Thursday, August 4, 2011
From the Archives: Angela Hunt's The Awakening
(This review was originally written several years ago and posted on a website that is now defunct. It was one of the first books I read by Angela Hunt, and she quickly became one of my favorite authors!)
The Awakening is billed as "A Novel of Discovery," and Hunt herself calls it "a modern-day parable." But although the symbolism is apparent, and becomes even clearer on reflection after reading the book, it's never heavy-handed.
What carries the reader along is the essential quality of any good fiction book--it's all about the story. And it so captivated me that I read the book in one afternoon, simply unable to put it down.
It's the story of Aurora Rose Norquest, whose mother has just died after ten years of Aurora nursing her through the ravages of Alzheimer's.
Although we never meet Mary Elizabeth Norquest in the present, she's a formidable figure in Aurora's past. Patrician, elegant, loving but ultimately cruel, she is the driving force behind Aurora's hermit-like existence, and the constant spectre in the dreams that terrify and paralyze Aurora.
Hovering in the background of her memory is Aurora's father--a famous novelist who is vilified by her mother as unfaithful and unloving, having apparently abandoned Mary Elizabeth and Aurora many years ago for a mistress in England.
But Aurora can't stop thinking about her father and hungering for a connection with him--a possibility that becomes even more tempting when she learns that he may be seeking her out as well.
A new neighbor--a kind and eligible male neighbor at that---shows up to nudge Aurora out of her agoraphobic existence. But at the same time, Aurora's mother's longtime best friend, Aunt Clara, seems to be pushing to keep Aurora cloistered and alone.
Aurora's gradual blossoming under the nurturing friendship of Phil Cannon, as well as her persistent longing for her absent father even as she battles the demons that fill her dreams, makes for fascinating reading.
Angela Hunt draws us into the haven of Aurora's Manhattan apartment to the point that we feel we are with her there, shivering after a nightmare or making tentative steps toward a new and abundant life.
As I said, it's only on deeper reflection--and with the help of an interview with the author at the end of the book--that we truly appreciate the symbolism and the parable qualities of the story.
And that's when we can truly rejoice in our own abundant life and incredible relationship we as Christians can enjoy with our own Father.