The Dead Don’t Dance, by Charles Martin, was an impulse purchase on Audible after a lively conversation broke out on Transformational Fiction about the author. It was the first of his books that I’d read, but as everyone commented, it certainly won’t be my last. Charles Martin made a video sharing why he writes what he calls ‘Redemptive Fiction’. This book certainly takes the reader through that journey. No matter what kind of relationship the reader has with God, they will walk away from this book challenged if not changed. Charles manages to make you see yourself through the characters in this story as if the book is nothing more than a mirror of the soul. That is a powerful gift.
He does this through the use of real flesh and bone characters. One of my pet peeves in fiction is that sometimes the characters can be so noble or idealized or they are put in situations that are so unlikely, that even if the book has a great message, you can put the book down and never internalize the story because you’ll never attain that kind of character or be tested to that magnitude. But every character in this book could easily be you or someone whose path you could cross at any moment, and every one of them teaches you something. This book lets you sink into the characters’ shoes (not just the POV’s but all of them). You could just as easily be the lady at the diner serving advice with a heaping plate of food or the quiet kid at the back of the classroom hiding behind sunglasses. Even if you really can’t relate, you can think of someone in your life that is like them.
Through Dylan Stiles’ point of view, you find yourself seeing life in a brutally honest way. I won’t spoil the story for you, but Dylan finds his life crashing down around him. While he struggles to pick up the pieces and put life back together, he finds life keeps moving and difficulties keep arising at every turn. Just as in real life, he doesn’t understand everything that is happening, and he struggles with the senselessness of it all and why God would let it happen. But life goes on and the lessons don’t stop with the main plot line. Charles masterfully weaves in lessons on prejudice, justice, family, generosity, integrity and faith as Dylan Stiles has to go back home to his family farm with it’s dying corn fields and to work at a job below his qualifications to hold on to it and pay the mounting medical bills.
We all have those moments when our lives get broadsided by some big event and here we can wrestle it out with a sympathetic character who understands the shock and guilt and wrestling that goes on while you try and learn to live in the midst of the uncertain. This book is the very definition of Transformational Fiction. You watch God’s hand at work even in the chaos. Sometimes it comes in the form of an honest piece of advice from your best friend. Sometimes it comes unexpectedly out of the mouth of a young woman. Sometimes it comes in the whisper directly to your heart. But The Dead Don’t Dance isn’t preachy (except for when the preacher’s talking) or pushy, it’s just honest spiritual wrestling the whole way through. For Dylan Stiles, God uses the love Dylan has for his wife to teach and carry him through the season of trials. From the mundane daily chores to his lifelong friendship with Amos, every moment of this book was bathed in the light of what mattered most, love. Even the pig that loved his wife but hated him reflected loving the unlovable. This book will make you take stock of your priorities and pan the gold of your life out from the silt using love as a filter.
For more Transformational Fiction Recommendations please join us at Transformational Fiction Fans on Facebook