Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Blackberry Bush by David Housholder

Two babies were born on Nov. 9, 1989, Kati in Bonn and Josh in California. The Berlin Wall was crumbling. Fourteen years later the two are on flights at the same time, flying in opposite directions, switching continents.
Kati is not beautiful like her favored older sister. She doesn't have perfect hair. She's skinny and looks like an awkward boy.
Josh doesn't fit into his family. He cannot live up to his father's expectations. “...[I]t's impossible to please the judges in life. Eventually everyone eliminates you. How can I check out of this game and still stay involved in life?” (139)
Though they have common roots, their lives do not cross paths until they are both twenty one. Then everything changes. Kati knows, “...for the first time in my life, my world has shifted into if I've been walking tilted, and now I'm standing straight.” (152) And Josh realizes, “Only by abandoning all attempts to meet others' expectations can you truly hear the voice of the Spirit and be freed to pursue what God would have you uniquely do.” (167)

This is a haunting book, portraying the physical world as it overlaps the dream world and the world of visions and truth.  In some ways the story seems so simple. In other ways it is so deep I wonder how many times I'd need to read it to mine its depths.

Interwoven through the narrative is the “backstory”, the lives gone before that make us who we are today.
Another main theme is the blackberry bushes seen in each of their hometowns, at her school and at his surfing beach. Housholder says the bushes take over, just like darker parts of human behavior. They represent the thorny thicket that entangles us when face impossible demands.
My favorite theme is balance. Josh's had a favorite painting given to him by his Oma – Vermeer's Vrouw met Weegschaal (Woman with Balance). He feels balanced when he is smooth on his skateboard. Kati feels balanced when she is working with her Opa's tools. A nation lost its balance on 9/11/2011.
A Christian theme runs throughout the story as imperfect characters come to grips with their spiritual heritage and express their own faith.
Another issue Housholder addresses is the teen cultures of today. Josh is part of the sports culture, outdoor oriented, and more conservative. Kati is part of the “scene” culture, with tattoos and studs.

The discussion questions (provided on two levels) help readers pursue important topics posed in this literary work. A couple include: Does everything happen by chance or your life have a bigger plan? How has the tapestry of our past influenced who we are and will become?

It is hard to explain this novel. It is beautifully written. It lingers in the mind. It makes you want to think about your dreams and your parents' dreams. It stimulates your faith that God has a plan. He has been working in your life and will yet work more. You just need to read it.

I received a copy of this book from The B&B Media Group on behalf of the publisher for the purpose of this review.
David Housholder's blog:

Summerside Press, 208 pages.

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