Friday, April 22, 2011

Review of Dancing on Glass
by Pamela Binnings Ewen

Back Cover Blurb:

In the steamy city of New Orleans in 1974, Amalise Catoir sees Phillip Sharp as a charming, magnetic artist, unlike any man she has known. A young lawyer herself, raised in a small town and on the brink of a career with a large firm, she is strong and successful, yet sometimes too trusting and whimsical. Ama's rash decision to marry Phillip proves to be a mistake as he becomes overly possessive, drawing his wife away from family, friends, and her faith. His insidious, dangerous behavior becomes her dark, inescapable secret.
In this lawyer's unraveling world, can grace survive Ama's fatal choice? What would you do when prayers seem to go unanswered, faith has slipped away, evil stalks, and you feel yourself forever dancing on shattered glass?
My Take:
Ewen is a new author to me, but Dancing on Glass was one of the best books I've read this year. Her command of drawing you right into the setting, her ability to get the reader inside the characters was excellent. Loved the book.

My initial or premere reaction was to scream silently, NO, Amalise, don't trust Philip. Can't you see what he is?

But that's what set the book apart. The reader knows, or at least I know, that manipulative abuse happens, and the abused subject can't see or accept that it can or could happen to her/him. They assume their abuser can be changed with their help, or if they handle a situation/person differently, or they were a better person/better housekeeper, better whatever. Frightening, but real. And without serious help the abuser can't and won't stop the abuse.

The setting was fantastic. New Orleans is a mystical type of place with a variety of peoples and objects that bring it alive. Artists and lawyers, river boat pilots and professors, restaurants and food, city life teeming with evil and peaceful country life. City life with possibilities like muggers or worse, country life with dangers like quicksand and swamps. Courtyards with a handful of greenlife; wild open places with free spirits like the Egrets. Ewen brought in touches of it all.

Smart and determined to succeed at the career she and her mother chose, Amalise Catoir is the least character the reader would choose to be abused. Who could know, least of all a trusting nature and caring spirit like Amalise's, that those same traits would lead her down a path of no return?

An unexpected stop at an artist’s show, a sweet spirit that only wants to help, but is easily led by a charismatic, dominating personality is a scary scenario. The plot thickened with every chapter, drawing Amalise closer and closer to Philip, her quagmire of eventual despair. At the last, you’re left to wonder if Amalise would really have been strong enough to break from him, if events, prayers, and God had intervened.

Ewen’s secondary characters were strong, sympathetic ones.

I adored Jude, his strength, his openness, his love for Amalise even when he saw and couldn’t stop the mistakes he knew she was making, his constancy. He was a stronghold for Amalise when she didn’t realize or want it. And what a contrast to Philip with his subtle, and sometimes not so subtle demands. Jude, on the other hand, was a giver. Intelligent in understanding, far-sighted in realizing possibilities. A man to be treasured.

Amalise’s parents were real characters, real parents, in the book too. They loved their daughter, prayed and rooted for her even when they didn’t understand her actions. Lovable people.

And even Gina, the restaurant owner, so understanding and caring though she had her irritable side at Amalise’s constant tardiness, was a person easily visible. My sympathy aroused at the discerning poor street artist who deserved to be recognized.
This is a story of what happens when trust is placed in humanity instead of God. No matter how much we call out to God, if we don’t listen to his answers, it avails nothing. New friends are great, but when old, tried and true friends advise caution, we’d best take heed. When troubled loved ones worry over our sudden changes or lack of communication, God is using them as a warning sign.
If you want a book that alerts you to a very real danger of our present generation, a story that stirs you to your depths, and yes, maybe makes you a little uncomfortable, then Dancing on Glass is the next book your want to pick up. I wasn’t disappointed. You won’t be either.


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