Tyndale Fiction sent out copies of C. J. Darlington’s first novel, Thicker than Blood, to interested reviewers for a January release. Thicker than Blood began when the author was only 15 years old, but its polished version won the 2008 Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel Contest. Some of you are familiar with C. J. and her sister Tracy from their TitleTrakk website where they review Christian books, films, and music, conduct interviews with Christian artists, and post polls and contests with lots of giveaways.
In Thicker than Blood two sisters, Christy and May Williams, are young teens when their alcoholic parents crash and die in a car accident. Their Aunt Edna willingly signs up to take them into her home, but Christy drops off her younger sister May after the funeral and drives off alone to join her boyfriend in parts unknown. Many years later at the age of 32, Christy’s drinking is overtaking her life as she uses alcohol to numb her memories. Her recent ex-boyfriend Vince picks her up to avoid an overnight stay in jail for a DUI, and what she discovers about him after he’s gone to work to their mutual place of employment changes both of their lives immediately.
Christy has a serious fondness for antiquarian books and works for a respected bookseller where Vince is also employed. With both Christy and Vince guarding secrets about themselves regarding their jobs, this mutual employment proves to be a devastating problem which the boss’s son eventually figures out. When May’s and Christy’s Aunt Edna dies, a close friend of the family visits Christy to inform her that Aunt Edna has left half of her estate to each sister and her massive library of books to Christy. Aunt Edna also leaves a letter for Christy, and that letter serves as the catalyst for a reunion with her sister.
Mixed in with a fair amount of suspense are the desperate needs to reconnect and re-establish the emotional and blood ties which were never erased—just heavily obscured. Healing, forgiveness, and renewal wait to be given a chance to enrich the lives of two sisters in varying degrees of pain.
C. J. is able to give us just enough of Christy’s pain to keep us hoping she can overcome her self-destructive ways and accept love and forgiveness. May is just tough enough to work her way through her pain and offer what Christy so desperately needs. Vince might have come off as a little too cliché, and his final appearance in the story seemed a tad too contrived, but the scene itself is well done.
If you want to read traditional/commercial Christian fiction, Thicker than Blood fills the bill. There’s a solid audience for this kind of novel, but for those of you who flinch and moan at the typical use of faith issues in storytelling, this is probably not the book for you.
A solid first effort for C. J., especially considering her age when she began this serious look at issues of forgiveness, abandonment, addiction, and faith.
Father, you know the plans you have for C. J., and you know how hard she’s worked to fulfill what you have asked of her over the years. I pray you would continue to bless her life, her writing, and all of her efforts to put you first in her life. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.