I've been to Texas at last, in fiction and in fact, though not to Defiance, Texas. Still, it's kind of appropriate that I was catching up on the first book of Mary DeMuth's Defiance Texas trilogy during my travels.
The third book in this trilogy has just come out. It's called Life in Defiance and it's a wonderful stand-alone book even if you haven't read the others. I feel like I'm qualified to make that claim since I read books two and three before book one. And it's probably a tribute to the author's wonderful writing that knowing the end of a mystery made me long to read the beginning.
But Life in Defiance isn't just a mystery. There's a missing girl and the question of what happened to her. There are strange events and strangers and growing threats. But over all there's the personal story of the narrator, Ouisie Pepper, bound to a man who wounds her in actions and words, determined to do whatever it takes to tame her defiant spirit and become, impossibly, the wife he'll love.
Ouisie looks for answers in all the wrong places, in self-help books, in drink, in determined self-denial, and in giving herself away for the sake of her children and her friends. The preachers tells of a woman's place. The self-help author preaches sweetness and light. And soon Ouisie's tying her hopes for change onto the flailing hope that the person who took the child might change and be forgiven. The trouble is, she thinks she knows who it is, and so she defies Defiance's need for closure by keeping quiet.
Mary DeMuth creates a town-full of convincing characters in this trilogy. Real people with real pasts and aches and pains, real strengths and real flaws. There are no cardboard cut-outs here, not even a cardboard God. There are people with achingly powerful wisdom to pour from cracked vessels into broken hearts. And there are truths hidden behind.
Mary's editor says Life in Defiance is her best book yet. I would agree that it's the best in this trilogy - the most powerful in its message to those who seek hope in the wrong directions and try to heal themselves; the most beautiful in its language and haunting images; the most satisfying in its conclusion. But the whole series is great, from the tale of young Jed who loses his best friend at age fourteen and blames himself, through the powerful promise of healing shot through with pain in the tale of Daisy's mother, through to Ouisie's hope and restoration.
I've posted reviews for all three books on Gather:
A Slow Burn, and
Life in Defiance,
so I hope maybe you'll follow the links, but most of all I hope you'll read the books and find a kind of faith portrayed that spans denominations, a hope that defies expectations, and a healing that's deeper than our deepest need.
I guess I should add that I'm an "influencer" for this book. Mary's letter to me started "I'm so thankful you've asked to be an influencer for Life in Defiance." So perhaps I should end, Dear Mary, I'm so thankful to be an influencer. I loved the book.