“A Blessed Snarl” featured in Image Update

Posted: July 19, 2012 in A Blessed Snarl
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Here’s a write-up of A Blessed Snarl

posted in Image Update

Issue #246 (July 18, 2012)

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Samuel Thomas Martin’s debut novel dives right into the densest mysteries of life in relationship—the “blessed snarl” of its title. The novel is woven with opposing convictions: Catholicism and Protestantism, murder and innocence, the spirituality of art and of speaking in tongues—a warp and weft that is pulled tight by anger and let loose again by grief. All this set into an icy Newfoundland landscape (where Martin lives) that wreaks its own chaos on its inhabitants. When Patrick Wiseman, a Pentecostal minister, moves to the rocky island to start a church plant with his wife, Anne, and college-age son, Hab, old wounds begin to surface. One is the unhappiness that drives Anne to begin a Facebook affair with her old high school crush; one is the crime that Patrick’s father, a latent Catholic mystic, may or may not be covering up. The stories of the Wiseman family overlap with several first-person narrators: Natalie, Hab’s love interest, whose childhood faith was incinerated in a fatal apartment fire; and her roommate Gerry, a self-destructive writer tormented by his father’s crimes. Fire appears again and again—as a destructive force of nature and as a metaphor for the kindling of the Holy Spirit that Patrick continually seeks. There is a deep sense of the intermingling of sin and holiness in A Blessed Snarl: relationships are like “broken hinges,” swinging back and forth from love to hurt, connected at the root. Martin’s fiction is reminiscent of that of Melanie Rae Thon—both writers craft prose that filters light into the darkest, most desperate narratives and picks up glints of enduring hope. Despite the heaviness of the material, Martin’s fine hand with characterization makes moments of longed-for reunion ring true: “But the smile on Hab’s face and his arm-waving makes Patrick think that his son is okay with his awkwardness and lame stories—his failure. That Hab loves him despite everything. That there is still a chance he might be saved.”

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