She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”Gen. 16:13
Clay takes a unique approach to the narration, with the first half of the novel being narrated by God.
Through this perspective, there’s a bit of commentary that provides further insights into the characters’ motivations, while also contrasting their thoughts with God’s (see Isaiah 55:8). The narration sheds light, for instance, on truths of identity.
There is definite spiritual warfare in the novel, including experiences of demonic oppression. In these moments, we see God’s Sovereignty.
The novel’s arc showcases God’s redemptive plan, while emphasizing the reality of free choice. God is dogged in His love for and pursuit of us, but He absolutely doesn’t force the wills He gave us.
Reviewing the Book
I created an Instagram account about a month ago and have been enjoying Ericka Clay’s content. She writes about her “messy walk with Jesus,” breaking down some common myths about the Christian walk, while simply sharing life with the Lord.
I was honored when Ericka reached out and offered me an e-review copy of her 2020 novel, A Violent Hope. Given what I had read of her writing (just via Instagram), I was also highly intrigued.
This was a really tough book to read— like up there with A Child Called It tough. It opens up with a child experiencing chronic sexual abuse at the hands of a family member. The book also includes drug and alcohol abuse, other instances of sexual assault, depression and suicide and spiritual warfare.
With that said, there is definitely purpose to the traumatic events of the story. The narrative follows several generations of family members, through the lenses of various characters, and it is ultimately a story of redemption.
What I Liked
One strong element of Clay’s novel is that it really debunks this notion of a “one-size fits all” Christianity, showing that the Lord ministers to the hurting, regardless of their skin color and church attendance. And instead of portraying Christians as the typical middle-class devotees, Clay writes about Jesus showing up in the lives of those who are poor and oppressed (kind of like we see Him doing in the Bible). I think this is so very important! While I don’t support embracing sin in the name of Christianity, BEING POOR ISN’T A SIN.
In the United States, the word “Christian” means something different than “follower of Christ.” Instead, the term seems to describe white, middle-class, political Conservatives (as suggested by the acronym “WASP,” meaning White Anglo-Saxon Protestant).
The writing immediately drew me in. I was in the middle of another book when I first started reading this one and, after the first page, I had trouble stopping.
Ericka has a distinctive voice and her writing, while formatted in prose, has a strongly poetic quality.
The pacing, in addition to the writing, made for a highly engaging read. The book has a different feel because events are often summarized, as the book covers a lot of time.
There were several pointed lines delineating between going to church and walking in relationship with Jesus. I really appreciate Clay’s unapologetic stance on this theme.
As referenced above, this book packs a lot of really rough content. Although the material is not overly graphic, in most cases, it’s definitely there.
- Incest & Pedophilia
- Sexual abuse (outside of the family)
- Mental health issues, including: depression and suicide, characters with evident disorders
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Premarital sex and discussion of abortion
- Demonic attacks (this was somewhat descriptive, in my opinion)
The content was harsh, but it was also real. Sin is real and so are its consequences. We see the reality of sin, throughout Scripture. With that said, content may be too intense for many readers.
Based on the content concerns, which made this book an extremely painful book to read, I strongly advise prayerful reader discretion. A Violent Hope certainly raises some valuable points and it is absolutely well-written, but this is not a light story. It is, however, a realistic portrayal of God intervening in some very dark places. It’s also such an important reminder that Christianity means walking with Jesus, not being rich, white, or a regular church attendee.