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“ABSENCE “ NOW IN HARDCOVER

SOME PEOPLE TRY TO BE TALL BY CUTTING OFF THE HEADS OF OTHERS.— Paramahansa Yogananda

“What I wanna know is who’s in charge?” one woman says to the other. She is shaking
her head as if speaking of something too horrible to be believed.
“Well, today it’s a scary world. Who is in charge of anything these days? You can take
all the precautions you want, but things still happen,” the other comments. “Mama said she
heard on Big Bam radio the guy went crazy and started shooting at everybody in the clinic.
People killed for no reason at all. You can’t predict something like that.”
“Yeah, just innocent bystanders doing their jobs, and some nut-case in a face-mask walks
in with a gun.”
“What’s worse, he got away! Who knows if they’ll ever find him?” She gives a depressing
sigh. “We live in a dangerous world.”

How could it happen?

In An Age of Mass Shootings, This Psychological, Southern Gothic Novel, Considers the Answers.

I thought about writing this novel, “Shooting at Heaven’s Gate,” several years ago after being shocked that in a small town near mine, a disillusioned and angry young man took up his shotgun and killed many of his family and co-workers. Why had he done it? Jealousy, greed, revenge, drugs, or some mental disfunction? Why had he destroyed the people he most cared for? Seemingly senseless shootings/murders like these seem to be becoming more prevalent. But the reasons behind them are ancient.

Most of us can retell the story of Cain and Abel, a story of one brother murdering the other. Genesis 4. When the Father (God) favored Abel’s gift over Cain’s, a few narcissistic traits began to itch in Cain, and then finally took him over — jealousy, greed, anger, and revenge, leading to Cain’s murder of Abel. Did God love Cain? Of course. But the sin of Cain separated him from God, just as sin separates us today from God.

Jealousy, Greed, Anger, and Revenge

I have no idea what caused the shootings in this nearby small town, but I suspect some of the above narcissistic traits were involved.

Our life is an ongoing drama between God and each of us. Whether we accept it or not, no matter who we are or what we do, each of us has an inborn, spiritual relationship with the God who created us, the God who loves us infinitely. We can deny it or shout our disagreement. We can act out in reprehensible ways to destroy God’s sovereignty over us. Our God-given free will allows that behavior. But truth cannot be altered. We were made to be good. We live in a world that God made to be good. And yet moral and physical evil exists in spite of the goodness — and therefore, human suffering exists. Yet, God is still merciful.

Goodness Left Behind

In the novel, “Shooting at Heaven’s Gate, goodness is left behind for a time, and evil runs rampart in Bethel, Alabama. Dr. Malcolm J. Hawkins, III, narcissistic, arrogant head of psychology at Bethel University feels his position and his credibility threatened by the impressive, up-and-coming English professor, Ginnie Gillan, because that is the way of narcissists.

Good and evil do not exist when searching for the best way to scratch an itch. The only question is, Can I get away with it? “says Dr. Malcolm J. Hawkins, PH. D.

If someone threatens Mal’s narcissist’s ego, he shifts into a war-like predator mode and scratches that ‘itch.’ Jealousy, greed, anger and revenge take over him, and Mal decides to use Ginnie’s husband Edmund’s fear and weakness against her. Feeding Edmund a steady diet of drugs and manipulation, Mal then lights the fuse of the greatest tragedy Bethel has ever known. Beyond understanding? Yes!

And yet there are explanations.

Expositions of Mal’s behavior: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/insight-is-2020/201807/what-makes-some-narcissists-mean-competitive-and-jealous

How Edmund fits as Mal’s victim: https://www.thenarcissisticabuser.com/what-is-narcissist/

Though Edmund acts from a motive of jealousy and anger, he is not a ruthless man, but a victim of Hawkins, and of his own sad life story. Out of an impotence that leads to drugs and the easy way out, Edmund K. Gillan gives himself over to Dr. Hawkins’s control in an effort to relieve his debilitating headaches, stemming from his childhood.

Edmund Gillan is outwardly unassertive and weak, a person who’s never won first-place in any contest because he never asked to play the game. Inside, he yearns to be decisive and strong as is his well-liked wife, Ginnie. Edmund is an assistant Sociology professor, raised by his grandfather, a Holiness preacher whose condemning voice Edmund still hears, though the old man is now dead. From the time he was a student at Bethel College until the present, Edmund has allowed himself to be under the heavy thumb of Dr. Hawkins; frequently visiting him for the kind of numbing relief the psychologist provides. Hawkins pretends to listen to Edmund, gradually hooking him on drugs, just as he has many other students who afterwards, never fail to tout him, stroking his unfathomable ego–just what Hawkins is after.

