Reviewed by Darcie Gudger
Zora & Nicky by Claudia Mair Burney
"Zora & Nicky will challenge you on many levels. By the time you close the back cover, sad the story is finished, you'll be a changed person."
It’s about time. Ohhhhh, it’s about time.
Burney’s novel Zora & Nicky will challenge you on many levels. By the time you close the back cover, sad the story is finished, you’ll be a changed person.
Zora Nella Hampton Johnson and Nicky Parker are polar opposites on many levels. Zora is a Black American Princess, decked out in clothes one would expect to see on Project Runway. Her father is the pastor of a prominent “name it and claim it” church where culture and money reign. Zora has little control over her life because her father employs her in the church office, ignoring her dream to paint. Her parents even picked her future spouse – her father’s protégé.
On the other hand, Nicky hails from an extreme WASPy community. Nicky, also a preacher’s kid, rebelled against his ultra-conservative upbringing. He attended Berkley hoping to write rather than attend seminary following in his father’s footsteps. Nicky prided himself in preventing true love from waiting with girls in his youth group. Rebellion is arrested after Nicky has an encounter with Jesus through the most unlikely vessels.
The Beloved Community consists of redeemed, messy people. In this context the lives of Zora and Nicky collide, broadcasting nuclear shockwaves and fallout through their families and friends.
Animosity and attraction play against each other as Nicky finds himself being called to be Christ Incarnate for Zora who’s father stripped away all her material belongings, toothbrush included. Her forced exile was because she dressed casual for supper!
Zora resists the intrusion of white people into her life. She’s determined to prove that a BAP can pull her life back together independent of crackers. Not only does she discover nothing is possible without the involvement of Christ, she realizes racism isn’t one-sided.
Mair probes issues anyone who breathes is aware of, but afraid to talk about. She tears down the wall between races, shining Son Light on how both blacks and whites shove one another into stereotypes without realizing it. Such “normal” behavior and speech in our cultures widens the heinous gap created more than a century ago by greedy people. When Nicky’s grandfather drops the “N” word, you’ll feel the breath knocked out of your lungs regardless of ethnicity.
The author blends a palate of differences while bringing to the foreground, the intense, saturated color of the bond of Jesus Christ.
Members of the Bible study where Zora and Nicky met show Jesus is no respecter of persons. Billie is a former prostitute with dreadlocks and punk-rock style. Richard is a well-known Christian author battling the demon of alcoholism and Linda, the leader of the bunch, lives out her convictions of modesty despite the critical comments by peers.
Zora & Nicky shows us exactly what it means to not only follow Jesus, but to be Jesus to others. Nicky exhausts himself from the effort to keep his pants on. Despite Christ’s forgiveness, the old sin nature pops up tempting him to violate a vulnerable Zora. Nicky lies on the floor of his room, body in the shape of a cross, meditating on the power of God to raise Christ from the dead until the urge passes. A lesson any follower of The Way can employ to battle addictions.
Mair’s characters reach a breaking point where they realize the traditions and practices of their upbringing are not Biblical. They take individual stands at great cost. Zora & Nicky hammers in the truth that becoming Christ-like isn’t for wimps.
As I read, I found myself identifying with both Zora and Nicky. Their willingness to die to self in order to find the abundant life promised in the Scripture empowered me to take a costly stand in my own life.
Watching Nicky in action, especially when he acted against his flesh in obedience to God, gave me the courage I needed to obey when I was vehemently opposed to God’s task.
Jesus is more real, more alive, more intimate and more a priority in my life as a result of reading Mair-Burney’s book. Keep an open mind as you run your fingers over the intriguing cover. Allow Jesus to touch you in ways you never imagined when you see your reflection in this powerful story.
Darcie Gudger is a freelance writer currently working on a young adult novel while trying to solve all the mysteries of motherhood with her adopted son, Kyle. In her spare time, she coaches the 2A Colorado State Champion Sheridan High School colorguard, judged equipment for the Rocky Mountain Colorguard Association and sings for the Bear Valley church choir and worship team. An adventure-seeker who lives and writes in the shadow of the Rocky mountains, Darcie loves hiking, camping, cycling, photography and keeping her husband guessing. Visit Darcie online at her blog, Joy in the Litterbox.