Tears in the Desert, by Karen V. Robichaud (Word Alive Press, 2020)
From the aptly-named Desolation Creek in the Australian Outback to a lighthouse in Blackheart Bay, Nova Scotia, this novel’s descriptive details draw the reader in with a strong sense of place.
Told in present tense from the point of view of Raine Hunter, both as a child and as an adult, the voice is sure, strong, and taut.
The first part of the novel introduces the trauma in Raine’s childhood. The second two thirds of the book, part two, bring Raine back to her hometown to care for her widowed brother Quinn’s children after he goes missing. Rumours hint that he killed himself or skipped town, but Raine blames the hostile neighbouring family for abducting or harming him.
Raine’s tragic experience as a child shapes her into a bitter person with poor social skills. Because we see the event first, we can be patient with her brusque—rude?—behaviour and hope she’ll discover a positive change. We may even find some of her interactions funny. This woman has no clue how to interact with children. I had to be careful her crankiness didn’t jump-start my own. 😊
Raine is in that difficult place, spiritually, of not being able to fully walk away from God while not being able to press in with Him either.
After the story, I found myself thinking about some of the more extreme characters: the eccentric, the hostile, the bullying… and the unconditionally accepting. Some of the latter modelled Jesus’ love far better than most of us do.
Tears in the Desert is a winner in The 2021 Word Awards for work published in 2020. It’s Canadian author Karen V. Robichaud’s sixth novel. For more about the author and her work, visit kvrobi.wixsite.com/karen-v-robichaud.
[Review copy from the public library.]