An extremely envious and narcissistic man, Mal Hawkins sees every situation and person as a threat; so when he hears that Edmund’s wife, Ginnie, is seen as an upcoming superstar at the college, and may soon be a department head, Mal views her as deadly competition, and decides to bring her down, using her own husband as his pawn. Edmund loves his wife, but he also loves the drugs Mal gives him. The drugs, his headaches, and the voice of his grandfather, keep Edmund in constant conflict.

Opposition to Wickedness

Just as in a novel, there are real-life compassionate and loving people that shine in opposition to wickedness. Loving teenager, Alma Broussard, lives with her quirky mother Moline, who works in a dental office, and her feisty Aunt Pauline, who runs the chicken farm on which they live with Jose Alvarez and his teenaged daughter, Angelina who has leukemia. Their lives seem wholly separate from the feuds of academia—but again, revelations emerge, and dark secrets lurk in Moline’s past that will bring the people she loves straight into the path of a murderous madman.

Mercy

Even after Cain’s murder of his brother, God showed him mercy. The same mercy He shows not only in this novel, but upon repentance, to us as well. After Cain killed his brother Abel, God declared to Cain, “Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth” (Genesis 4:11-12). In response, Cain lamented, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me” (Genesis 4:13-14). God responded, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him” (Genesis 4:15-16).

Shooting at Heaven’s Gate is a “Theology of the Cross” novel, a battle between good and evil. A bona fide WAR, in which genuine goodness and grace are confronted by wickedness. In the wake of death and destruction, Bethel, the town that used to be called Heaven’s Gate, will find no easy answers, but always, there is hope for mercy and redemption. 

PRIOR PRAISE for Shooting at Heaven’s Gate:

Family relations and lifelong secrets, human brokenness and the grace of transformation, mass shootings, deception, sin and forgiveness. These fundamental themes of the human search for meaning, of the challenge of faith, reconciliation and conversion, are woven throughout this story of a small town in rural Alabama. The complexities of each character, from university professors to farm hands, become the stage for an exploration of the human condition, in the style of C.S. Lewis, with echoes of T.S. Eliot, Geoffrey Chaucer, Macbeth and many others. The novel is followed by a list of themes, questions for book discussions and selected quotes, making it all the easier for study groups of any kind.Fr. Christopher Viscardi, SJ, Chair and Professor of Theology at Spring Hill College, Mobile, Alabama

Kaye Hinckley has more than earned her keep as a significant contender vying for a living Catholic literature. Joshua Hren, How to Read (and Write) Like a Catholic, Co-Founder of the MFA at University of St. Thomas, Houston

With a brisk narrative pace, Shooting at Heaven’s Gate by Kaye Park Hinckley invites readers to explore the complicated lives of characters suffering with loss, illness, addiction, and deception. The plot twists make this novel both entertaining and thought provoking with the reassurance that good does win.Johnnie Bernhard, award-winning author of Sisters of the Undertow and Hannah and Ariela.

Faith and faithlessness do battle in Kaye Park Hinckley’s thought-provoking, unsparing new novel. She reveals the hellish torments … and heavenly convictions … of everyday people in a small Alabama town in an age of mass shootings. Bring faith as you enter Heaven’s Gate. Charles McNair, author of The Epicureans

Don’t be lulled by the easy, descriptive manner of the beginning chapters. They introduce opposing characters whose thoughts and actions display the good and bad of human nature. Soon, you’ll be put on high alert, and move at lightning speed to satisfy a need to know how these characters interplay with each other. Mal, the manipulator and Edmund’s muddled loss of reality, cause the reader to begin to question, even fear what’s coming, hoping it’s the dream state of a sick, delusional man. Of course, it is no dream. Once the sound of metal is heard, the energy and climax of the book literally explode. Throughout the entire novel, the belief in salvation and forgiveness through confession, suffering, and atonement surfaces as a tenet of Catholic belief, symbolized not only in the characters, but in minute details…about flowers, and guns, geography, and history. Topics of current world concern are touched upon and mentioned briefly, without political overtones, but enough to generate reflection about good and evil, and how they come to be in the human person. A great read. – Terry Lonergan, Longtime Educator, Principal, and reader, Atlanta, Georgia

“Shooting at Heaven’ Gate is different from Hinckley’s other books as the moral themes are explicit and upfront, rather than subtle. I believe this work is a masterpiece. But then I love Kaye’s books because of how she writes (with the eloquence of angels) and for her choice of gritty topics (life is messy). “Shooting at Heaven’s Gate is not Pollyanna and cotton candy. Rather it is filled with real-world brokenness and the need for redemption, accurately painting the struggles on this side of the grave. — Denise-Marie Martin, author of the  upcoming novel, “Tangled Violets,” to be released September, 8, 2022.

