Can You See Anything Now? A Novel
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Paraclete Press / 2017 / Paperback
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Can You See Anything Now? A Novel

Paraclete Press / 2017 / Paperback

In Stock
Stock No: WW619316


Product Description

A novel based on an artist, an evangelical neighbor, a therapist, college students and more and how their lives become interwoven. It takes place in the small town of Trinity over a one year period.

Content advisory: This book contains mature content themes such as cursing, premarital sex, drug abuse, suicide, and self-harm which some may find offensive.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 256
Vendor: Paraclete Press
Publication Date: 2017
Dimensions: 8.50 X 5.50 (inches)
ISBN: 1612619312
ISBN-13: 9781612619316

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Publisher's Description

Winner of the Christianity Today 2018 Fiction Book Award

Can You See Anything Now?
, a debut novel, follows a year in the small town of Trinity where the tragedy and humility of a few reveal the reality of people’s motivations and desires.
 
This is a story without veneer, and for readers who prefer reality to sanitized fiction—this book is unsentimental, and yet grace-filled.
 
The characters here are complex and intriguing—the suicidal painter, Margie, who has been teaching her evangelical neighbor, Etta, how to paint nudes; her husband, the town therapist, who suspects his work helps no one; and their college-aged daughter Noel—whose roommate, Pixie, joins them at home for a winter holiday.

Author Katherine James' memoir, Notes On Orion, will also be published in 2018.  

Author Bio

Katherine James has an MFA from Columbia University where she received the Felipe P. De Alba merit fellowship and taught undergraduate fiction.

Editorial Reviews

"....The novel is brutally honest in its relation of the characters’ struggles. This willingness to stare into the darker depths of the human experience is refreshing in a novel that also claims Christian trappings. Rather than pretend certain words, actions, and people don’t exist, James does not shy away from peppering her novel with a diverse cast and their diverse opinions and vocabularies. There is enough light that peeks through to provide some breathing space. Etta is the primary provider of this relief, as she is portrayed as kindly innocent rather than judgmentally naive. Her interactions both with Margie and with the more gossipy members of the Trinity community provide a portrait of open-minded inclusion that should be characteristic of more Christian literature. Despite its unvarnished subject matter, the prose possesses moments of lovely lyricism. Carefully chosen details create scenes that are tangible in their realism. Literary and pop-culture references alike stimulate and potentially broaden the intellect. Brimming with both acuity and grace, Can You See Anything Now? is a welcome challenge to the dogmatic conventions of modern Christian fiction." Foreword Reviews

"Can You See Anything Now? marks the debut of an exciting literary talent. I hear echoes of Elizabeth Strout and Richard Russo in Katherine James’s richly detailed world, in her empathy, quiet humor, and hope. Richard Foster has said that writing is spiritual if it ’drill[s] down into the subterranean chambers of the human soul.’ James manages this improbable task as she explores the lives of an intergenerational cast—including the irresistible Margie—drifting between the small-town foibles of Trinity and urban particularities of Manhattan. May her characters, insights, and often-striking prose find the wide audience they deserve." —Daniel Bowman, associate professor of English, Taylor University

If I were to sit on the judgment panel for the National Book Awards in fiction, I would insist that Katherine James’s first novel—Can You See Anything Now? (Paraclete; 2017)—be placed in consideration. I would promote it because I think it is simply amazing and that it demonstrates a literary proficiency rarely if ever found in a debut novel. In terms of literary skill there is a kind of bell curve here: for the first third of the book, the author seems to be in love with language. The text is elegant and rich, with literary chances taken in almost every sentence: "melt of heat," "a shock of sun," "the day folded itself like a fan," and "the terrible, terrible blue sky"—rich fare! And then, as the bell curve rises, the elegance begins to move aside and gives place to the straight-forward launch of sheer story-telling where the plot evens out the language to its usefulness and the story is all. And then in the last third of the book, we hear again the voice of that first author, that poet, that beauty-dreamer. The author is there for the moment and for what the moment needs—be it language or story—sometimes almost exhausting the reader with the visual refined stretch of the language. Margie the painter-in-the-attic, wrestling with her MS; her psychologist husband Nick’s invention of "vascular resting therapy;" Mary of the spaghetti casserole; Etta of the painted tomatoes; together they create the world in which they live—and it is a world of fascination. —John-Julian, OJN

