Friday, June 27, 2014

An Uncomfortable and Necessary Memoir

Where Fault Lies: A Survivor's Story of Game, Shame & BlameWhere Fault Lies: A Survivor's Story of Game, Shame & Blame by Carrie May Lucas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I did not enjoy reading Where Fault Lies. I am not supposed to. This story is not just about rape, but the relationship the victim had with her attacker and her very painful and real struggle for justice as she works to heal.

This memoir could easily have been titled Red Flags, especially considering the first third of the book, where the reader sees an intelligent woman getting duped by a man who is clearly not just a jerk, but a psychopath. Aspects of Sayed's personality which show his damaged mind seem to be what make him more attractive to Ms. Lucas. Sayed reminds her that people are in his life until they are no longer of use to him. There are no second chances with him; people who stand up to him or displease him are "cut out." Sayed leads her to believe that their relationship is unique and that the rest of the world cannot possibly understand how special what they have is. But he is grooming her to be controlled.

As I read this section, I could not help but wonder why not only women are attracted to men like Sayed, but why anyone would even be friends or have business associations with him. We see by the end of the book that he is a complete fraud. I am surprised no one else notices this.

The second third of the book is about the rape itself and the immediate aftermath. Here readers see Sayed's brutally in not just a physical sense, but emotionally as well as he makes his victim feel bad for his hurt feelings. Soon after, he breaks off the relationship and her reaction is what is normal for a rape victim, but he uses her actions against her and twists the events to make himself look like the injured party. His behavior further demonstrates what Ms. Lucas makes clear through the whole book: that rape is much more about power and control than about sex.

Where Fault Lies is painfully detailed throughout. The final section of the book brings us into work place and the social circles and the family relationships where rape is hardly believed or brushed aside because doing something (even merely listening) is uncomfortable and inconvenient. We see callous police and sympathetic lawyers working for underfunded advocate agencies. We see a self-centered assailant who is willing to do almost anything to save his reputation and multiply the harm he has caused. Most of all, we see a human being tormented and emotionally beaten down before finding a measure of (not complete) triumph.

There are times when the details are too much and don't help the narrative, and Ms. Lucas, independent to a fault, is not going to be very likable to a few readers. However I see these issues as minor. One might say these are all the more reason to read the book. NO ONE deserves what happened to Ms. Lucas. A sub-segment of our society claims that an independent and stubborn woman deserves such treatment, but no one does, and justice should be for everyone, not only those who conform to our twisted scale of likability. This is a story that needs to be read and thought about deeply, not just by women, who face these threats more often, but by all of us. Too easily people dismiss rape as something deplorable, but never let the whole of the act touch them. This memoir forces us to be more than emotionally affected. And that is needed.

View all my reviews

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Great Hymns Find Fresh Treatment

Instrumental albums are not terribly popular among Christians, and when most American Christians hear instrumental music, it is typically bland or syrupy versions of comfortable and safe hymns played as background. Rarely do we see skillfully played, fresh versions of some of the world's most meaningful music, and so believers should not be surprised when few take their music seriously.

Richard Souther, however, is no ordinary musician. His own compositions are beautiful and uplifting. And though he primarily works with a palette of keyboards and synthesizers, his recent project, Hymns Revisited, has the solo piano shining like a candle in a darkened chapel. Souther's arrangements and sensitive playing are simply remarkable.

The album opens with "Morning Has Broken," introduced with an improvisation that is like opening slowly onto a new day, like waking gently. This song is followed by rendition of "Fairest Lord Jesus" which manages to be stately without sounding pompous. Next comes one of my favorites of this project: "It Is Well With My Soul." Here Souther melds the joy and fire of the original tune with flights on the keys (particularly the left hand work) that accentuate the quiet power of faith.

Much of "I Surrender All" sounds stark, almost naked, as the chorus sounds like a lone voice crying out to a God who is sure to save. Here there are also flurries and improvisations that never stray so far from the original as to be unrecognizable, but which put me in my mind a heart led by the wind of the Holy Spirit. Next comes "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus," a good follow up as it sounds less like evangelism than a word spoken to the troubled, surrendering soul.

For some reason, iTunes and Amazon have marked "Softly and Tenderly" as explicit. Explicit what? Explicitly beautiful piano? Explicitly true to the beauty of the old tune? Explicitly warm and inviting? Explicit in expressing a faith so deep it needs no words?

Next comes "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" sounding like heart dancing.  A solo piano version of this tune can go very wrong, by making the song either too maudlin or so much like a romp that the sense of joy is lost. But Souther keeps at just the right tempo. This is followed by "Come Thou Font Of Every Blessing," which like the first three tracks is stirring and soulful. I've always loved this song, so I think I'm particularly sensitive to poor versions of it. This is one of the finest I've ever heard.

The last two songs on Hymns Revisited are "I Need Thee Every Hour" and "His Eye Is On The Sparrow." The first played like the gorgeous and thoughtful prayer it should be. I find myself inwardly bowing as I hear it, wanting to be closer to the great God it addresses. The latter also is also like prayer, but not the expression one gives to God, but what God returns in the conversation.

So many musicians would take these hymns and turn them in to Liberace-like opportunities to show of their ability to add flourishes, drawing attention to the player and not the music. Others merely render the melodies and assume that because the songs are traditional, they will move the listener. Both approaches diminish the power of these great songs and hide the very God they purport to reveal. Many people would claim that without the words, there is nothing to be said. But Richard Souther's album is so well done it demonstrates the scope and love of a living God. I cannot recommend it more highly.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


One might expect, if one knows of the work Charlie Peacock – either as a producer, songwriter, or musician– that if he wanted to make a solo piano album, it might filled with standards of pop tunes and well-known jazz songs. And he could do that and do it well.  But Peacock doesn't do this on Lemonade. He fully embraces the spirit of improvisation and what we get is delightfully quirky sometimes but always delightful. 

My favorite tunes on this album include the more introspective pieces such as "Like Monet's Table," "Homeless in the Cosmos," and "How Maria Fell Behind." Other songs, like "Jude, as in Hey Jude," may take some getting used to by listeners who are not used to the twists and turns of improvisation a la Keith Jarrett, but I think the rewards are worth the time spent.

For me, there are too few jazz albums by Charlie Peacock. Prior to Lemonade, he had only given us Love Press Ex-Curio and Arc of` the Circle with saxophonist Jeff Coffin. Mr. Peacock's work in other genre's is stellar and much better known, but let's hope it does not take another several years to bring us another fine jazz album.