“A Hunger in the Heart,” a Tuscany Press prize-winner, is my first published novel, so it is very close to my heart–especially because the late, great Winston Groom, a fellow-Alabamian and author of “Forrest Gump,” “Shiloh, 1862,” and many other books, had these kind words to say as an endorsement: Kaye Park Hinckley’s novel, A Hunger in the Heart is a story of hope, forgiveness, and redemption. It is a great read in the tradition of southern fiction.

Faith and Faithlessness

Posted: July 5, 2022 in World On The Edge

No doubt we are living in stressful times. Depressing times when we wonder upon whom we can depend. Our government leaders are inadequate and weak, and draining or destroying our resources due to ineptitude or greed or revenge or pride–it’s hard to say which. Maybe all of them. We no longer have borders, anyone can come in with their drugs, violence and sex-trafficking rings. America has been reduced to a flimsy shadow on an anthill rather than a beacon on the world. It seems as if we can trust no one except those very close to us. Lies are all around us. Truth has been buried. And it depresses us to the point that our happiness and well-being seem out of reach for now.

Where is the “land of the free and the home of the brave?” Where is our freedom of speech –only one segment of the population has that. The rest of us are to shut-up and take it, just fall into some addiction and swallow the medicine of lies and plain old stupidity.

EXCEPT all at once, by the grace of God who never leaves us alone, we see there is HOPE. All at once, we discover that not everyone is falling for the hypocrisy of our present leaders. All at once, we notice that their well-tailored clothes are coming apart at the seams so much so that their withered bones and deceitful hearts are beginning to show, letting off the rotten smell of swindlers who will soon get their just due. So we lift our spirits and pray for the grace to put a smile on our face at the thought of a much higher power, remembering who is carrying us through this wickedness, and that Truth will be revealed, and the lies will soon be uncovered.

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. Romans 12:19

Strong women stay the course when things don’t go as they expected.

These women are beautiful and plain, young and old. They are loving women who do not give up. There are many of them, but they do not carry attention-getting signs so they often go unnoticed. These are STRONG women.

These are women who do not destroy. They create. They do not cause disruption. They effect peace. They do not hang to some slogan created by someone who wants power only for themselves. These women are not self-serving. They serve others by choice. And they will NOT be used. These are STRONG women.

These are the women who choose to raise strong families committed to God. They are women whose children or husbands become ill and become dependent upon them. They are women who may be so hurt by the actions of a family member that they are tempted to give up and leave. Yet they don’t leave. They stand strong because they believe in a higher purpose. They are principled women who adhere to life and their place in it. These are STRONG women.

These are women who are fighters. It is generosity that bolsters them, and genuine love is their weapon. These are STRONG women.

These women may pray change will come. But if change does not come, they are courageous enough to change themselves enough to face their situations. They make themselves even stronger. They straighten their backs, tuck in their tummies, and lift their chins. They do not back down from the promises they have made. They walk toward those who would ridicule and demean their purposes, and like warriors, they challenge them. These are STRONG women.

These are women STRONG enough to stay.

If a singer/songwriter wanted to make a statement about strong women who stay, it couldn’t be better than this one.

Shooting at Heaven’s Gate, my upcoming novel to be published by Chrism Press on August 15, centers around the mental insanity of a mass shooting, a terrific horror that, today, causes such suffering for so many, and yet is becoming almost common. With such instability and suffering in our world today, we may be searching for some PERSPECTIVE as to why things are ‘as they are.’

For one explanation, I ask you to consider first, PERSPECTIVE IN ART.

Perspective drawings have a horizon line which is often implied. This line, directly opposite the viewer’s eye, represents objects infinitely far away. They have shrunk in the distance to the infinitesimal thickness of a line we call the horizon.

In a perspective drawing, the scene includes parallel lines that have one or more vanishing points. All lines parallel with the viewer’s line of sight recede to the horizon towards this vanishing point. This is the standard “receding railroad tracks” phenomenon.

However, this line is seen not only in Art, but also in PHILOSOPHY–the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence.

The French philosopher and Jesuit priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, refers to it as The Omega Point, and thought of it as a cone–one that we are all rising through to its apex–Christ. He clarifies it like this: “Remain true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love! At the summit you will find yourselves united with all those who, from every direction, have made the same ascent. For everything that rises must converge.” (Fans of Flannery O’Connor, who was influenced by the philosophy of de Chardin, will recall this as the title of her last short story collection.)

