You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today's Wild Card author is:
and the book:
Word Alive Press (November 2, 2009)
***Special thanks to Lynn Dove for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Lynn Dove calls herself a Christ-follower, a wife, a mom, a grandmother, a teacher and a writer (in that order). Her debut novel, Shoot the Wounded , written for teens and young adults, was published in November 2009. Shoot the Wounded was a finalist in the 2010 Readers Favorite Book Awards. The second book in the “Wounded Trilogy“, Heal the Wounded was released on Oct. 18, 2010 and it won the Bronze Medal in the Young Adult – Coming of Age category in the 2011 Readers Favorite Book Awards. Love the Wounded, the final book in the trilogy is scheduled for release the summer of 2012.
Lynn’s personal blog, “Journey Thoughts” was the 2011 Winner of a Canadian Christian Writing Award in the blog series category. The Journey Thoughts blog is slightly quirky, sometimes off-beat, and inspirational to all readers. She also has a blog called "Word Salt" that is specifically for author interviews, writer’s tips, and book reviews for those called by God to write, and for those who love to read the Word.
Visit the author's website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
Shoot the Wounded, the first book in the "Wounded Trilogy" written for youth and young adults, addresses how lies and gossip destroy a person’s spirit. It speaks to the heart of relevant themes such as bullying, teen pregnancy and family violence all the while pointing the characters and ultimately the reader, to hope in Jesus Christ.
SHOOT THE WOUNDED is a contemporary Christian novel that deals with relevant social issues such as teen pregnancy and family violence. Set in the small fictional town of Maplewood, in southern Alberta, best friends Leigh and Ronnie find their friendship and faith challenged when Jake, a good looking Christian boy, moves into their neighborhood. Leigh is especially delighted that Jake is paying more attention to her than any other girl at school or church, but what she does not know is that despite his bold declaration of being a follower of Christ, he's carrying a dark secret from his past that has the potential to destroy his integrity and have his friends question the legitimacy of his faith.
List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Word Alive Press (November 2, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
“The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”
Leigh stared at the wild, varied assortment of flowers: marigolds, sunflowers, chrysanthemums, lilies, and roses. All of Ronnie’s favourite flowers spread out in a wild assortment of mixed bouquets all across the front of the church sanctuary. It may have been an attempt by someone to cheerily try to camouflage the cherry wood casket, but it was a bleak attempt at best. The church’s stained glass windows reflected beams of rainbow light through the flowers’ petals that further served to enhance the already impressive array of colour, but eyes were constantly drawn to the coffin more so than the flowers surrounding it. Ronnie would have liked the flowers, may even appreciated the deep, polished beauty of the casket’s wood, Leigh thought to herself, but not so the mournful groans of the old church organ played with sad conviction by Ronnie’s aged Aunt Edna.
The sanctuary was filled with family and friends, some openly weeping, others talking barely above a whisper. Hanging in the air was a feeling of sombre solemnity that dared not be interrupted by small talk. Leigh heard a giggle from somewhere in the back and, contrasted with the muted tones, her anger bristled against whoever had the audacity to think this occasion funny. She felt her mother touch her hand, and looked up to see her mother’s soft brown eyes damp with unshed tears.
Mom hurts for me, not Ronnie, Leigh thought. She doesn’t completely understand, but that doesn’t matter. I’m glad she’s here. Leigh squeezed her mother’s hand gratefully. Seated next to her mother was her father, stoic and protective in his blue business suit. Leigh wouldn’t even try to guess what he was thinking. He sat with his eyes focused ahead, his jaw firmly set and the little vein in his temple pulsing as it always did when he appeared upset.
Leigh had tried to approach her father and put into perspective the past actions of her best friend, Ronnie, but her father wouldn’t listen. “Don’t make excuses for her, Leigh. The past is past,” he said. “She had a future. How could this have happened?” He had shaken his head and fumed behind his dark eyes and expression all night. He couldn’t possibly understand why Ronnie had done the things she did. She didn’t even understand it all and Ronnie was… had… been her best friend!
There sat Ronnie’s parents at the front of the church. Mr. Webber’s hand hung limply over his wife’s shoulders and Mrs. Webber was weeping, her head bowed in prayer and misery. Ronnie’s two younger brothers were huddled together beside their dad, both quiet and subdued. And there sat Jake with his parents. He looked over at Leigh and smiled weakly at her. He was trying to get her attention, trying to make up for all the weeks they had been silent to one another. Leigh quickly looked away. She couldn’t bear to see his face. After all, he was partly to blame for this.
Her attention was drawn to the pulpit where the youth pastor, Scott Robinson, now stood. A young man in his late twenties, tall and handsome, with a heart for the young people in his congregation, he had been asked by the family to lead the service. Never in his experience had he spoken at a funeral before. He was nervous, especially under these tragic circumstances with the death of one so young, and a member of his youth group. He wanted the words he said to comfort, to focus attention not on the tragedy, but on God, Who was supposedly in control of all things, even in the midst of sorrow and heartache. Scott cleared his throat nervously and spoke to the people gathered.
“‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul…’” Scott led the congregation, reciting the Twenty-Third Psalm,“‘…surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.’”
Scott cleared his throat nervously a second time. “We are here to remember and celebrate the life that was Veronica Marie Webber. Ronnie, as she was known to all her friends and family, grew up in this community. She came to know the Lord at a youth rally when she was twelve and was an active member of our youth group. She served in our children’s ministries and was on the volleyball team at school. She loved music, swimming, camping, and she loved all of you here in this room.” He paused. Leigh squirmed uncomfortably in her chair.
The youth pastor faced the congregation and saw the faces of pain and grief on the family members. They had been through so much this past week—actually, these past several months. Asking God for courage to speak boldly, he sighed and continued. He glanced through the crowd of mourners and his eyes settled on Leigh’s face. He was well aware that the two girls had been close for years. Looking directly at her, he spoke with conviction.
