‘Country club southern fiction’ book breaks the mold with pro-life tone

A new author of a novel she describes as “country club southern fiction” is stirring things up by taking a pro-life stance in her story.
Karen Pashley of Nashville is the author of “Precious in His Sight.” Mainstream publishers hailed the book but wanted her to tone down the Christian parts. Christian publishers liked the book, which is pro-life, but were concerned about the characters, who commit adultery; the book shows sympathy for the cheating husband and his mistress.
Diverse reactions like those mean Pashley found a way to appeal to both believers and the secular market, and perhaps give non-Christians an exposure to pro-life ideas they would never have considered before.
Pashley says, however, that she never intended to write a pro-life story. Writing about the mistress and developing her back story allowed Pashley to walk a mile in her shoes, so to say.
The heroine, Sugar Brennan, has been told all her life how to be a good southern Christian woman. Pashley wanted to write about how such a person might react in the midst of a moral crisis.
The back of the book features an interview with the author and discussion questions.
Here is a Q&A:
Q: What inspired you to write the book “Precious in His Sight?”
A: I’ve often struggled with grasping how much God loves me. To think that He cares enough to walk through every dark nook and cranny of my life, and to know He has a good plan even when bad things are happening—that’s a mind-blowing concept that is hard to wrap my mind around sometimes. I wanted to write something that would affect people in a deep way. Something that would spark a desire to trust this loving God we serve in a radical, freeing way. This story challenged my personal faith. I hope it does so for others.
 
Q:  Introduce us to your main character, Sugar Brennan.
A:  In today’s image-conscious, social media-focused society, it’s tough to filter out all the external influences that can drive our motivations and our actions. Sugar Brennan has been bombarded with messages her whole life about what it means to be an upstanding southern Christian woman. She’s invested a tremendous amount of energy into fulfilling that image. I wanted to explore how she might react when faced with a devastating moral crisis. Many, many times while writing the early drafts, I would lie awake at night wondering how I would handle her situation, and how God could turn something that awful into something beautiful. Sugar inspired me to dig deeper intoPicture my relationship with God. I hope she inspires my readers to do that as well.
Q: There are several twists and turns in the story. Did you have those in mind in the beginning, or did they develop as you wrote?
A: The entire story came to my mind and played out like a movie while I was driving through the hills of Massachusetts with my family one summer. It started as a “what if” kind of daydream, just to pass the time. An hour later, when we pulled into a little country store to fill up on fuel and snacks, I bought a dusty spiral notebook, returned to the passenger seat, and scribbled descriptions for all of the characters and settings. By the time we reached our destination, I had written the entire outline for Precious in His Sight. After that trip, I stuck the notebook in a desk drawer and didn’t pull it out for a year. When I did, the plot and characters begged to be written, and since I had always wanted to write a novel, and I had some time on my hands, a project was born.
Q: The main character makes some life choices that may shock readers. Why did you have her make those decisions?
A: As a married woman myself, I wrestled with Sugar’s choices. The wrestling led me to the conclusion that regardless of the difficult circumstances I might find myself in, there is always hope. And there is grace, even when we fight against the pain. It’s often our futile attempts to avoid pain that wind up causing us even greater calamity. Without pain, we don’t get to the bottom of ourselves. And unless we get to the bottom of ourselves, we can’t experience the power and peace that come from complete surrender. I wanted Sugar to run, and wrestle, and squirm, and ache to find that “peace that passes all understanding.” I wanted her to experience the freedom of letting go.

Q: The story presents the ethics of risking the life of a pregnant woman for her unborn child. How did you decide how to portray that dilemma?
A: I didn’t set out to write a pro-life story. In fact, while developing the characters, I struggled with their predicament for some time. I researched their scenario and learned that cancer during pregnancy strikes more often than we realize, and that some doctors still advise women to abort their babies, even with today’s medical advances. In certain cases, continuing the pregnancy poses life-threatening risks to the mother. I had to ask myself, as a person of faith, what would I do? The answer seemed simple enough. But while writing Christine’s character, and thinking about her back story, the question became, what would a woman with no religious allegiance or personal faith do in this situation? At the time, I didn’t honestly know how Christine would handle her plight. As I got into her head more, I felt like the choices she made were a natural progression of her journey.
 
Q: What do you hope readers will learn from the main character’s plight?
A: I hope readers are inspired by Sugar’s tenacity, her deep love of family, and her determination. But more than that, I hope readers connect with her frailties, and her yearning to be real and open and authentic. I hope that Sugar’s journey encourages readers to seek God and cling to Him in the dark times of life, and to trust Him when circumstances don’t work out the way they hope. I hope readers learn that they have the choice and the power to be become women of joy, and strength, and serenity, no matter what life throws at them.
 
Q: Sugar Brennan is a strong female character. You seem like a strong woman too. Is Sugar modeled after you?
A: Ha! Sugar is a feisty go-getter, that’s for sure, and I think we have a lot in common. But as I wrote Precious in His Sight, I found myself identifying with all of the characters. I think there’s a little bit of me in each one of them. And their struggles motivated me to search my own heart. Like Sugar, I’ve made decisions based on what others might think of me. At times, I’ve tried to outthink God, running from His will in a panic before relinquishing control and finding solitude in His open arms.
Like Clay, I’ve experienced the humiliation of sin, and the haunting regrets that follow a fall, and I’ve felt the forgiving hand of my Savior take mine and say, “Come on, let’s walk out of this darkness together.”
Like Christine, I’ve been confused about God’s love for me, and at times have wondered if I measured up—wondered why He would care about me when I was so undeserving.Like Daniel, I’ve been skeptical—wary of the church and the hypocrisy that sometimes exists within her walls. But I’ve come to love the church, not the buildings, or the denominations, but the people who exemplify the body of Christ in a variety of flavors and forms, and who are just doing their best to navigate the path to eternity.  And like Miranda, I’ve put certain people on a pedestal only to be terribly let down when they don’t meet my lofty expectations. Because of that, I’ve learned to see people’s mistakes as opportunities for them to grow, and I can now look with anticipation toward what God can do, rather than with disdain at what they did.

The wonderful thing I’ve discovered along the way is that God’s love for me underscores all of my shortcomings, all of my fears, and my failures. His grace is gift enough, yet I often fight against that gift, straining and striving to satisfy my insatiable need to put my own stamp of approval on myself.  Understanding His grace, arising in hope, and resting in His steadfast love are the keys to a life that celebrates this undeniable fact—that I am precious in God’s sight—we all are.
Q: What are you involved in besides writing?
A: My husband and I have four daughters, one granddaughter, and another grandchild on the way, so we invest quite a bit of time creating opportunities for our busy family to be together. We take the whole brood skiing in the winter and to the lake in the summer, and we enjoy holidays and special events throughout the year. I’ve always been a big cook, and I love entertaining and getting people together, so a few years ago I combined my two loves into a monthly event called “Girls Dine In.” Each month I create a themed menu, write the recipes, put together table décor and music to go with the theme, and host an all-out cooking frenzy in my kitchen. The women love learning new techniques and inventive ways of serving and presenting a dinner party. And they have a chance to do something just for fun that doesn’t involve the kids or the job or anything. I also like taking walks in the woods, binge-watching Netflix, and painting furniture.

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