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Abiding Darkness
by John Aubrey Anderson

Reviewed by Kevin Lucia

"... a promising work of literary weight."

Abiding Darkness, by John Aubrey Anderson, is a promising work of literary weight that’s a wonderful period piece steeped in nostalgia and good old fashioned, Southern living. Told in a style reminiscent of Flannery O’Conner and other Southern writers, Abiding Darkness takes the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s and fleshes them out to real-life proportions, so much so you can smell the catfish roasting on the fire and hear the Temptations playing in the background. The characters are wonderful studies of simple, foundational living, and the narrative drawls in a uniquely Southern fashion, Anderson writing the character’s dialogue as only a Southern writer could.

The story follows the life of Missy Parker, a white girl who’s been deemed “special” by dark and holy powers alike. Through her young life and through adulthood, Missy is unwittingly the center of a demonic and holy tug of war, as unseen, dark forces wage war against her; first in an effort to sway her soul, and forever after in an effort to hurt her and the ones she loves. Twice these forces claim the lives of those close to her, as two people she cares for sacrifice themselves for her.

However, the dark forces that dog her every step are thwarted by the prayers of those close to her and Missy’s own determined spiritual development. Also, beyond her kin and of those around her, an angelic host stands guard, making sure that God’s special ones are not harmed by the Enemy’s hand. The novel ends as a demonic and angelic forces clash once again, and the storyline leaves us expecting continued repercussions of the Cat Lake ‘War of ‘45’.

The characters -- Missy Parker, Mose Washington and Mose Jr, Bobby Lee Parker, David and Pat Patterson -- are rich portraits painted by a writer clearly skilled at character development, and the narrative moves through time in a very “Forest Gump” sort of way – snapshots of crucial events are vignettes of strength and endurance, and there is the sense this would make a wonderful movie or even television miniseries. The story moves at its own pace; at life’s pace, and Anderson does something many other writers have tried and failed – he creates a panoramic view of life, faith, and a friendship that exceeds both societal and racial boundaries.

The only thing I had trouble with were the occasional “interruptions” of demonic forces as they plot Missy Parker’s destruction, and the angelic hosts that guard them all. Though I understand the underlying motive and the story’s central theme – how the forces of evil, the “abiding darkness”, endures through time, and God’s provision of protection against that darkness, these portions just didn’t seem to mesh well with the rest of the story, for me, at least. In many ways, I felt the story would have been just as powerful – perhaps even better – if these moments were either meshed in with the story in a more subtle fashion, or left out all together. I believe the author’s theme – that unseen, supernatural forces clash around us daily – would have still come through the story itself, even without these little asides.

However, this in itself is not enough to detract from the overall quality of the novel, which has literary aspirations and for the most part doesn’t fall short of them. Abiding Darkness is a promising, solid first entry into Anderson’s trilogy, The Black & White Chronicles, and readers will eagerly welcome the second novel in the series, Wedgewood Grey, as a continuation of this rich tapestry of the Southern literary tradition. With this novel, Anderson has proven himself adept at setting the mood, establishing a convincing milieu, and creating a story that resonates with depth and meaning.

Kevin LuciaKevin Lucia Kevin Lucia writes for The Press & Sun Bulletin and The Relief Journal. His short fiction has appeared in Coach’s Midnight Diner, The Relief Journal, All Hallows, Darkened Horizons Vol. 3 & 4, NexGen Pulp Magazine Issues 1 & 4, From the Shadows, Morpheus Tales Magazine, Bohemian-Alien, Shroud Publishing’s horror anthology, Abominations, and Tyndale House’s inspirational anthology Life Savors. He’s currently writing a novella for Shroud Publishing’s upcoming novella series, The Hiram Grange Chronicles. He resides in Castle Creek, New York, with his wife Abby, daughter Madison and son Zackary. He teaches high school English at Seton Catholic Central High School in Binghamton, New York; and is finishing his Masters of Arts in Creative Writing at Binghamton University. Visit him at his website and Myspace page.