Author: A.M. Leibowitz
Publisher: Supposed Crimes, LLC
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Length: 261 pages
Categories/tags: LGBT literature, Christian fiction, bisexual, genderqueer, romance, contemporary, disability
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For Becket “Cat” Rowland, falling in love has never been easy. The summer he meets Micah Forbes, the intensity of his feelings brings back all the memories of eight years earlier.
Following a brutal attack that left him nearly dead, Cat is a mess inside and out. To cope with the trauma and with his view of himself that he’s nothing but an empty shell, he’s taken three vows: simplicity, chastity, and silence. His once colorful, trendy, and often feminine wardrobe has been replaced with jeans and t-shirts, and he’s sworn off men. He locks himself away from the world, using the memorized prayers of his childhood as his only speech.
Cat is lost to himself and everyone around him until another hospitalization introduces him to nurse David Simms. David takes Cat’s silence in stride, caring for him without pushing and slowly building Cat’s trust.
Outside the hospital, Cat discovers he has more in common with David than he knew, and they begin to build a friendship. As it slowly grows into love, David reveals his own need for someone to take him as he is. Cat begins to let go of his vows one by one, only holding onto the silence.
Despite how far he’s come, Cat’s increasingly severe panic attacks threaten to undo everything David has helped him build. Cat’s only hope is to break the final vow and tell the truth about the night of his attack. When David fails to keep a promise he made to be there for him, Cat has to stand on his own and prove to himself he’s strong enough to survive.
Prequel to Passing on Faith.
Walking by Faith is the prequel to Passing on Faith but published after Passing on Faith, although this isn't really a sequential series, and the books do NOT need to be read in any particular order. I did read Passing on Faith first, but I plan to read them the other way around someday, when I've forgotten the stories (I'm not entirely convinced I will ever forget them).
Where Passing on Faith tells Micah's story (in which Cat Rowland is a prominent feature), Walking by Faith is about Cat, and A.M. Leibowitz has done something rather clever here (aside from the eloquent vocabulary and exceptional knowledge of medicine and religion that underpins the narrative, that is). When I was reading Passing on Faith, I kept thinking 'I really want to know Cat's story', as Micah is constantly in the foreground (right where he likes to be, I'd wager). Walking by Faith delivers in that regard. Yet, had I read this book first, I'd have been rewarded with snippets of Micah - the future beyond Cat's formative years - and I'd have been thinking 'I really want to know Micah's story'.
In short, whichever way you read these books, there are teasers for the one you didn't read first, which is...cunning, and fun.
I use the term 'fun' loosely. Walking by Faith is Cat's story, and it's a harrowing one. Note: this is not a 'romance' in the narrow sense to which we have become accustomed; there are love stories that unfold in both books, but they are part of a whole, and this is less fairy tale, more gritty reality. It's impossible to explain what I mean by that without spoilers, but readers should be prepared for some heartbreaking moments.
In this respect, I'm glad I read Passing on Faith first; it helped me to prepare for what was ahead.
The blurb makes mention of the 'brutal attack' that left Cat nearly dead, as well as David's role in helping Cat along the road to recovery, of both body and soul. Their friendship/love is complex, and it develops organically. It's a relationship that requires some ingenious communication workarounds and a whole lot of patience (on David's part). However, it is not the mainstay of the novel. There's certainly enough there for those who enjoy a love story, but it is only part of Cat's journey through self-imposed purgatory.
Cat is queer, and in his 'natural' state, he's a colourful, lively character whose clothes - a kind of gender mix 'n' match - and make-up reflect his personality and identity. The impact of the attack is vividly manifested through his attempt to cast out the 'pretty' and 'queer' aspects of his self-identity; one of the most poignant scenes in the novel is Cat's fight to resist the lip gloss his sister LR gives to him.
From Cat through to the guy in the piercing place, the characterisation is consistently outstanding. This, for me, is the key to a good story. I'm not interested in action-packed plots or adventure, although those are fine, so long as the characters are solid. I need to 'see' the character in my mind - not their physical qualities so much as their conscious presence. If an author gets this right - which A.M. Leibowitz does - the reading experience is intense, the proverbial emotional roller coaster. All of the characters in Walking by Faith are authentic. Some are...really not nice, yet at the same time, I found myself affording them the benefit of the doubt I afford people in real life who act despicably. Well, all except one, and if in book three, that one gets their comeuppance, I won't shed any tears. That said, having read a few of this author's stories, I know they have a knack for redeeming the seemingly irredeemable.
