Finished this book: The Sky Beneath My Feet by Lisa Samson

Cover of "The Sky Beneath My Feet" by Lisa Samson

Cover of “The Sky Beneath My Feet” by Lisa Samson

Spoilers near the end, but there’ll be another warning first.

Only a short way into this book, I realised it was full of religion. There was a moment where I considered putting it aside and starting something else, but I was already nestled into bed with my PJs and my fuzzy socks and my fleece housecoat, with the cats and the Fluffy Dog in their usual positions, so I decided to read on a bit and give the book a chance. Also, the way the writer introduced the faith aspect was kind of funny, and I wondered if it might turn out to be tongue-in-cheek (the protagonist, Beth, was on a riff about the Jesus Fish on her van).

Faith, religion, spirituality—these aren’t generally interesting themes to me. I have never had a belief in any kind of deity, and the idea that I ever would is both puzzling and dull. Any interest I have in this area is more political or ethical; I am curious about how earth-based religions interact with environmentalism, how woman-centric religions replicate or subvert or mitigate gender inequity, the peace versus violence internal to various religions—these things are interesting. But the idea of a god or a goddess or a pantheon or an immortal soul or reincarnation or any of that is incomprehensible to me.

So when I started this book and realised one theme would be the protagnoist’s (Beth’s) relationship with her god, and then realised that Beth’s husband was a pastor, and then realised that their church and congregation were going to play a large role in the book… Well, it was almost enough to make me climb out of my comfortable bed-nest and find another book. But you know, when the the sweet Grey Cat has both paws and his chin resting trustingly on my calf, it’s hard to disturb him. So I kept reading.

The premise of the story is that the Beth’s husband, Rick, suddenly decides to go live in the shack in the back yard to talk to god. Beth is struggling to make sense of his actions and to cope with life as a “single mom,” while also feeling disconnected from her church and wanting to find more meaning in her life. Along the way she gets involved with some activists and a drug-addicted teen.

Really, I felt that this was a shallow beach-book. Events that changed the course of the plot or of Beth’s life were manufactured rather than grown (a storm, happening to pass by a protest, a friend convincing Beth to go on an impromptu road trip). The characters were not fully fleshed-out, and it seemed more like a “moral-to-the-story” book than a “searching-and-growing” book (even though the latter is how it seems to want to be seen). For me, the most interesting character was the eccentric artist next door who seemed to see the husband-in-a-shack as some kind of saint, and to draw inspiration from his actions. But in the end…. And now the spoilers….

 

SPOILER ALERT

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In the end, it seemed like all the other people in the book who were trying to do good turned out to be frauds or fakers. The “nun” trying to help the drug-addicted kids was actually a fake nun with a criminal history. The lead activist who tried the hardest to convince Beth to give activism a try turned out to be a vapid thrill-seeker who was utterly unconcerned with which issues he was espousing. The dreadlocked and ripped-jeans young woman who started dating one of Beth’s sons turned out to be a former member of their church (“we failed this girl!” Beth thinks) and ended up “cleaning herself up” to go back to the church with Beth’s family. Beth and her husband survive his crisis of faith with their marriage stronger than ever and end up ministering to the inner-city shelter where the addicted adolescents were tended to by the fake nun. Some of it just seemed so pat and trite. The description of the makeshift shelter, for example, and of that teen girl’s recovery, was so whitewashed compared to what these kids actually experience that I think I cramped my eyes from rolling them so hard. The only diversity in the book was token and stereotypical (the criminal fake “nun” was Black, for example).

The book was bland and easy to read. Probably easier if you’re not rolling your eyes as much as I did! I wouldn’t recommend it, but I also wouldn’t warn you away from it (as I did with Flashback). I think that it would be a more pleasant read for someone who shares Beth’s faith and worldview. But even that would not make the characters more believable or multidimensional. Nor would take away the paternalism of the faith-based people being “called” to (or coincidentally being in a position to) rescue everyone else in the book (including the neighbour artist’s mother). On the plus side, the flashes of humour in the book were quite lovely, and I did enjoy Beth’s internal musings as she tried to make sense of what was happening around her.

 

The Sky Beneath My Feet by Lisa Samson


 

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4 thoughts on “Finished this book: The Sky Beneath My Feet by Lisa Samson

    1. nissetje Post author

      Funny you should ask! I should start including this in my reviews. šŸ™‚ This one was in the bargain book area of Chapters at St. Vital Centre. I meet my friend S. there once in a while for coffee and book shopping. I was really broke and had decided not to buy any books, but then I picked up a few books… And remembered I had my credit card with me… And the dam broke! So I grabbed an armful if books without being too choosy, since S. was impatient for the “coffee and gossip” portion of our visit. I really should leave the credit card at home!

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    1. nissetje Post author

      Thank you very much! This is a lovely compliment. I try to always remember that I am not an objective reader, so it’s important to include context in my reviews about my own perspectives and positions. After I post the reviews, I often go see what other readers have written about the book. Sometimes I am really surprised that people adored a book I disliked—such as this one, for example.

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