A Rhinestone Button by Gail Anderson-Dargatz is, at one level, about cruelty. I found parts of this very difficult to read – the casual verbal abuse based on Job’s looks paints a discouraging picture of humanity. The child abuse and animal abuse was difficult. Such emotional cruelty: After Emma’s death, “Abe cried at night, and his boys heard him through the thin walls of the house, but he didn’t tolerate their tears… “Quit that or I’ll give you something to cry about.” There is, in the face of such prevalent cruelty, some kindness: Crystal, Liv, Ed.
A second important layer: the hypocrisy and abuse potential in evangelical fundamentalist religion. Evangelizing through guilt. Penny’s “We’ll see who gets the most converts. It’s like a scavenger hunt!” And worst, the section on fundamentalist religion-based conversion ‘therapy’ on Will made me feel nauseous.
But I liked the synesthesia. I liked the role the ducks played, from the pet mallard that Ed and Will had to the dead bufflehead dropping out of the sky to hit the back of Job’s head. The pet mallard, kicked out, giving Will the sign he was looking for. And so on, with a woodpecker thrown in for variety. I liked Dithy – calling Divine on his hypocrisy. “Shit just happens.”
Grace came back (the cat that disappeared after Lilith’s cruelty). GRACE CAME BACK after the 2nd tornado. It is a relief that things got better for Job towards the end: “… in his face an ease, a happiness, had crept in. If he saw that man on the street, he’d want to know him. Count him as a friend.” He is healed by mindfulness: “Job collected moments like these, noting the colours in the duck’s wings, the smell of thawing earth, the cool of the beer in one hand and the warmth of Liv’s hand in the other. … who knew what else this world might offer him if he was attentive to its details.” “… it might be that God was found, not in a church or some hazy hereafter, but in the tart taste of a beer, in the worm hand of a lover, on the whistling wings of ducks flying low overhead.”
I loved this book. I would recommend Anderson-Dargatz to anyone. This story takes place in Alberta in farm country that is soon to be overcome by development due to a tornado. A deus ex machina but I didn't care. It is the story of a young man brought up in the extreme evangelistic culture run generation after generation by men who feel their role is to be brutal to their families. The protagonist, Job, is different because he is angelic looking and synaethesiastic (sounds are colours and shapes). He is cowed by the society in which he lives and is very shy and tentative but kind and sensitive to all the beauty of nature around him. It is his story of his struggle to overcme his meekness and find his own way, while remaining a good person. I was inspired by her descriptions of the physical world and understanding of the small hard won victories that make life itself glorious.
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