Product Reviews

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  1. Jeedoo
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    An intriguing story
    December 28, 2017
    Jeedoo
    Quality: 0
    Value: 0
    Meets Expectations: 0
    Wow! Katherine has amazing word skills. Loved getting to know her characters--so well developed. An intriguing story--pulled me in. Thanks for a great read!
  2. ADFehl
    Arden, NC
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Gritty but important story!
    November 4, 2017
    ADFehl
    Arden, NC
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    TRIGGER WARNING: This novel, from the very first sentence onward, addresses themes of suicide and self-harm.

    There's one interesting mix of folks living in the small town of Trinity! The focus of this novel is mainly on Margie, an artist who has been struggling with various forms of physical and mental illness for much of her life. Most recently, her doctor has dropped a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Struggling to get a grip on her dark moods, Margie introduces herself to the reader in the opening scene of Can You See Anything Now? via a suicide attempt. Though she's nearly successful in her attempt, due to some unexpected details of the moment, Margie is given a second chance at life.

    Within these opening chapters, there was something that struck me as very Sylvia Plath about Margie, what with the struggles with the emotionally distant husband and all. Perhaps that is what author Katherine James meant to convey, as the likeness between Margie and Sylvia Plath IS actually brought up as the reader nears the final chapters of the book. Margie mentions to a friend that her husband treats her like Sylvia Plath, a moment where, had I been there in person, I would've likely pointed and yelled a "haha! I knew it!" The rice box scene was particularly telling:

    She struggled with the box of rice. "The side of the box says to push and pull up to open but it's not working." She scratched at what looked like a perforated part of the cardboard.

    Nick said, "I don't read the directions, I just open the box."

    "You force things."

    He took the box from her and pressed the perforated tab in with his thumb and handed it back to her.

    She turned back to the stove. "You force things and then they break."

    Though still deeply depressed much of the time, Margie makes an honest effort to find the good in each day. Quite the feat, as the reader comes to learn that Margie is married to a therapist disillusioned with his work and quietly grumbly over how his life has turned out, though he outwardly tries to put a good face on things for show. Margie gives the impression that she and her husband, Nick, were quite happy and in love for many years but over time something ever so subtly shifted. Though there is still love there, the kind that comes with having been with someone for a good chunk of one's lifetime, perhaps these two are not IN love these days? Because there is a noticeable difference, one that is more easily defined after many years of life together, between having a general, overall autopilot kind of love for someone versus still having the hearts aflutter IN LOVE quality to one's union. Margie's source of happiness and strength these days seems to largely stem from her bond with daughter Noel... but even there Margie fears a loosening of the child-mother ties.

    Hurting in her own heart, living with a dissatisfied spouse, these two empty-nesters struggling to stay emotionally connected with their now college-age daughter, Noel... your heart just breaks for this woman silently but fervently grasping for a lifeline of light and joy. But the important thing is she's trying. A common theme that runs through the stories of all the characters actually, that determination to make a daily effort to try, even when the path seems obscured, even impossible to traverse. Margie tries to keep things exciting and positive within her marriage, she tries to build a friendship with neighbor Etta, even if it feels awkward at first, she tries to talk with her daughter, even if she's not sure she's saying the things Noel needs to hear.

    Margie's neighbor, Etta, is another character who gets a good chunk of the novel's focus. Etta is also an artist, albeit one who has developed a following largely through her paintings of tomatoes. Just tomatoes. But Etta wants to branch out, maybe start doing some paintings of rooftops. She feels there's something magical about the way light touches rooftops that she'd like to capture. Connecting with Margie, one artist to another, Etta is pushed to explore her artistic side in ways she's never considered before. While Etta has her own struggles with depression and general dissatisfaction, her method of coping is to just push aside any and all negative thought. Instead, she challenges herself to be the very best wife, friend, bible study group member.... whatever life asks of her, she will give her all. Etta powers through the darker days with relentless optimism: visiting with the sad or lonely, cheering a down in the dumps neighbor with her homemade baked goods, whatever will turn the world's frowns upside down.

