Tracey Bateman's novel The Widow of Saunders Creek explores both the depths of grief and of finding identity again without a lost one. In the novel, Corrie Saunders returns to the house she inherited from her husband in hopes of feeling closer to him. When it starts, he's been dead six months, killed taking on a suicide bomber, and Corrie feels more and more lost. By learning to live again, and through help from his cousin, Eli, and his aunt, Corrie rediscovers skills that used to bring her much joy and Eli describes her creative gift as: "I think God gave her a piece of His heart, and she put it on the wall" (Bateman 274).
But the book does not only deal with rediscovering old joys and learning to live with grief; it also explores dimensions of the spiritual realm. Bateman set her story in the Ozarks in Missouri where Christianity and old ways and magic all about in a strange mixture. Many families there have older relatives who practice magic and speaking to the dead and the Saunders' family is no exception. When Corrie is placed between Eli, who is a pastor, and Eli and her husband's elderly aunt who says she speaks to the dead, it does not take a genius to guess where Corrie's grief stricken mind goes. What was really enjoyable about this book was the way that Bateman dealt with the spiritual world, easing the reader and Corrie both into it first little occurrences and building up to full on manifestations of physical movements.
Bateman handles the explanation of what demons try to do, and how they can use grief to try to draw people in to their webs, well, and she also writes the demonic interactions in such a way that it's first subtle and then not, but always believable. She beautifully shows the differences between our loving God and these demons that pretend to be loved ones but are just masking their wickedness.
Receiving a free reviewers copy from Water Brook Press was a great opportunity to read The Widow of Saunders Creek. It is to be hoped Tracey Batman has other great novels like The Widow of Saunders Creek coming out soon.