Friendship is a life-giving gift in which we don't run away. We do the opposite.

A Glorious Bustle of Life

The layers of life, in all their overwhelming proportions, call for a large God. The unexpected diagnosis, the many ways in which we disappoint ourselves, and the messiness of the generations all seem to come home to roost during middle age as parents depart this world and adult children come into their own. Margie Nethercott elected to manage all these complications by carefully selecting a large rock, tying it to her ankle, paddling to the middle of a lake and letting the rock pull her to the bottom.

Her plan would have been flawless except for low rainfall and high temperatures which put the water level at about neck high on a medium height middle-aged woman, leaving her tethered and standed in the middle of the lake. Can You See Anything Now?: A Novel by Katherine James faces head-on the emptiness, weariness, insecurity, and discord of small town life in Trinity, New York where the Nethercott family and a constellation of their friends seek appropriate ways to struggle.

My favorite character, Etta Wallace surveys Trinity’s comings and goings from a white Cracker Barrel rocking chair on her front porch and makes a quiet commitment to Margie’s well-being and recovery. Prescribing banana bread (with nuts) and Crock-Pot dinners, she serves up grace in the evangelical tradition. Their unlikely friendship grew out of the rich soil of Etta’s resolve to “do the opposite”:

” . . . when people are struggling, it seemed to Etta, the people around them run away–embarrassed, uncomfortable. She would do the opposite and introduce herself.”

Finding the glory of God sufficient to carry her down the hill and away from her safe fortress, Etta also found herself walking beside Margie through her adjustment to a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis and a tragedy on the banks of the Weekeepeemee River that rocked the town.

Those who struggle with mental illness either personally or in their family tree will rejoice to note that Margie does not immediately bounce back from her depression and begin spouting Hillsong lyrics. Pixie’s fraught experimentation with drugs and sex are portrayed as ineffectual methods for taking the edge off the bleakness that had become normal for her. Readers who are sensitive to triggers should know that there’s a good bit of vivid description around a young woman’s habit of self harm (cutting) and the internal dialogue leading up to Margie’s attempted suicide.

Can You See Anything Now? is a complicated read and the winner of Christianity Today’s 2018 award for fiction. The believing community needs fictional accounts of family life set in the raw details of walking this broken ground that do not require a happy ending to be redemptive. If you are disposed to tolerate some obscenities and profanities in your reading, James’s lyrically written prose will encourage you to look for the thread of hope in your own story.

Many thanks to Paraclete Press for providing a copy of this book.

Rejoicing in the Glory (so very big!),

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to If you should decide to purchase Can You See Anything Now?: A Novel simply click on the title, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.


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42 thoughts on “A Glorious Bustle of Life”

  1. I lived my entire life with people who had mental issues from schizophrenia to dementia. I can relate to this book. Thanks for the review. This review made me intrigued to read the book.


  2. Michele,
    I’m glad that Christian writers are tackling the topic of mental illness. Having lived with anxiety and depression all my life, I’m tired of it being swept under the rug in Christian circles. Maybe we can better help our struggling brothers and sisters if we are more informed and begin to erase the stigma. Thanks for sharing!
    Bev xx


  3. I came face to face with mental illness after I got married – schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. So, yes, I know I can relate to this story, from the word go! We so need such kind of stories that reflect Life as we live it.


    1. There’s also a history of mental illness in my family, Shilpa, so I hear you. Realism is harder to read, but so helpful in realizing that our own situation is not as strange as we thought it was.


  4. I think we miss honest, real life reading and instead choose books that will take us away from our troubles. Do You See Anything Now sounds dark but fascinating. It also is a fiction book and it sounds like it takes the topic of mental illness to teach us in a new way.

    I know you don’t read too many fiction books. Did you find it to be more difficult to read? Happy Easter to you and our family.


    1. Yes, I guess I did find it more difficult to read, not because it’s fiction, but because it was jarring, both in content and style. And I also find fiction VERY difficult to review because I want to share the plot and the author’s heart without giving away too much of the story.
      There was a time when I read ONLY fiction, and not that long ago, really. A few years ago, I made a commitment to invest my reading time in gaining a better handle on the Bible and theology. Then a few years after that, I started blogging and reviewing books, so it’s been kind of a journey.
      Are you hosting your crew for Easter, Mary? Hope it’s a wonderful day!


  5. I am glad this topic is being talked and written about. Never easy but if done well, it’s good for the society at large. Thanks for sharing about the book. Looks like a good one.


    1. Especially in the church, we need to be sensitive to and aware of the struggles going on in people’s lives around mental illness. We’ve made a lot of mistakes in the past. Hopefully, information and awareness will make us more effective in offering hope and help.


  6. Great review as always, my friend, and looks like an excellent read. I will likely skip this one, however. After working with the emotional and mental health issues of so many for my 25 years as a professional clinical counselor, I do not enjoy reading about this even if in fiction now even though I used to read it all avidly. Have a blessed Holy Week!


  7. Michele, this sounds like an intriguing story, one filled with the real, raw struggles of life. I am so thankful that the Bible also contains jarring stories that teach about the grace and love of God. Thanks for this review!


  8. I think you make a very good point here. Most Christian fiction I’ve ever read was so sappy and feel good it hardly read like real life. We Christians are doing our collective selves a disservice pretending life isn’t messy. Thanks for sharing! Blessings!!


  9. Michele, if anything could get me out of my dislike for fiction, it sounds like this book could do it. Sounds like there’s no fluff in this one, so it could trick my mind into thinking it’s real for a minute. (That seems to be why I struggle with fiction. I can’t seem to trick my mind into believing it’s real, so I struggle to get into the story lines.) Perhaps I need to try this one for my porch reading this summer. Hmmm. 🙂 — Thanks for sharing, friend. Happy Easter. xoxo


    1. Absolutely no fluff, and no shilly shallying either.
      Fiction and porches do seem to go together . . . I love fiction, and at one point in my life, it’s pretty much all I read.


  10. Sounds like life, Michele, messy and hard but not beyond the grace of God. Thanks for a great review on what sounds like an intriguing book.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Michele, thanks for the review and mental health is a huge issue in today’s society. Thanks for sharing with us at #BloggingGrandmothersLinkParty and have a lovely week.


  12. Congratulations! Your post was my feature pick at #WWBlogHop this week. Visit me at on Tuesday evening to see your feature! All hosts choose their own features from the comments left on their blog so be sure to stop by and see your feaure. I invite you to leave more links to be shared and commented upon. Please be sure to leave your link number or post title so we can be sure to visit!


  13. Wow! This sounds powerful and hard to read. I’m not sure I’ll tackle it any time soon as this season of mine isn’t very conducive to serious, deep reads. But maybe someday… This looks good! Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on!


  14. Thank you for adding your book review to Words on Wednesday. I love the sentence about Etta choosing to “do the opposite”. It sounds like this book takes a hard long look at mental illness and coping mechanisms. -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures


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