24 May 2013

Indie Review: Crucible Heart by Diana Symons

Jenna’s college days ended before they even began when she ran over a small boy while texting and driving—a mistake that put her in prison for two years. She’s now living in downtown San Francisco and trying to build a life as an ex-convict and murderer, but she is still in a prison of sorts, this one a prison of guilt, nightmares and headaches.

Jenna is sitting in the park one day when a handsome young man sits beside her and tells her Jesus can heal her hurts. Her first thought is that he is crazy, but he keeps showing up and one day, after yet another setback, she decides to listen, becomes a born-again Christian, and sees her life start to change. She finds God is real, and not only is He willing to forgive and heal her, but He has plans to use her to reach those around her.

Crucible Heart isn’t a typical Christian romance. It’s edgy, with real characters who are feel like fallen people with genuine faults—even Jess. They face temptations, have arguments, do stupid things and feel guilty, just like real people. They aren’t the cookie-cutter Christians speaking in Bible verses all the time. Even when they do quote Bible verses it feels real, as though they are genuine discoveries made by the characters. It’s exciting to watch them grow in faith, and I guess that sense of reality and exuberance is why I rate it so highly. Yes, there are a few too many adverbs and run-on sentences, but the story is so real that they are hardly noticeable.

One issue is that the whole falling in love thing happened very quickly and they seems to spend more time apart than together. I also question the wisdom in pursuing a relationship with such a new Christian. And while I like the immediacy of the first-person narrator, the weakness is that we only ever see the story from one character’s viewpoint. There were times when I would have liked Jess's point of view.

At the end, the author talks about melting gold in a crucible: “The gold technician knows when the gold has reached its peak of purification when he can see his face reflected in it. Pure, molten gold is nearly clear. When our hearts are purified by God’s grace, he can see himself in us”. That’s a lovely image, and I think Jenna’s story brings it through well. Recommended for anyone who likes Christian fiction with a bit of edgy realism.

You can find out more about Diana Symons at her blog.

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