Monday, February 9, 2015

Dancing in the Shadow of Love

Judy Croome

Synopsis: (from Amazon)
Lulu is different from the others. Once, she believed, she had a friend to love her. Then that friend betrayed her and Lulu learned that hate is safer than love. When she begins her new life at the Court of St Jerome in the Old Sea City, she finds people who must fight their personal demons of hatred, ambition and greed. Embraced in St Jerome's fold, Lulu learns to trust again, perhaps even to love. 
Nothing, however, is as it seems and Lulu discovers that love doesn't always wear the face of the one you yearn to call beloved. 
Lyrical and atmospheric, buoyed by touches of magical realism, this compelling spiritual story explores the sacrifices people make in the pursuit of their dreams. Lulu's quest, and that of Jamila and Zahra too, is to find the divine love that will fulfil their hopes and save their souls...if they can recognize the masks of those who seek to lead them astray.

Kokebumi Forest, Naembia

Dancing in the Shadows of Love was different from most of the literature that I normally read and review for this blog.  What sets this novel apart is that it is not just a novel.  It is an allegory.  This, combined with some cultural references and usages meant that I took my time reading the story.  This is a story that needs to be read and then read again to fully appreciate the many layers that lie within the pages and within the lives of its’ characters, for such is the way with an allegory.  It demands thoughtful consideration.
At first glance, this novel is the telling of the story of three women who come from broken backgrounds and how they deal with the brokenness and love.  Their handicaps in life were varied.  One came from a home where her father was abusive.  One had a sexually abusive father.  One was an albino child in a parochial school and was abused and rejected by even those that should have reached out to protect.  Their stories and their lives cross paths through the years and they come to know each other over time.
Each of the women were very real in their search.  Each longed to love and be loved and accepted, but the path that Lulu, Jamila, and Zahra all took while seeking this peace and craving this love and acceptance was varied.  Even as others reached out to offer safety, love, and security to each of them throughout their lives, many times they found that it was either not what they truly sought or came with chattel too heavy to bear.

The introduction of a “Christ” like figure into the story was what truly gave it the haunting allegorical flavor. He was not a Messianic figure, but the one that quietly came among the people and was the “True Love” that accepted each of the women with no hidden agendas.  Even then, he held first Zahra, and then Jamila, back when they first approached him.  They were drawn by his powerful pure love, but He knew they were not ready to receive what He had to offer yet.  
Other characters within the novel went out into the world to battle evil and to combat what was bad in the world.  Some won, some were lost to the cause, but the battle for good against evil rages on.
In the end, it was how each of the three women found peace and accepted or turned away from the true love that was offered to them that was the story.  It is the story of each of us.  It is the allegory of life.

A rating of FIVE STARS.


Over the last couple of months, I have had opportunity to visit with Judy Croome about her book.  Based on those conversations, I had several questions that she answered that provided a more in-depth picture of this priceless story.  

Can you give me a brief synopsis of the story?
I wrote that book “Dancing in the Shadows of Love”, so long ago, I hope I can remember! BTW it was written as part of my thesis for my Master of Arts degree).  
Zahra was from a poor family with a sexually abusive father whom she eventually shot to escape the abuse. Jamila was also from a poor family and abused by her father but not sexually. - You might have them mixed up because I deliberately paralleled their stories to a large degree because I was showing how different people react to events of their childhood. (I did.)  Ultimately by the end of the book Zahra, despite her snobbish outer self, has taken over her Grace’s role as helping the poor & needy.  
Jamila is one of the strays she helps. Jamila however despite her goody, goody appearance has no hesitation in selling Lulu out to achieve her personal goal of social acceptance.  So despite their similar childhoods Zahra grows through her suffering into a person transcends it but Jamila sees herself as a victim. 

What is the one most important message in your book? What is a message you think a lot of readers "just miss"? And in doing so, really miss out on the beauty between the words?
Judy:“We are all one, with God and with each other.” That’s the point too many readers don’t find between the lines of this story. That, despite our external differences — of nation, race, religion, gender, whatever the difference is – beneath the skin (in our souls) we are all children of God, whatever we perceive or call our God.
This is a novel about regaining faith in a Divine Being, in our God, and realizing that we carry Him inside ourselves – Grace knew that (“Our hearts are one and the same, dear,” she says to Zahra, “despite the unfortunate differences the world imposes.”) and eventually Zahra, and then Lulu learnt that lesson – Jamila, the most overtly “religious” of the women, didn’t learn it.
But as Zahra and Lulu learn, when we find a connection to God within our souls, then no matter how much we have been hurt, no matter how much we’ve been betrayed, we can choose to show compassion (agape, Divine Love) towards others and thus become instruments of Divine Peace, rather than make war all the time (greater war, like the one which killed Zahra’s son and grandson, or small wars like family feuds or fighting with a friend).
No matter how ordinary we are, no matter how impossible a task creating world peace seems, if we all look to God, if we all regain that knowledge that we seem to be losing that God exists in some form or other, we can make a difference in this world. Grace, Zahra and Lulu all made a difference by choosing to change the way they behaved, to rise above their sufferings and understand the other person’s point of view. Jamila could not, she stayed trapped in her perception of herself as a victim of others, and so she ended up betraying Lulu. The novel ends on a hopeful note, though, because through her example of being kind to the very woman who hurt her, Lulu gives Jamila a chance of redemption.
So like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, "If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility." When we’re hurting or angry or betrayed, and we can still find the inner strength to tap into that Divine compassion (God’s Love) within our soul and so disarm our hostility towards the external differences we see in others, then we have made the dream of transcendental love, that Heavenly Peace which passes all understanding, a reality in this world we live in.
Dancing in the Shadows of Love is filled with symbolism.  Can you tell us anything about it?

There is extended section on the symbolism of the book on my website.  Visit me there. - there are tabs along the top to the other pages.


Judy Croome lives and writes in Johannesburg, South Africa. Shortlisted in the African Writing Flash Fiction 2011 competition, Judy's short stories and poems have appeared in various magazines and anthologies, such as the Huffington Post and the University of the Witwatersrand's Itch Magazine. 

Judy loves her family, cats, exploring the meaning of life, chocolate, cats, rainy days, ancient churches with their ancient graveyards, cats, meditation and solitude. Oh, and cats. Judy loves cats (who already appear to have discovered the meaning of life.)