    This novel is definitely one that begs to be taken slow and honestly contemplated. Thinking over my reading experience after that last page, the book in its entirety was not solid gold for me, but man, it was close. There were some points where certain conversations felt a bit filler-ish. There were also multiple points within the last 100 pages or so where I thought to myself "oh, this would make for a great dramatic close right here," but the story would continue on.. and on... perhaps to its detriment.

    But given time to think on the novel's topics days after completing the book, there's so much good here... good in the "hard truths" sense, a kind of tough love way of storytelling ... that can really benefit those brave enough to face it. This is not a book for the reader who always and only ever wants the happy ending with rainbows and gumdrops. This is for the reader who has been run through the gauntlets of life and wants literary representation for it. The characters of the town of Trinity illustrate the person who cries out for the desire to truly be seen, the need and hope one has for loved ones to somehow innately sense your silent struggle and TRULY understand your pain when you can't find the words to ask for help yourself... impossible as that can be at times, you can't help but want it anyway.

    Through their individual life paths, each character within this novel, in their own way and time, discovers the incredible release that comes with a good ugly cry when you've been trying to be strong for so long, as well as the lesson that oftentimes the best way to heal or at least diminish the pain in your own heart is to help others work through their moments of suffering.

    Though this novel technically falls under Christian Fiction, purists of the genre may struggle with the grittier themes of this story. Can You See Anything Now? touches upon mature content themes such as cursing, premarital sex, drug abuse, suicide, and self harm. While possibly hard to stomach, these elements do play an important role in the emotional struggle and overall development of the characters. Still, readers should be aware of what they are getting into, particularly if the reader is highly sensitive to such themes. One scene involving the character who struggles with self harm is rather memorably graphic as it describes the actual process and damage on the body of the character.

    That being said, if you are a big fan of the topic of love languages, that topic as well has a recurring role within the characters' conversations.

    FTC Disclaimer: Paraclete Press kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.
  3. StephCReeves
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Not Your Typical Christian Novelthank God!
    October 18, 2017
    StephCReeves
    Quality: 0
    Value: 0
    Meets Expectations: 0
    To say that this debut novel by Katherine James is edgy and unexpected is an understatement. I will admit that I had some issues with the language some of the characters use, until I realized that if these characters were living, breathing humans, this is the way they would talk. Do I think that it has to necessarily be brought out in the writing? Well, I don't know. Previously, I probably would have said no. But previously I would have been reading books that did not bring the characters to life. From Margie, tortured in her failing body, to Pixie, fighting the demons from her past with drugs and cutting, to Noel, Margie's college-aged daughter who loves her mom but is confused about so much more in life, James' characters are believable and real. At times a hard read, "Can You See Anything Now" leads us through a year in the life of small town Trinity, but touches so much more. Beautiful descriptions, raw emotions, confusing relationships all blend together in a story that you don't want to put down and introduces you to people that you don't want to let go.
  4. C. Rhine
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Artfully written...thoughtfully read.
    October 11, 2017
    C. Rhine
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 4
    With incredible insight, Katherine James delves into the homes, hearts, and hopes of a diverse cast in her debut novel, Can You See Anything Now? The book is aptly named, as Katherine looks beyond the facade of her characters to examine the inner conflicts that drive their actions, --the noble, the mundane, and the destructive. With deft strokes, she paints a picture of people living with real struggles and the relationships that define, exasperate, and sustain them. James verbal imagery plumbs the depth of pain, love, and doubt experienced by her characters. Healing, faith, and friendship unfold as lives intertwine and beauty and pain blend their colors to create a realistic portrait of life.
  5. Kat
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    great read
    October 10, 2017
    Kat
    Quality: 0
    Value: 0
    Meets Expectations: 0
    A brilliantly written story about making a "wrong" right. How tragedy can have positive effects on humanity and those around you. Wonderful story of restitution.
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