Publisher: Regal Crest Enterprises
In 1992 Simon & Schuster published She’s Come Undone, the brilliant and quirky coming of age debut novel by Wally Lamb. In it, we grow up and grow older with Delores, who spends her Wonder Years dealing with the debilitating and demoralizing effects of divorce, rape, and mental illness. However, when all hope is seemingly lost, and it looks like Life has gotten the last laugh, she finds that she really can have joy, love, and peace.
It was the first and only time I ever hurled a book across the room after finishing it. Well, until I finished Redemption, by debut author, DeJay.
Redemption is the story of architect and unintentional philanthropist, Mackenzie Taylor. Mac owns a successful business, has loving and supportive friends, and runs a philanthropic organization that brings joy, light, and healing to needy children and families every day. If you didn’t know her, you’d think Mac had it all.
The truth is, Mac lost it all.
Five years ago, Isabella, Mac’s wife and soul mate, and Bella, their three-year old daughter were kidnapped, brutally tortured, and murdered by Isabella’s sick and demented ex-husband.
Mac and Isabella tried to get a restraining order on the bastard, but Judge Williams, who just happens to be Mac's Foster Dad, denied it. Mac ordered a state-of-the-art security system for their home, but it hadn’t been installed yet. Mac had to leave that morning for a business meeting, and Isabella and Bella were locked safe and sound in the house, but they weren’t safe from Juan who had bloody retribution on his mind.
Mac unwittingly abandoned her family when they needed her the most, and there is no way she can move on with her life. She takes small solace in the work done by the Isabella and Bella Sanchez Woman’s Crisis Center and Team Bella, but the hole in her heart remains.
Quite by accident, she meets Emily and helps her to get her new bookstore up and running. Emily is the guardian of her two young grandchildren, whose mother was killed in a car accident less than a year ago. Mac is surprised and distressed when she starts to figure out that she has feelings for Emily – surprised because she hasn’t felt anything since she lost her own family, and distressed because she still considers herself married and fully committed to Isabella.
Still, Mac can’t turn away from the easy camaraderie and physical pull that Emily brings into her life. What doesn’t hurt is that Mac immediately falls in love with Emily’s grandkids, Kaitlin and Kylie. What does hurt is that Emily is straight and not interested.
Mac needs time and space to get some perspective, so she tries to pour all of her energy into her business pursuits, her time with Team Bella, and her work with the Crisis Center. But nothing is ever easy. Mac figures out that Emily’s deceased daughter’s ex girlfriend is a drunk, and physically and emotionally abusing the children, and putting them in harms way regularly.
Mac knows how to help. She wants to help. She needs to help.
It’s just hard to do the right thing after she crossed the barrier of propriety with Emily. Still, Emily sees things in Mac that she admires and needs in her life. But, before they can go any further with each other, they need to figure out for themselves how much they are able to give and take.
Okay, by now you’re probably about to chew a leg off wondering why I threw Redemption across the room when I finished it. Right?
When I read the synopsis, I knew this was going to be a heavy story. When I finished the Prologue, I was in tears and felt a bitter rage and crushing ache deep in my chest. As I read the story I understood the characters' feelings of loss and emptiness, and how they mask the desperation to make things right. When I finished the book, I was overcome with an unspeakable relief to know that these women could truly claim joy, love and peace in their lives once again.
And you threw the book, why?
Because I suffered and smiled with these characters for 233 pages, and just when we find out why the author titled this book Redemption, it ends and we didn’t get to share in the hard earned spoils of their personal wars.
So, um, you didn’t like it?
Get real - Redemption freakin' blew me away.
That’s why I had such a visceral and unexpected reaction to the ending . . . I’m really and truly not prone to throwing things, especially my beloved books.
In all seriousness, Redemption by DeJay is a stellar debut novel. Before I started reading, I was leery that the topic of domestic abuse was going to be overwhelming and depressing. And, while it is the centerpiece of the story, the author manages to write a complex and compelling story around it, and populate it with strong and enduring characters.
And, while the domestic abuse aspects of the story are truly depressing, they are handled with respect and honesty. I appreciate the balanced nature of the domestic abuse presented - lesbians and straight women are equally represented as victims and abusers, and we are reminded that children are as likely to be abused as adults. We witness a range of crimes perpetuated against victims, and an array of victim and caregiver responses. I thought it was a brilliant and gutsy touch by the author when one of the nurses made a borderline sarcastic bet that the latest victim, who was leaving arm-in-arm with her bastard husband, would return soon.
Inappropriate? Yes, but all too common, which is why it took guts to put it in writing.
Overall, the writing is crisp and clean, the story moves along at a brisk and interesting pace, the plot is fresh and honest, and the characters are fully developed and integrated. DeJay took on a pretty weighty subject for her debut, and the results could have gone horribly awry. The thing is, they didn’t. She managed to craft an entertaining, well-written story, and focus a bright light on a terrible blight within our society.
Unfortunately, some readers will shy away from Redemption because the subject of domestic abuse is either off-putting or hits too close to home – and I understand that.
For everyone else, I truly encourage you to pick it up and give this story a go – it’s a very good read, it reminds us of things we need to acknowledge is happening daily in our society, and because the author is donating a portion of the royalties to the National Network to End Domestic Violence.
I fully expect Dejay’s Redemption to have the lasting effect on me that Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone has – and if I’m still thinking about that story 19 years later, you know its impact was epic.
Redemption is a solid read with a greater purpose deep within it’s pages. There are a few editing glitches in the print version, but not enough to detract from the bigger picture. I’m giving Dejay’s Redemption a 5.0 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale
No books, including DeJay’s Redemption or Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone were harmed in the preparation of this review.