Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Guardian Angel's Journal: A Novel by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

The Guardian Angel's Journal: A Novel. Carolyn Jess-Cooke. Guideposts. April 2011. 304 pp. ISBN #: 9780824948795.

Margaret Delacroix has died. In a highly unusual and ironic twist, she has been assigned to be a guardian angel to herself but with the new name, Ruth. This, however, is no easy task as her job has four rules that must be followed in her mission. She must be a witness to everything Margot does, feels, and experiences. She must protect Margot from the forces attempting to interfering with the choices Margot makes. Third, she must keep a record, a journal, of all that happens; and fourth, she must "love Margot." The latter doesn't appear to be too daunting a task until the reader gets deeper into the story.

Margot has been born into a childhood of heart-rending suffering, abandonment, cruelty, and abominable experiences that make the reader cringe and sadly cause the divine light she was born with to gradually wane and almost disappear. Another way of saying this is that life's knocks have made Margot into a tough cookie who is extremely needy but who guards against any intrusion into the minute fragment of vulnerability left. So begins a life of alcohol, drugs, destructive relationships, and lack of vision that has been surrendered to the stronger elements around her.

What is particularly intriguing in this story is what one would call the proverbial battle between "good and evil," a stereotypical phrase this reviewer dislikes; but that is exactly what is transpiring between the guardian angels and demon angels surrounding most of the characters. This battle, for example, is depicted in the pattern of paralysis in a person's self-esteem that blocks freedom in any shape or form. Or perhaps it is an illness that takes hold and will not let go until death. These challenges form the fascinating part of this story, with some very frightening and very tender moments sure to touch every reader.

The Guardian Angel's Journal: A Novel is not light reading but is a tale that will remain with the reader, ultimately affecting the way he or she makes choices, connects to or disconnects from the divine, and loves or rejects love of all shades and variations appearing in one's day-to-day life. Thoughtful, provocative, horrific, and endearing - what a combination! Nice job, Ms. Jess-Cooke!

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