




You can purchase The Edge of Grace from Amazon.

Christa is giving away a copy of The Edge of Grace. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

16 comments:

karenk said...

thanks for the chance to read christa's latest novel :)

karenk
kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Lynda Schab said...

Christa is such a talented author! Walking on Broken Glass was so incredibly wonderful and I cannot wait to read The Edge of Grace. :-)

Judy said...

I am looking forward to reading this book. I want to read about all the reactions the characters go through, to see if mine and my family's were normal. You see, my Brother left his family when he announced he was gay. You can't even imagine the shock my Sister-in-law went through, let alone my Niece and Nephew.

Thank you for this giveaway.

Blessings,
Judy

apple blossom said...

love to be entered thanks

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

Mona said...

Thanks for the giveaway. I would love to read this b/c I often wonder how my own family members would react to news like this.

monagargATyahooDOTcom

Joanne Sher said...

This sounds FABULOUS - and Christa is such a wonderful lady. Please enter me.

Linda said...

You have me hook, line, and sinker! Please enter me! What a read--so many 'whys' and she hung up! Of course, I'm assuming just like she is.

desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Linda Kish said...

I would love to win a copy of this book.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

lgm52 said...

sounds intent...I'd love to read it!
lgm52@hotmail.com

ann said...

Sounds like a great reader for me. Enter me into the giveaway

amhengstATverizonDOTnet

Marianne said...

i love to read books that are rather different and this one sounds great. Thanks for the post and giveaway, Esther and Christa. mitzi_wanham[at]yahoo[dot]com from Peace River Country, Alberta

Jo said...

Christa is a new author to me but definitely one that I want to check out. This book sounds very interesting.

Blessings,
Jo
ladijo40(at)aol(dot)com

Emma said...

"The Edge of Grace" sounds like a great book.Please enter me in the giveaway.Thanks for the giveaway. augustlily06(at)aim(dot)com

christa said...

Thanks to everyone for your kind comments! Sorry it took me so long to get here, but I've been writing frantically to meet a new deadline!

This novel is one close to my heart. I pray it is one you enjoy.

Melinda said...

Love Christa Allan's writing... "Walking on Broken Glass" was an incredible read! Can't wait to check out "The Edge of Grace". Thanks for the opportunity!

Meredith said...

Great excerpt! I'd love to read the rest!

meredithfl at gmail dot com

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