REVIVIAL SEASON book review
Revival Season - While Revival Season by Monica West is a quick read, it is not necessarily an easy read. That is not to say it isn’t a well-executed, contemporary debut novel, because it is, but the subject matter about an abusive Southern Baptist preacher, is intense and heart-wrenching at times. The story’s main character, 15-year-old Miriam is the daughter of one of the South’s most prominent Black evangelists. As such, at the start of every summer, she and her family load up the family car and spend several weeks on the road, going from church to church for her father’s healing services. During this one fateful summer, Miriam sees her passionate preacher father in a different light as she observes his temper targeted towards not only herself and her mother, but congregants. Maybe even doubling vexing is hearing her father accused of abusing a young girl.
During that same revival season, Miriam learns that she may actually have the gift of healing her father may only be faking. Out of fear of her father’s jealousy, as well as his staunch belief that women cannot heal or have leadership positions in the church, she uses her “gift” sparingly and on the down low. With all the tumult of this particular season, Miriam’s belief in her father and religion is shaken to its core.
Every few minutes, I caught Ma shooting glances at Papa. De he at all resemble the man she had married sixteen years ago? The way the story went, she was seventeen. When a. cocky, twenty-year-old boxer turned preacher came to her town as the Faith Healer of Midland. She gave her life to Jesus on the spot and married Papa six weeks later. We had lived under the canopy of that belief my whole life, eating and drinking faith in God first and Papa second, never questioning Papa’s healing abilities, the same way we never questioned the existence of the sun, even when it was hidden behind clouds. Our belief left no directives about what to do if our faith in Papa faltered.
The story of Revival Season is simple, yet somewhat unique in its exploration of a young girl’s faith in the face of an abusive father and a life-altering decision. It is both interesting and laudable that although a Black family is at the center of this story, race and racism are not. It is themes of man versus religion, and women versus a dominant man that is universal that West chooses to navigate. As a writer, her style is pared down and straight forward, maybe at first glance, even a bit underwhelming, with little to no lush, lyrical or memorable lines, per se. There is no especially strong sense of place although the spaces the family inhabits are screaming for atmospheric descriptions. That said, with a debut such as this, West undeniably shows signs of an emerging talent to keep an eye on.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
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