Against an Amber Sky
H. R. Holm
Cedar Fort, Inc., 2007
I have to point out first that I have no idea who H. R. Holm is. Man? Woman? Previous works? Anything? Unlike other CFI titles, there is no biographical information given about Holm. I'm not sure whether this was an oversight or it was deliberate. I regret not having at least a bit of information about the author.
Now, to the story. BoDeane Brooks (called Bodi throughout the book) is the fifteen year old daughter of a hard-working and deeply devout family. Her two older brothers, Jacob and Joseph, are typical teenagers -- mischievous, always playing tricks on Bodi, but in the end, caring and protecting of their sister. We meet the family, and their neighbors and friends, as we make our way through this episodic account of Bodi's struggles with school, boyfriend, and a sense of lostness.
The dominating presence in this book is "Daddy." Bodi's father is always there, always directing the lives of his children and comforting them when they make mistakes. He doesn't lose his temper, has an infallible sense of what is right for his family, and is idolized by his daughter and admired by his sons. Mother is there much of the time, but she's generally silent, allowing Daddy to work his magic with the family.
The reader follows Bodi into some strange places, including a cemetery and a funeral home. We also follow her into church, and to the filling station where her brothers work and where her love interest also works. Her best friend Kimi has problems at home. Her brother has been sent to war in Vietnam, and her parents are feuding.
One need not turn many pages to read, again and again, that Daddy is wise and knows best, that if only one followed Daddy's advice in every aspect of life, everything would turn out all right. Bodi gets in trouble when she ignores her father's counsel. And she recognizes this.
As I read through this book, I had a sense of dread about the whole thing. The world that Holm describes just doesn't exist in my experience. I had a sense that Ward and June Cleaver had moved to the suburbs and had taken up farming. (Oh yeah, there's an Eddie Haskell in this story but, sadly, no Lumpy.) But unlike Ward, who sometimes makes mistakes, "Daddy" never errs.
I don't remember when I liked a book less. Children are sometimes given primers in parental perfection, but adults aren't, in my experience, offered up such a work. Most adults are smarter than that. I finished the book out of a sense of duty -- give Holm a chance to redeem the story. And, there is an effort to do this. There are deaths at the end of the book, but to my dismay, the final death only goes to reinforce what seems to be the central theme here -- Daddy knows best.
I guess author Holm and I live in a different world. Holm's (Bodi's) world is that of the Proverbs -- do this and this will happen. Mine is the world of Job -- there is often no connection between good deeds and good outcomes. Daddy isn't always right. You sometimes have to take your chances. Life is random. Evil happens at unexpected times in our lives. Against an Amber Sky imagines a society where good always begets good. I'm not sure how many of us live there.