Saturday, June 19, 2021

Revival Season - Monica West


Monica West’s debut novel, Revival Season, is a classic coming-of-age story in which fifteen-year-old Miriam Horton comes to the realization that the world she has been living in is gone forever, and more importantly, that it had really never existed in the first place. Miriam may have been a naive teen at the beginning of Revival Season, but by the end of the book she is more an adult than her own parents may ever be again.


Miriam’s father is a Baptist preacher well known for his healing powers. Every summer, Reverend Horton packs up his whole family and heads east from their Texas home to hold a series of tent revivals throughout the Southeast. Revival season is an exciting time for the Horton children, an adventure they look forward to every year, and after the first revival goes so well, it looks like this is going to be the best revival season ever for their father. But it doesn’t turn out that way.


It all starts to go bad after a disastrous healing service during which Reverend Horton’s healing powers are loudly called into question by an old blind man. The way that the preacher reacts to being challenged, and the resulting violence that immediately follows, scares Miriam and makes her begin to question everything she thought she knew about her father. Now she has questions not only about Reverend Horton, but even about her faith, and the healings she has taken for granted for so long. But, within his family, Reverend Horton is a tyrant, a man who refuses to be challenged or questioned by his wife and children, a man quick to use the belt on his children for even the slightest violation of his principles. If Miriam is going to find answers, she will have to find them on her own.


And then it happens.


Miriam accidentally discovers that she may have her own healing powers despite the fact that both her father and her church have always made it very clear that God denies this kind of power to women. It is, of course, impossible to keep her newly discovered abilities completely secret, and over the next few months Miriam quietly, and privately, heals a handful of others. She knows that what she is doing could end up destroying her family and her church, and she is terrified by what her father will do when he learns what she has been up to. And now, at the beginning of a new revival season, she climbs with her brothers and sisters into their worn out old minivan knowing that she will have to decide between her family and her God before she ever sees Texas again. 


Bottom Line: Revival Season is a remarkable debut novel. Monica West is a good storyteller, and she creates here a believable family being forced to live within its own secretive world by a man who tolerates no questioning of his authority and power. Miriam Horton, though, is a young woman brave enough to think for herself; the question is whether she is also brave enough to defy her authoritative father. Revival Season ends in a way that lends itself to a sequel, and I’m hoping that happens because I would love to know what happens next to Miriam Horton and her family. 


Monica West


15 comments:

  1. It's like a coming of age story with a twist! Revivals and healing... color me intrigued! :)

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    1. It is definitely a promising debut for West, Lark. I'll be keeping an eye out for her next book because this one.

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  2. I remember revival season in the South when I was growing up, although I never witnessed or experienced any "healing." Monica West seems to have written a very good tale about that whole experience.

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    1. I remember seeing those tents on the grounds of churches, too, with all the signs that a preacher from outside the area was coming. The only faith healing I ever saw was on film or television. I was always fascinated by the psychology of the event and what was going on in the minds of all involved.

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  3. So happy to see such a positive review, Sam! I think I mentioned that this came in the mail as my June Shelf Subscription. I just finished up two library books and am about to start one for review, then it's on to Revival Season. Looking forward to it even more now!

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    1. I really think you'll like it, JoAnn. The review was kind of hard to write because I worried about spoilers. But I didn't reveal anything not mentioned on the book flap of my copy, so I think even the publisher had some difficulty describing this one without spoiling it. I'll look forward to your review.

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  4. Hmm. Nice review. You have me putting this debut on my TBR. The author sounds like a good new voice in fiction. Once again ... I'm usually a sucker for coming of age tales like this.

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    1. You're right about coming-of-age novels; it's really hard not to like them because it's an experience all of us have had. It's just so easy to identify with the main character that we can't help ourselves getting sucked into the story.

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  5. I do remember revival services in Alabama in the 1950s and 60s, sounds like an interesting story. It sounds inspiring but maybe too intense for me.

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    1. It's pretty intense, Tracy, but all of that intensity comes from the relationship between Miriam and her authoritative father. The man rules his family with an iron thumb, and he's the kind of father who might exile one of his children from the family without a second thought. He is also a bit of a brute, so there was a lot of tension in that relationship - and the author portrayed it very vividly.

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    2. The relationship between the father and the family is what I thought would bother me. I have not experienced that sort of thing in my own life, but overbearing parents and child abuse at any age, mental or physical, is very upsetting.

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  6. It's making me think slightly of The Poisonwood Bible but I suspect it's really nothing like it. Regardless, I'm rivetted by your description even though I'm not sure I want to read it. But then I didn't think I wanted to read Where the Crawdads Sing until I visited my daughter on Saturday, saw she had it on her tbr pile and made her promise to pass it on to me when she's read it. LOL

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    1. I can see some similarities between Revival Season and The Poisonwood Bible, Cath. I was taken in this one by the emotional trauma resulting from the main character's realization that her father is not at all the man he pretends to be - and she believed him to be. It made for a rough coming-of-age experience.

      I think you'll like "Crawdads" if you decide to read it. It's an easy story to get lost in. That one just keeps selling and selling all over the world.

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  7. This is one I definitely want to read. Sounds right up my alley. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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    1. It is really good, Susan, especially considering that it's a debut novel.

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