According to de Chardin, “In a Universe of ‘Conical’ structure Christ has a place (the APEX!) ready for Him to fill, when His Spirit can radiate through all the centuries and all beings; and because of the genetic links running through all the levels of Time and Space between the elements of a convergent world, the Christ-influence, far from being restricted to the mysterious zones of “grace,” spreads and penetrates throughout the entire mass of Nature in movement. In such a world Christ cannot sanctify the Spirit without (as the Greek Fathers intuitively perceived) uplifting and saving the totality of Matter. Christ becomes truly universal to the full extent of Christian needs, and in conformity with the deepest aspirations of our age the Cross becomes the Symbol, the Way, the very Act of progress…..”

I will pause the quote here–because this speaks to me–in a philosophical way– as an explanation of why there is suffering in our God-created world, something so hard for a human being to accept!

Think again of the cone-shaped perspective in Art as de Chardin continues…”Within a Universe of convergent structure the only possible way in which an element can draw closer to its neighboring elements is by tightening the cone. In such an order of things no man can love his neighbor without drawing nearer to God and, of course, reciprocally (but this we knew already). But it is also impossible (this is newer to us) to love either God or our neighbor without assisting the progress, in its physical entirety, of the terrestrial synthesis of the spirit: since it is precisely the progress of this synthesis which enables us to draw closer together among ourselves, while at the same time it raises us toward God.”

Another pause, because I see in this a value for suffering.

de Chardin, continuing again…”Because we love, and in order that we may love even more, we find ourselves happily and especially compelled to participate in all the endeavors, all the anxieties, all the aspirations and also all the affections of the earth….”

As a child, my grandmother –who lived to be nearly one hundred years old– never failed to comment on the pain of my skinned knees, the loss of a boyfriend, my less than good grade, or any of my youthful disappointments. Her words were always, “Offer it up.” I had no real idea what she was talking about until I reached adulthood and went through some very trying and tearful times. Her words were the same, with a little added on: “Offer it up. It will make you stronger.”

But because we are human, our physical selves find suffering hard to accept. So I think we have to be philosophical about it. We have to have a perspective. All people will suffer individually in one way or another, and all people ( no matter how much others intend to help) must walk through that suffering alone. It is indeed a personally lonesome valley, and yet it is universal–the cone tightens for all of us. We are in it together, and together raised toward God.

I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars.
― Og Mandino

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A sin may, at first, seem a small thing. It may even have a hint of conscience, until it becomes habitual and infectious to everyone around it. Love also begins small, becomes habitual, and infectious as well. Except love is honorable in the human person, while sin degrades his or her soul.

Of course, sin is all around us, especially when we use other human beings for our own ends, ignoring their God-given value.  Except, genuine love isn’t easy, has never been easy, and will never be easy.But taking the easy way out through wrong behaviors, decays not only ourselves, but also, spreads like a virus to others.

In my new Southern Gothic novel, ABSENCE, This is what happens to James Greene, a southern farmer who will do whatever he has to do, even if it is evil, to keep the farm he sees as his legacy from disappearing. This is also what happens to us when we forget who we really are, and who we come from. Just as James Greene, in the floods and droughts of life, we listen to false voices, swallow false precepts, and fall into corruption rather than goodness. We lose the ones we love, and find ourselves suffering, totally lost, and miserable. Can we recoup?  In our loneliness, are there people who can show us the way back? And could those people possibly be the ones we have hurt?

ABSENCE is foremost the story of love’s restoration between James Greene and his wife of many years, and between James’s son, William, and his new, second wife. In the mix, is Cecilia, the daughter and sister they maligned, who disappeared from their view, but will not let go of their minds. It is also the story of innocence in the persons of two children who strive to keep the entirety of their family in tact.

REVIEWS

Courtney Guest Kim, Catholic Reads

Absence belongs to the Southern Gothic tradition because the secrets are dreadful; the stubbornness is perverse; and children play with a human skull in bed. Yes, there is a version of incest too. But if it were possible to reclaim a genre in the tradition of Sidney Lanier—one of whose poems provides both the epigraph and the title of this story—Absence would rightfully be called Southern Poetic. This novel with intense resolve excises every trace of trashiness from its postmodern Alabama countryside. These peanut farmers are poor, but they have a quality not usually ascribed to them: dignity. And because they have dignity, when they fall into evil ways the outcome is not merely horrible, but tragic.

