Spike Darbyfield is very nonchalant about most things in her life. She prefers to be emotionally distant from people and instead chooses to engross herself in anime and fictional worlds. Of course, a tough life has practically forced her to create these barriers. She and her younger sister Margie grew up believing that their father, Otto, had sexually abused them and their mother Jean. In fact, Margie is the only person Spike is close to, but she’s currently in Iraq working with a Christian organization called RAPT to promote peace and non-violence. One day, Spike learns that Margie and some of her team members have been kidnapped and she faces two choices: keep herself locked away forever or allow the important people in her life, including Otto, to form real relationships with her again.
Because the Angels is a classic example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover (or its layout, for that matter). Although it’s very sweet that the author’s family got involved in the design process, it’s honestly not too impressive. Furthermore, the book is self-published, which made me a bit more wary. However, after talking to Kathleen Kern herself and reading Charles’ review of the book on Beneath the Tangles, I was still interested in the story itself. As soon as I read the first line, I laughed for about two minutes straight and I knew this would be a good story. Indeed it is, and that’s the important part. Kern works for Christian Peacemaker Teams and the story is partially based on what she experienced when four of her colleagues were kidnapped in Baghdad. In this book, Christianity mixes very realistically with pain, politics, and general human complications. The characters initially seem like stereotypes you’d find in a Christian novel (especially Margie), but turn out to have just as much depth as characters in any other story. They curse, they do things that don’t make sense, they hurt each other in ways they don’t even realize–in short, they’re actually human. It’s so refreshing to see a professing Christian write a book that focuses primarily on telling a good story and not on presenting a perfect Gospel message. This is what Christians need to do when it comes to fiction.
As an anime fan, I particularly enjoyed the way Kern integrates various anime series and references into the story, but not in a way that really bogs down the story line. I’ve never seen Blood+ or Samurai Champloo (save for a few episodes I watched many years ago), but even though Spike focuses on those series a lot I still understood what was going on. The particular moments that she thinks about almost serve as metaphors for what Spike is dealing with in her own life. This is especially true in the segments of Champlooland, a story Spike, Margie, and their friend Marcus have been working on for a long time. Although the draft is basically a fanfic, the plan is to change the names around and make it an original story. As things in the real world get more complicated, so do things in Champlooland. I think Kern executes the whole story within a story concept very well and also shows that fanfiction isn’t always the notorious train wrecks that are immortalized on the internet. The whole thing works nicely as a subplot.
Because the Angels is probably among the first Christian novels that are actually relevant to life. In this novel, Kern isn’t afraid of including things that most Christians would consider “dirty” and because of that, she’s produced a story in which Christianity actually has life.
To purchase Because the Angels, click here: https://www.createspace.com/3631735
To read Charles’ interview with Kathleen Kern, click here: http://beneaththetangles.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/interview-with-kathleen-kern-author-of-because-the-angels/