Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Children of Mother Glory by C.M. Harris

"People shouldn't commit suicide because this is all there is; we should commit life because it may be all we get. This is heaven and hell. And it does kinda have its moments of grandeur, doesn't it?"-Suzy Gilmore

 I am so grateful to Amy Dawson Robertson for leading me to this absolutely wonderful author and her equally wonderful book. She told me it deserved more attention, and, by golly, she is absolutely right. C.M Harris's The Children of Mother Glory (Spinster Ink, 2009) is yet another great first novel and deserves the distinction of being called a Great Read/Must Read.

When we first meet Glory Potter she and her friend Emma gaze fondly at the new church being built. This is the church her father will preside over, and quite unexpectedly, it will become hers to watch over after his death. The church represents the heartbeat of a community called Gulliver. This town is small and remote, and is a place where everyone knows each other (or at least they think they do).  Most of the town's residents are adamant in their desire to keep a healthy distance between themselves and the world at large, and they do a darned good job at it. They share their lives with each other (unless they can’t), struggle with the “sins” aligned with being human, and have true inspiration to guide them, that being their church and their minister, “Mother” Glory.

Now, don’t let this scare you off. Fundamentalism and being “different” don’t usually mix well, but C.M. Harris craftily plays off these people and their rules of conduct, quickly showing us that regardless of the rules, differences will always emerge. As always, these differences create conflict, and it is their resolution we are most interested in. This congregation, known as Potterites, becomes the reference point for all that follows. We are introduced to quite a few characters throughout this delightful work, but it is the queer ones who become the novel’s true focus. That being said, I am convinced this book will resonate within us all.

Covering a hundred year span, this work is told in four sections, each focusing on the lives of four diverse individuals and the people they know. Everyone is connected in some way, especially to the past.  As we might expect, Glory Potter, even in death, has become a significant component in how they live their lives. They are never far away from her influence, and it is for us to determine how good or bad that is.

The novel begins in the early years of the twentieth century, and as I said above, introduces us to our title character. She is strong willed and capable of almost anything, but, she also has a secret. She is drawn to her friend Emma, and eventually falls in love with her. Of course, regardless of her true feelings, because of her role in the community,  she must suppress them.  As we get to know her we experience her inner conflict, and we also witness her determination and need to set her desires aside and be the true leader of her flock. Given the time depicted, we understand, but we desperately want her and Emma to be able to brave it out and declare their love for one another. Alas, we know better. The heartbreaking resolution they must choose sends a ripple through time. As we finish the beginnings of her story, we are now ready to meet her “children”.

Jumping ahead in time (1942) , we are introduced to Sebastian or Seb Brickman, who is on his way to an interment camp for Conscientious Objectors. Here is a young man who listens while Mother Glory declares from the pulpit that the devil is waiting for the “tick in his wires” to scoop up those who covet. She continues by saying, “And no, we cannot ever truly cast off our desires while we remain on earth. But we must silence our appetites.”

Seb, however,  is possessed by an “itchy appetite’, and although he hears these words, when it comes to his desire for another man, he becomes willing to create that tick, and ultimately pay the consequences. He eventually returns to Gulliver and hides his secret until it is no longer possible to do so. Is there acceptance in this strict community, or merely tolerance? Seb's story is yet another important layer in this intricately woven tale.

Moving to 1983, we are introduced to Danielle Clancy, who is the granddaughter of Emma. Although she also experiences the same internal struggle as Mother Glory and her grandmother, she isn’t beyond sending anonymous crush notes to Angela Klinshoffer.  Angela, to her, is the “impossible lovechild of Greta Garbo and Boy George”! And she is not the only girl who Danielle desires. At one point, she makes it her business to seek counsel from Seb Brickman, as she feels she is like him. As her character develops, we understand her need to break away from the judgement of others and leave her family, her friends, and of course, the church. In this segment we witness the bravery of not only following your dream, but following your heart as well.

The book finishes with the remarkable story of Diana Bower. Diana started her life as Darrell, and makes the penultimate societal sacrifice in her need to bravely celebrate her difference. Diana is also a black woman, so this adds a visible difference to her already remarkable aura. She is a lovely, understanding person, someone we'd surely like to know. It is by being true to herself that she frees herself from the fearful bondage of self that could make her feel "less than".  By bringing the book toward its conclusion by introducing this character, C.M. Harris beautifully closes the circle first drawn by Mother Glory in the beginning. As we witness intolerance softened by time, and as the real world totally penetrates this once closed society,  we look back to this tale's beginnings, and see that love, however manifested, will always prevail.

In the end, The Children of Mother Glory accomplishes what it set out to do, and more.  Somewhere, (and I dare say everywhere), in this grand book, we as GLBT folk can find ourselves and bear witness to our own struggle for peace within. Once again, I found a treasure for you to enjoy and savor. It will carry you forward like the wind, and even though the ending is extremely satisfying, I bet you’ll be hungry for more. I'm also certain you'll be eager for her next book, I know I am.

Listen to my BlogTalkRadio interview with C.M. Harris,  Go to  , or go to the MyQmunity Tampa Bay Arts page on Facebook!/pages/myQmunity-Tampa-Bay-Arts/106938482675160?ref=ts after tonight.

Next week I will be talking about Rick R. Reed's  The Blue Moon Cafe, and Tales from the Sexual Underground. This extremely popular author has been dubbed  "the Stephen King of gay horror"-need I say more?

Until next time, happy reading.
Robert Jaquay,

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