Sunday, February 05, 2017
"Do We Not Bleed?: A Jon Mote Mystery"
Sister Brigit is among a group of Minnesota nuns who ran a group home for cognitively disabled adults. She tells Jon Mote, the unlikely hero of Daniel Taylor's new mystery, "Do We Not Bleed?" ($25 in hardcover from Slant, wipfandstock.com; also for Amazon Kindle), about J.P.
"J.P. was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. He had serious oxygen deprivation in a tiny rural hospital not equipped to deal with it. … Physically perfect except for cell death in a square inch or two of his brain. No less valuable for that than he was fifteen minutes prior."
Mote had returned his sister Judy to Carlson Group Home on the New Directions campus. Having failed in academe (recounted in "Death Comes For The Deconstructionist," which won the Christianity Today book award for fiction), Mote takes a staff job at Carlson, responsible for six clients, including his eternally optimistic sister as well as smack-talking Bonita and J.P., in his late forties, who cannot tell time.
Mote himself is damaged; he no longer hears voices but now faces a kind of metaphysical silence, angry at God for not existing, living a life of "coagulated pointlessness."
Then J.P. is accused of the rape and murder of Abby Wagner, a more independent resident at New Directions, and is shipped off to a facility for the criminally insane. But could he have done it?
With the help of the others from Carlson, and his estranged wife, Zillah, Jon finds courage to confront the truth. But not just the truth about the murder. In characteristically sharp observations he notes that those who want to reduce life to "kilos, kilometers, angstroms, and curies" are missing what can't be measured: "compassion, sacrifice, suspicion, and honor."
"For the last few years," Jon says, "I've had too many problems to think much about God. (If God made me, I want a refund.) If pressed, I would say, out loud, 'No, I don't believe in God.' But inside a still, small voice would add, 'But I hope God believes in me.'"
The novel is a captivating meditation on the worth of human life and the meaning of suffering.