In a few days from now I’ll be releasing my new book “A Mouth Full of Ashes” and I’d like to share with you how this story came about.
A couple of years or so ago, I came upon a news story that grabbed my attention in a way that many others don’t. It involved a murder, but of course we read about murder, death, and all manner of tragic events on a daily basis. We read them, lament them, and then move on. This one, however, had a different angle to it that gripped my imagination.
In a small town somewhere in the Midwest (I believe) a young pastor was delivering his Sunday sermon to his congregation. A young man with no associations to either the town or the pastor drove into town that morning, walked into the church and shot the pastor dead in the middle of his sermon. It was one of those inexplicable, mindless, random and tragic events that defy reason. The pastor was married and had two young girls who would now grow up without a father.
Fast forward just a week or two later (if that) and the pastor’s widow (and this is where it got interesting to me) is on one of the major networks telling Diane Sawyer or someone like that about how she’s forgiven her husband’s killer and feels absolutely no ill will towards him. She kept insisting that God would forgive him and so she would, too, and hoped that he knew that and wasn’t suffering too much for what he’d done. Her tone was kind, calm and very, very giving.
Now, I consider myself a pretty kind and forgiving person, but this struck me as just a bit too much. I was quite taken aback at how a woman who just had her husband shot dead in cold blood, her children just denied a life with their father in it, could turn around and be so magnanimous. In her shoes, I knew I couldn’t. Then, just at the very end of the interview, she was asked if perhaps not enough time had passed since the tragedy and that maybe she hadn’t been able to process her grief properly yet. To my surprise, this woman who had been so insistent and sure of her forgiveness suddenly revealed a little glimpse behind what was now clearly a defense shield, and admitted that, yes, she probably hadn’t had enough time and that there were likely to be difficult times on the road ahead.
This reaction of hers got me to thinking – what if something happened to someone’s child and one of the parents reacted in this way and the other didn’t? How could they survive together? Could they? Would they not only lose their child, but then lose each other as well? Is there a limit to forgiveness? All of these questions gave rise to what is now “A Mouth Full of Ashes”.
In my story, a young college student has been brutally raped and murdered. Her parents are left to process their grief and come to terms with the horror that has visited their lives. The ways in which they do it, though, couldn’t be more different. The husband makes a point of publically forgiving his daughter’s murderer, while his wife has withdrawn into a deadened world of suppressed rage and bitterness that has left her incapable of seeing beyond the terrible tragedy that befell her daughter.
At this most difficult moment in their lives, a wedge has been driven between them, threatening to destroy the only thing they have left - each other. On this explosive evening of final reckoning, as home truths and simmering resentments are laid bare, each will learn painful, often brutal lessons on love, hate, and the elliptical nature of forgiveness.
I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy and letting me know what you think of it when it’s released. It’s a short novella in length and should be available this coming Sunday, April 29th or Monday, April 30th. I’ll be sure to let you know!