Format: Short Story (41 pages)
Series: 7&7 Anthology
Publisher: DSP Publications (May 2016)
Bonus: Free on publisher’s site
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
DSP Publication’s anthology covers 7 virtues and 7 vices, and the theme of A. R. Durreson’s short story is the virtue of faith. The focus is a bereaved, isolated, and disenchanted priest who lost his belief while grieving for the death of his husband of thirty years. He interacts with a wide range of interesting characters who each face their own crises, in a pre-modern setting touched with just enough supernatural flavor to classify this as Fantasy.
The first two thirds of this brief piece enchanted me, quickly establishing an interesting setting, identifying with a saddened and sympathetic protagonist, and introducing an interesting group of supporting characters. In such a brief story, there was a nice range of personalities, each with a personal story quickly but convincingly and lovingly shared in a brief but tantalizing manner.
The setting, prose, plot, and personalities whetted my appetite, and I personally would be interested in reading more about the priest coming to terms with the passing of his husband, the abandoned poet, the couple seeking their missing third mate, the magically touched sellsword, the skeptical scientists, and the elder cleric and his devoted, liberated followers. I imagine most readers would find the ending perhaps a bit surprising and certainly uplifting and rewarding.
Since this a personal, amateur review written as a hobby as much for personal reflection as anything else, I’m going to add some personal comments:
Unfortunately this was not the perfect story for me. I certainly identified with the scientists and the formerly fervent but now disenchanted, unbelieving priest. The exploration of the beautiful bounty of faith was placed into delicate and caring spiritual terms. The genuine love and faith of the religious is a comfort to most, but the gentle care and fervent belief hit too close to home for me. My extraordinarily religious family practices a similar, deep-seated faith touched by grace and love. For intellectual and emotional reasons, I have moved firmly away from religious faith, keeping a hardened distance while still respecting those who believe in such a divine, truly evangelical (i.e. loving, not judging) manner. For that reason, the beautiful, uplifting, and not particularly religious but definitely faith-centered ending did not resonate quite so much for me personally.
On a contrary note, I want to express my appreciation for the author’s generally very positive portrayal of faith. As far as I have personally distanced myself from theistic belief, the vast majority of religious people I have known are much more full of love than judgment or condemnation, even those who belong to groups that condemn LGBTQ sexual intimacy. It’s nice to see at least an occasional LGBT-friendly story that doesn’t use religion as a stereotypical and basically evil foil (although I know there are plenty of those harshly judgmental and damaging religious folk out there).
Overall, I enjoyed the author’s setting and characters, and I was also moved by the expressions of faith, caring and love, so I am interested in reading more of her works.