All in all, Walking by Faith is not an easy read. It deals with some difficult issues, specifically: the consequences of a violent attack, the challenges of handling long-term medical conditions and the effect these both have not only on the individual, but on their family and friends, their relationships - their life. Yet, for all of that heavy stuff, there's humour, love and intimacy, and plenty of good times.
This is definitely one to keep on the shelf to read again.
About the Author:
A.M. Leibowitz is a queer spouse, parent, feminist, and book-lover falling somewhere on the Geek-Nerd Spectrum. They keep warm through the long, cold western New York winters by writing about life, relationships, hope, and happy-for-now endings. In between noveling and editing, they blog coffee-fueled, quirky commentary on faith, culture, writing, books, and their family.
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Bryce had made him feel dirty.
Why do you have to be so gay?
Landon had made him feel dirty.
You’re very pretty.
Cat stifled a tiny, wounded noise, letting go of his nipples and raising his eyes to look at his face. His hair had grown so it brushed his shoulders. He’d always liked it longer, though not enough to tie it back. When he was with Bryce, he’d had it chin-length. A memory surfaced of being in Bryce’s bed. Bryce had loved Cat’s hair, at least until he started pulling away and claiming Cat was too girlie.
With a snarl, Cat pushed the memory aside. It was his fault for always wanting what he shouldn’t, and now he was going to make it right. He turned to the sink and grabbed a pair of scissors LR kept in the vanity drawer for trimming her bangs. Standing in front of the mirror again, he lifted handfuls of hair and cut them off, not caring how jagged he made the locks. He cut and cut, clumps of red-gold landing on the tiles at his feet.
Not pretty. Not pretty. Not pretty.
Dry, angry heat burned behind his eyes in his cheeks as he shredded his hair, and a sob caught in his throat. When he couldn’t cut any more, he let the scissors clatter to the floor. He dropped down too, leaning against the vanity with his knees drawn up. He felt so lost, no longer sure who he was.
He almost missed the knock on the door. “Kitty Cat? You okay in there?”
Cat wrapped his arms around his knees when LR opened the door a crack and peeked in. She looked from Cat to the piles of hair on the floor, and her face turned from worry to shock back to worry.
“Oh, Kitty,” she said. “Oh.”
LR stepped in and closed the door again. She sat down with him, not even complaining that he was stark naked when she folded him into her arms. She rocked him, stroking what was left of his hair and waiting for him to stop shaking.
What inspired you to write this story?
People kept telling me how much they loved Cat in Passing on Faith, so I wanted to tell his story. But I didn’t want to simply re-tread his romance with Micah from his perspective. This was sparked by a quote in PoF where Cat’s sister says he’s in “shut-down mode” and won’t talk to her. I wondered why not.
Is there a character you feel especially connected to? Why?
To Cat, of course, although he is really only one aspect of my inner self. His questions and mental dialog about his gender mirror my own. But I also feel linked to Cat’s mom, as a parent myself.
What was the hardest part of writing this?
Getting the emotions just right. It is really hard to show the kind of gender dysphoria both Cat and I experience, and I also sometimes find it hard to pour feelings out on the page—as though I’m revealing too much of myself in them.
Tell us a little about any upcoming projects.
I’m working on several things: The next part of my Notes from Boston series; a young adult coming of age novel; and the last part of Cat and Micah’s story, Keeping the Faith. I’m always busy working on something.
What led you to write in your genre?
A cross between stumbling on slash fan fiction and my desire to write snark about my state’s public education system. It was all downhill from there.
What misconceptions do people have about your genre?
That it’s straight women writing for straight women. That is true in some circles. But some of us are specifically LGBTQ+ people writing for an LGBTQ+ audience. I don’t mind if straight women enjoy my books, but it’s important to me that it’s clear my work is intended for other rainbow folks.
What do you wish people understood about your genre?
That would take a whole blog post. Mainly I want people to understand that LGBTQ+ voices should take center stage in books where LGBTQ+ people are the stars.
- What’s your favorite season? Summer
- What’s the best part of the day? Late morning
- What superpower do you wish you had? Invisibility. Wait…I’m bi, so I have that. *wink* (LOL)
*Still rooting for a miracle.* ;)
Thanks for reading,