about the author

Staff Book Reviewer Spencer Dew is the author of the novel Here Is How It Happens (Ampersand Books, 2013), the short story collection Songs of Insurgency (Vagabond Press, 2008), the chapbook Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres (Another New Calligraphy, 2010), and the critical study Learning for Revolution: The Work of Kathy Acker (San Diego State University Press, 2011). His Web site is spencerdew.com.

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An Imperfect Rapture
A Review of An Imperfect Rapture
by Kelly J. Beard

Spencer Dew

Demons and angels—as imagined, with real consequences for those who imagine them—each make cameos in this memoir, fittingly paired, the heavenly and the hellish, because what keeps this memoir from being yet another trite addition to the genre of former fundamentalists musing on the empowerment experienced through exposure to the wider world of ideas (in this case, Greek tragedies discussed late night at Denny’s) is Beard’s attention to the peculiar dynamic of gratitude at the heart of the Foursquare Pentecostalism in which she was raised. This is a remarkably honest book about love, about family. Sure, not every family engages in the exact sort of conspiracy thinking, paranoia and obsession with the ruin and secret running of the world that Beard grew up within. Titillated with anticipation for renewal in the wake of equally satisfying tribulation, Beard’s people sought to memorize the Bible, for instance, expecting a time, soon, when all physical copies would be destroyed by the forces of the Antichrist. Such trappings only accentuate Beard’s stark and sympathetic engagement with the thankfulness underlying a notion of love—a love from family, from community, from deity, that in all cases emerges from abuse just as surely as it survives it. Consider one of the sinister parables with which Beard begins her tale, that of the shepherd and the lost sheep. While some version of this is ubiquitous in Christian consciousness and iconography, the story here takes a revealing, terrifying turn. Once the shepherd finds the lost animal, he “lovingly placed the lamb’s foreleg across his thigh . . . pressed quickly on either end until he felt the snap of bone.” “And then the shepherd carried the little lamb close to his chest until the lamb’s leg healed. After it healed and the shepherd set it free, it’d grown to love being near the shepherd so much that it never wandered from the fold again.” In many ways, An Imperfect Rapture offers the lamb’s perspective on this story. Beard’s father was in many ways monstrous, her mother complicit in the abuse, their wider community a study in solipsistic madness, but with this book one does not merely feel the snap of bone breaking or the slap of belt on flesh. One also feels that comfort—indeed, that profound gratitude, that sense of thankfulness for undeserved grace—of being held close to the chest and hearing the imperfect heart of a loved one. Such gratitude is not presented as Stockholm Syndrome, as a psychological trap, but, indeed, as a good, as an aspect inherent in the value that is true love. No one, Beard seems to imply here, is “buried beneath too much wreckage to retrieve.” This story of leaving the church has more than a little gospel message to it, and it provides a remarkably intimate look at family life.

Official Kelly J. Beard Web Site
Official Zone 3 Press Web Site

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