2/12/2013 11:23:00 AM Book set amid marriage preparation
WEST LINN — Deanne Wilsted's new book is so Catholic that it opens in a confessional. But Untangling the Knot (Soul Mate Publishing) actually has more to do with another sacrament — marriage.
It's also about human foibles and the dignity of the human spirit, matters that often arise at weddings, for good or ill.
The main character, Gabriella, is a wedding planner at St. Therese Church in Boston. She begins to organize a wedding ceremony for Ryan and Mandy, only to find that, because of her feeling for Ryan and his kids, she is subconsciously sabotaging plans. She, Ryan and his children all need to come to terms with death, God and love in order to accept the family that is meant to be rather than the one Ryan is trying to create.
The kids' mother — Evie — is a catechist who died young of an aneurysm. Her presence is felt in the book, but not in a ghostly way. One publisher wanted Wilsted to hype the paranormal in the book, but she refused, intent on making it a Catholic read.
Wilsted, who lives in West Linn and attends Resurrection Parish, is to be lauded for straightforward sentences and paragraphs that read gracefully. Though she does not take literary chances, she can be forgiven because she is clearly working at service of the story, not to be styled an innovator. Young readers will read the book with enjoyment and benefit.
The author deftly enters the consciousness of several characters — the young parish wedding planner, a middle-aged NFL kicker who has lost his wife and is seeking to fill the void with an attractive woman.
Mandy, the new bride-to-be, sells jewelry. That's a nice symbol of her immature soul. By contrast, Gabriella has a sense of marriage that goes well beyond the glitzy wedding day. We see Mandy as impatient about relationship preparations and more focused on the wedding date and the size of her engagement diamond. She seems indifferent to the children who will soon be her charges.
The grizzled Father O'Shea, pastor of St. Therese, serves as sage of the story. His long experience — uttered in small bites — often puts matters on the right track. It's refreshing to have a priest in a book who is neither a reprobate nor a glib stereotype.
Slowly — how unlike Hollywood, where couples jump in the sack in a few minutes — Gabriella develops an attraction for Ryan. She also likes his children.
The transformation of the daughter, Chloe, is one of the most satisfying parts of the book. It should be noted that the name Chloe comes from one of the prominent women of the early Church at Corinth who notified Paul of problems in the community. The Bible's Chloe makes a report to fix problems. The Chloe in this book also has a problem-solving role in the world of adults.
In one of the finest scenes, Gabriella decides to help Chloe re-connect with God and the church using a croutons as a symbol. She smashes the little bit of dried bread and holds the crumbs for the girl to see.
“And, even when the crumbs of the crouton are gone, its essence still exists in the world. God created that essence,” she continued, “but he didn’t smash the crouton.”
A common theme in the book is uptight micro-management versus authentic relationships and fun. In one comical scene, Chloe eats Fruit Loops from an expensive glass artwork by Dale Chihuly.
With an English teacher for a mom, Wilsted grew up conjugating verbs instead of reciting nursery rhymes. Now, 40 years later, she's a writer and a mother herself. Untangling the Knot, her second book, is due out this month.