Treha Langsam is a mysterious young woman who has fallen through the cracks, much like many of the elderly people she works with at Desert Gardens Retirement Home. But Miriam Howard, director of the facility, sees her extraordinary gift and untapped potential. Treha is a whisperer of sorts, calling those who have slipped into dementia back to a life of vibrant, if only temporary, clarity.
When Treha's and Miriam's stories intertwine with a documentary team looking for stories of the elderly, Treha's gift is uncovered, and the search begins for answers to the mysteries of her past. As their paths converge, each person is forced to face the same difficult question: What if this is as good as my life gets?
"You live your whole life collecting things
that collect dust. And then you realize
you're collecting dust too." - Elsie
This is a difficult review to write because it will be hard for me to do justice to this wonderful novel. The engaging writing style held my interest from the beginning and the themes are both vital and compelling. I wish there were more novels like this in the Christian fiction genre.
The story revolves around an unusual character named Treha (Tray-uh), a young girl with a tender heart who struggles to connect with people. Treha's gift is the ability to reach inside older people who are suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s and pull them back - a gift "to help flowers bloom, to free chained minds. But the girl herself remained closed tight like a desert rose in the winter." The book's cover beautifully depicts Treha's character and struggles.
Other characters play strong parts, such as Miriam Howard, director of Desert Gardens in Tucson, Arizona where Treha works. Miriam has a genuine compassion and ability at working with people to make Desert Gardens remind them of their home. Forced into early retirement, Miriam's replacement is Jillian Millstone, who is "able to catalog every duty for the job except compassion."
One of the book's main themes, "the power of story," can't help but resonate with everyone who reads it. Devin Hillis and his partner, Jonah, are given permission to interview some of the residents at Desert Gardens for a documentary they are producing. In Devin's words, "I'm a big believer in the power of stories. Individual and collective. We were capturing people at Desert Gardens rehearsing their lives, showing how one person's story touches another and how it feeds the rest of us, makes us better. Instead of discounting those on the margins, those our society says aren't important, we need to celebrate their stories. Ask more questions. Learn and grow and honor them."
"You know what your sister had for dinner
last night because she put it on Facebook.
But you don't know your sister." - Devin Hillis
I appreciate a book that makes me think, and a Desert Gardens resident named Elsie did exactly that. I've always thought of 1 Corinthians 10:13 as giving the assurance that God doesn't place upon us more than we are capable of withstanding. But I love how Elsie takes it a step further when she says, "He does give us more than we can handle. He lets us go through deeper waters so that we cling to him; that's the whole point of having faith. If we could handle everything, there would be no reason for us to need God."
Treha talks about how people crave touch, and she always reached out to touch a hand, arm, shoulder, or gently rub a back. And she also listened. I have often visited nursing homes and am ashamed to realize I haven't been very good in these areas. Treha's actions and attitude are something I will always remember.
The theme of valuing people because of the lives they've lived is so relevant and compelling for today. Discussion questions at the end are very thought provoking.
Every Waking Moment will definitely go on my list of 2013 favorites. There is so much opportunity for further development of characters and storylines that I really hope Chris will write a sequel. It was a pleasure to discover the writing of Chris Fabry and I highly recommend this book to all readers.
Get to know more about Chris and his books by visiting his website at chrisfabry.com. More information about Chris and Every Waking Moment can be found in my next post.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.