When you close this book, you will feel an anxious impulse to confess your sins, lest they fester and warp the lives of everyone connected to you. More surprisingly, you will have learned to associate the peanut plant with the redemption of man. Kaye Park Hinckley returns to country life what we have long since ceased to expect of it: beauty and meaning. At every level her story reaches roots into the deepest origins of this nation. But apart from explaining a few Creek Indian words, she does not afflict her characters with peculiar dialogue or bizarre impulses. Nor does she try to render local speech patterns into idiosyncratic spelling. Her story utterly rejects every facile trope of a throwaway culture. It hones in on the most important thing this country has trashed: human souls.

James Greene is desperate, but he is not vulgar. His fall into evil is the age-old tragedy of man. He does not do evil because he wants evil, but because he wants the good that has been denied him. Like Adam in the Garden of Eden, he reaches for a fruit that is good in itself, and he does it for the sake of the woman he loves. Like Cain, faced with disappointment, he does not turn toward God in sorrow but away from God in anger. And if you are tempted to shrug off these choices as minor ones, Absence will chill you with the stark reminder that human beings are not just bodies, but souls, whose spiritual influence cannot be suppressed, even when the bodies have gone missing. It’s not just that the ends do not justify the means: the evil means will work their poison through every aspect of your life. So beware, reader. When you enter this terrain of red soil, you leave behind every escape devised by an escapist culture. There are only two alternatives–hell on earth, or redemption through suffering.

From Joseph Pearce, the author of Literature: What Every Catholic Should Know, and numerous other works.  ~Those who have read Kaye Park Hinckley’s earlier novels will know that she is one of the most exciting and gifted writers of contemporary faith-inspired fiction. This latest offering does not disappoint. Absence will further establish Mrs. Hinckley’s hard-earned reputation as a teller of gritty and gripping stories infused with subtle hints of the redemptive power of grace.

From Dena Hunt, author of award-winning novels, Treason and The Lion’s Heart ~Hinckley does it again. Absence put me in mind of Faulkner as a generation-transcending saga set in the South. But unlike Faulkner, Hinckley does not leave the reader feeling burdened by the tragic consequences of the sins of the fathers visited upon their children. Instead, Hinckley enlightens, revealing the indissolubility of love and truth, and restoring love and life. A terrific read.

From Meggie Daly, author of Bead by Bead, and For the Sake of His Sorrowful Passion, Praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet ~”Absence” is the sixth book by Kaye Park Hinckley that I have read and loved. “Absence” and the “Wind that Shakes the Corn” are my all-time favorites. While reading “Absence,” I forced myself to go slowly to savor her sentences like an excellent meal that I didn’t want to end. The author “paints” compelling personifications of good and evil as three generations of characters battle internal demons and nature. The plot in “Absence” is intricate, layered, and surprising up until the last page. Themes of longing, abandonment, forgiveness, callousness, regret, unconditional love, and mercy will stay with the reader long after finishing the book. I can’t recommend this book highly enough—a masterpiece!

AM I GOOD ENOUGH???

Posted: June 13, 2022 in World On The Edge

There’s a character in one of my novels, The Distance Between High and Low, called Hobart McSwain. He was born in Detroit, and adopted as a child by an Alabama family. Expressing his need for acceptance in the fictional town of Highlow, he says:

“I never asked for Alabama; I never asked to be her son. I had no choice over my deliverance. A child has no muscle, at all; just a displaced leaf riding on a stale wind, blowing this way and that. But when the wind stops, the leaf descends. I descended into the high side of Highlow and was raked aside, and it hurt that I wasn’t good enough to be noticed.”

Not good enough to be noticed. A frightening and continuous worry that most of us have throughout our lives.

At my first book-signing at Barnes and Noble, here in my hometown. I worried a lot–like a child: Will anyone come? Will I sign any books? As a new author, will I be accepted?

Since then, I’ve spoken at many events and venues, but always wondering the same. Am I good enough?

Acceptance is what we all want, isn’t it? From the time we are born until the time we die, we strive for the acceptance of those we admire. Am I good enough?

In high school, in college, on the job—am I good enough?

In marriage, in parenthood, as a friend —am I good enough?

Living on the edge of a materialistic world that places wealth, power, and beauty on the altar of success—am I good enough?

Do I hide as if I’m inferior, and only now and then, peek out? If so, I need to remember that I don’t have to please another’s version of ‘good enough.’ I only have to satisfy that place in my own soul that pricks me to follow my highest inclinations, not my lowest ones.

Because in that place, I can relax in comfort and ask the Lord to lead me, then hear His voice as a Father to His child: “I love you no matter what you do, or who you are. I accept you. You are mine.”