Poor in health but rich in faith, Gina Merritt--a young, broke, African-American single mother--sits ina pew on Ash Wednesday and has a holy vision. When it fades, her palms are bleeding. Anthony Priest, the junkie sitting beside her, instinctively touches her when she cries out, but Gina flees in shock and pain.
A prize-winning journalist before drugs destroyed his career, Anthony is flooded with a sense of well-being and knows that he is cured of his addiction. Without understanding why, Anthony follows Gina home to find some answers.
If a miracle happened to you, wouldn't you tell everyone? What if they thought you were crazy? A young single mother and the junkie she mysteriously heals find out the hard way.
Burney's offbeat story, which explores what it might mean to literally share in Christ's suffering, demonstrates an edginess that both attracts and repels. Burney's protagonist, Regina Gina Dolores Merritt, is a 24-year-old black, health-conscious, bipolar, once suicidal single mom with fibromyalgia and migraines and a history of mental illness. It's a lot to put on one character. When she appears to receive the stigmata on Ash Wednesday at her Vineyard Church in Ann Arbor, Mich. (perhaps based on real-life pastor Ken Wilson and his church), a circus of sorts ensues. Druggie Anthony Priest shows up to help, as does Priest's alienated mother, Veronica Morelli. Events catapult toward an unexpected conclusion. Burney pushes the boundaries for her faith fiction audience sexually, especially in references to Christ as lover. The multiple first-person perspectives work well, but stories about saints seem inserted rather than integral, and a few characters feel overdrawn. However, Burney's unusual voice, gritty themes, and ecumenical blending should help this uninhibited novel find a home, especially with emergent church readers. (Sept.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.