A Live Coal In the Sea by Madeleine L’Engle has become a favorite book of mine. It is the sequel to Camilla, a book about the title character’s emotional coming-of-age. Live Coal starts with an end for Camilla, a retirement party. Through a series of flashbacks and some focus on her granddaughter, Camilla’s life unfolds like intricate origami.
Critics often accuse L’Engle of too-perfect families. They forgot to read this one.
Camilla’s family, like most families, looks idyllic, but their smiling public faces hide the most painful of secrets: betrayals.
Betrayal of spouse, friend, child. Blatant and secretive. Sexual and platonic.
The book is dark, and at the very darkest of betrayals, light splinters in. Painfully merciful.
L’Engle communicates how messed up families can be. How agonizing the past can be. How some mistakes can never be forgotten.
How mercy rises above it all.