Tuesday, March 22, 2011

CSFF Blog Tour: "The Resurrection" Day Two

As I said yesterday, there was one factor in Mike Duran's The Resurrection that kind of bothered me throughout the story, and it had to do with the way people doubted whether or not the titular miracle was real. But before I delve into that too deeply . . .

Just to be on the safe side. I'll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, but better safe than sorry, y'know?

Okay, so let's review. Faithful Ruby Case goes to the funeral of a young man named Armando Amaya, held at Goldman's Mortuary. It's conducted by a Roman Catholic priest (I'm assuming) and afterward, Ruby goes up to the coffin to pay her respects. She briefly touches the body, praying for Mondo and his family, and after she turns away Mondo comes back to life.

When Pastor Clark finds out about this seeming miracle, the first thing he does is go to the cops to find out if they've learned anything. And they haven't. Nobody seems to know what to make of this event, if it's real or a hoax or what.

The whole time, though, I kept grinding my teeth because, from where I was sitting, there was a question that someone should have asked, one that could have easily settled the whole real vs. fake debate right away. But before I ask it, let me explain my background and why I thought of this.

As my bio says, I'm a Lutheran minister serving in Minnesota. This past June, I hit my 10th ordination anniversary. In those 10 years, I've done more than my fair share of funerals. I think I did somewhere around three dozen or so while I was at my first parish (I don't keep track of the actual number; that'd be kind of morbid). As a result of my track record, I got to know one of the funeral directors pretty well and every now and then, I'd talk shop with him and he shared some techniques for preparing a body for burial.

So one night while reading this book, I asked myself what I would do if I were in Pastor Clark's shoes. And I realized, I wouldn't go to the cops first. No, I'd go to the funeral director and ask one question:

Was the body embalmed?

That's the key right there, and it's a question that's never answered in this book and, I think, should have been. To doublecheck my hunch, I actually spoke with two other funeral directors on the way back from a committal this past week. I told them about the book, explaining about the titular resurrection, and asked what they thought.

They were pretty skeptical, because they explained that in Minnesota, a body has to be embalmed if it's going to be an open casket funeral. It's actually state law. One of them put it this way: "By the time people get to us, they're dead. And if they aren't, they will be by the time we're done."

And that's what bugged me about this book. I don't know if whatever state Stonetree is in has similar laws, but if Mondo had been embalmed, then this is definitely a miracle, no doubt about it.

Now I realize that would take away some of the mystery around Mondo's resurrection. But the guys I spoke to actually mentioned two possibilities. A body can be refrigerated instead of embalmed. And in Mexico, apparently the tradition is to do no embalming unless the body is going to travel somewhere else for burial. Given Mondo's name, it's possible that he wasn't embalmed for that reason, thus allowing for the doubt to continue.

So why am I bringing this up? Because it's a massive question, one that I think should have been answered. The whole time I was reading, I kept thinking, "Why isn't anyone (other than reporters) talking to the guy who prepared Mondo's body? He'd be able to settle this matter once and for all!"

Just kind of bugged me. That's all.

Go and see what the other tourists have to say:

Noah Arsenault
Brandon Barr
Red Bissell
Book Reviews By Molly
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Melissa Carswell
Jeff Chapman
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Carol Bruce Collett
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Wanda Costinak
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Janey DeMeo
Cynthia Dyer
Tori Greene
Nikole Hahn
Katie Hart
Joleen Howell
Bruce Hennigan
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Emily LaVigne
Shannon McNear
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Gavin Patchett
Sarah Sawyer
Andrea Schultz
Tammy Shelnut
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Dave Wilson


Anonymous said...

The embalming question was a concern for me too! I think Stonetree was in California, so I looked up the burial rules for that state. I thought the reporter would have at least asked about the prep on body. He was looking into everything else.

Mike Duran said...

John, thanks so much for taking time with my novel! Being an ordained minister, I too have spent much time in funeral homes and gotten to know my share of directors (unusual folks, aren't they?). From what I understand, CA law does not require embalming, but recommends it for viewings. I purposely avoided getting in to too much medical detail (Beeko probably came the closest), referenced that authorities were looking into it, and chose instead to focus on the emotional / spiritual ramifications. In my mind, the boy's resurrection was no less miraculous if he'd been embalmed or just refrigerated. In other words, God can raise the dead even after embalming, or autopsy, if He so chooses. To deny that would be to limit God’s power. That being said, I think you’re right that addressing that might have taken away a potential stumbling block. Hey, thanks so much for reading The Resurrection and taking time to review it. Grace to you!

Jason said...

Interesting point John. I see what Mike is saying in that he wanted the vagueness to keep people questioning. However, if he had made one little comment or concession to the embalming/not embalmed to keep the ambiguity of "Was it real, or was there a medical/naturalistic explanation," it probably would have kept that point from nagging at you.

Lesson for writers - no detail is too small, for someone will catch it!

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

John, the embalming thing bothered me too, in that at one point I thought the people who were thinking Mondo might not actually have died were just too stupid to be good antagonists. But I didn't know about the freezing thing.

Also, I thought the doubts about the earlier resurrection were credible because presumably burial practices would have been more varied.

Unlike you, however, I eventually set that issue aside and "suspended disbelief."


Fred Warren said...

I mentioned this in a comment elsewhere, but I think it was essential to the story that Armando *not* be embalmed, because as John observes, if he was, it's a miracle, case closed, and all the mystery and conflict swirling around it simply dies. Everyone still has to cope with a bona-fide miracle, but I think it takes the wind out of your sails to nail it down solidly, just as the story is gathering momentum. The Mexican tradition and refrigeration option take care of the plausibility issue, though it might have been good to mention it in passing for the observant reader (not me, who didn't even notice).

BTW, I still like John's spoiler warning sign better than mine. :)