“I know Veronica… Ronnie, loved all of you. She had a zest, a love of life that knew no boundaries. She made mistakes, true, but that did not negate the fact that she knew her friends and family supported her, encouraged her, and believed in her. Perhaps that is why we all ask ourselves today how it is we may have failed her at a time when she needed us the most. There are so many whys. God never promised that every question we asked would be answered. Some of us may even feel angry with God for allowing this to have happened…” He saw a slight nod of affirmation from Leigh, but continued, “Psalm 91 says that he who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Ronnie is resting with God now…” And his voice broke with emotion.
Leigh did not hear more. She was aware of Scott referring back to different passages of scripture as he eulogized her friend. One of Ronnie’s uncles, a cousin, and one of the church’s deacons followed, sharing little snippets of stories they remembered of Ronnie’s childhood and teen years. Leigh didn’t recall the words, nor did she much care what was said. Only immediately following the service when Jake tried to stop her in the church foyer to give her a hug did she react with venom.
“Don’t, Jake!” she hissed. He stepped back in surprise. “You can’t make me feel better. You did this to her! I don’t want anything to do with you, ever!” With that, Leigh pushed away from him, leaving him bewildered and hurt.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” Cindy said the next day.
Leigh’s group of friends had circled around her at school. Short, with chestnut-coloured hair, Cindy was the pragmatic one. She tried to find reason to all things. She tried to find a solution when none existed. She also tried to rely on herself for all the answers. Tina was the crier. Stout, with long hay-coloured hair, overly-sensitive, Tina was emotional to a fault. She wept in happiness and in despair. Auburn-haired, with dark hazel eyes and a creamy flawless complexion, Janelle was unforgiving. She held grudges the longest, and spent days in moodiness. Of all of Leigh’s friends, Leigh wondered why she even associated with Janelle. Some days Janelle was so unlikeble. Corey was the clown. Tall, gangly, with short, bleached-blonde streaks in her already lightened blonde hair, Corey tried to make light of everything. Sometimes it was therapeutic to have her as comic relief; sometimes she chose comedy inappropriately to relieve the tension. Today was such a day.
“Well, at least now I don’t have to pay Ronnie the twenty bucks I owed her.” Corey said without thinking.
“What?” The other girls reacted with disbelief.
“How could you say that?” Tina wailed and slapped Corey soundly on her arm. “You are heartless!”
Leigh walked away in disgust.
The remaining crowded around Corey, reprimanding her viciously for her insensitivity. Leigh knew it would do no good. Some kids would continue to say and do things over the next several weeks that would be totally inappropriate. Leigh knew that many of her friends couldn’t express grief, some honestly didn’t care, and others would just choose to forget or move on with life in an effort to pretend it had never happened. Leigh wasn’t sure which category she would eventually fall into. At present, she just felt angry and numb. She despised the fact that rumours were running rampant, everyone speculating, trying to piece together the puzzle on their own to determine what exactly had happened to Ronnie. Truth was not part of the equation, it seemed, just sensationalism and gossip. It made Leigh even angrier.
What bothered Leigh more than anything else was the feeling of unconnectedness with her friends, her family, her church, and God. She couldn’t remember a time when she had felt so alone. No one, not one person, seemed to understand the torment she was going through. She knew that she should pray, she knew she could journal her thoughts, and maybe feel a sense of release doing that, but there was such weariness in the idea. She couldn’t face it right now. Then, of course, there was Jake. How could she love him and hate him at the same time? She fumbled with the lock on her locker. The numbers blurred before her and her books tumbled with a loud splat on the floor at her feet. She cursed and immediately looked up with guilt. Swearing was considered inappropriate in her church circles.
“Crap!” she raged. I can’t even act like a normal human being! I want to swear! I want to yell and scream and kick in this… She stopped herself from using an expletive about her locker. That wasn’t the answer, either. She couldn’t just drop sixteen years of upbringing and forego all that she had been taught just to satisfy a need to vent her anger. There had to be a better way.
Janelle handed her a math book she had dropped, and bent to pick up the remaining books at Leigh’s feet.
“Corey is an idiot,” she calmly stated. “Don’t let her bug you.”
“I don’t know what’s the matter with me,” Leigh confided. She leaned wearily against the locker and gratefully allowed Janelle to retrieve all the books. “I’m not sure about anything anymore. I was so angry with Ronnie. I was yelling at her for getting herself in trouble. I wasn’t her friend; I didn’t do anything that showed to her that I was her best friend. I let her down.” Janelle put an arm around Leigh. “I had no idea that Ronnie was so messed up. I was mad at her. I don’t even know why I was mad at her. I mean, the only person she was hurting was herself, yet I was mad at her because somehow or another knowing she had messed up was hurting me!”
Janelle walked with Leigh to their homeroom. “Too bad Ronnie didn’t listen to you months ago. Seems to me, this is all her doing. You have nothing to feel guilty about.”
Leigh did not feel encouraged in any way as she entered the class. The seat up front that would have been Ronnie’s was so obviously vacant that she had to choke back a sob as she passed it. The whole day passed like a great heaviness was weighing on her. If someone had asked her what the teachers had said or what homework assignments were due, she wouldn’t have been able to respond. She sat on the bus alone, ever mindful of the seat across the aisle, Ronnie’s seat… vacant…just like the one in homeroom, and in English class, and the chair in Science right next to hers. This was supposed to have been the year for new beginnings and to put all their past mistakes behind them.
“Ronnie, how could you do this to me?” Leigh dropped her head into her hands and wept.
Copyright © 2009 Lynn Dove
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without prior permission from the publisher. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.