Book reviews

Pat Simmons’ Still Guilty (Urban Books, 2010)

Read this novel to understand why Bible-thumping Protestant fiction on abortion bores people.

The preachiness of these lugubrious 448 pages will help one sleep more than appreciate the problems of abortion in the African-American community.

No doubt, Pat Simmons wanted to mean well in this novel, but an honest evaluation is that watching episodes of Hoarders between chapters is crucial to avoid a three-hour man nap which will utterly throw one’s schedule off for the three days it takes to plow through this freakishly saccharine novel of “urban Christian” (so-called) experience.

And I mean that honestly.  I had to break away from this tedious fictional work often to stay awake.

Simmons’ main character, Cheney, is a typical post-abortive mother, and her regret over her abortion punctuates the tedious narrative (15, 158, 316, and 408).  Even though Cheney’s character comports with how mothers who have aborted feel, several items in the thick narrative cannot be asserted as pro-life statements.

For example, a father whose child was aborted “still harbored ill feelings on the topic of pro-choice” (18).  I don’t know of any pro-life person who would contort his or her language to replace the word “abortion” with the sanitized and linguistically deceptive phrase “pro-choice.”

Also, when Cheney says that “For me, it was the wrong choice” (196), the inherent logical fallacy of begging the question becomes obvious.  Is she implying that for other mothers, abortion is the “right choice”, as though abortion (which harms mothers, kills unborn babies, and alienates fathers) is ever morally correct?

Another concern about the novel is its racism against whites.  Cheney’s husband, Parke, suggests that an African-American child should not be raised by white parents.  When he speaks about the whites who adopted a child whom he conceived by a former (and now deceased) girlfriend, the author manifests the racism clearly: “Parke’s trained ear told him Gilbert Ann [the man who adopted his son] wasn’t black.  How could he show a black boy how to be a strong black man?” (200).  Parke’s racist fears are repeated later in the novel when the author writes that Parke “could only pray” about his son, being “reared by a white man” (279).

Worst of all, the narrative is simply unreal, if not fantasy fiction.  These characters all have revelations from God Himself, and we’re not talking about locutions validated by the Catholic Church.

The most unreal matter in the novel is what would have been a great marital sex scene, ruined by preachy Bible-thumping (315).  The author should read Dr. Greg Popcak’s book Holy Sex!: A Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving (New York: Crossroad, 2008) to understand that there is nothing dirty about sexual love between a husband and wife.  And if it isn’t dirty, then there’s nothing wrong with depicting it in fiction, especially “urban Christian” fiction.

Conclusion: if you want to know what bad writing is like, read this novel.  If you want to take a three-hour man nap between reading these boring chapters which will utterly throw one’s schedule off for three days, then read this novel.  If not, then read a classic like Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair instead.

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