With God You Will Never Lose. In time, His goodness always wins.

THEOLOGY OF THE CROSS

Posted: July 18, 2022 in World On The Edge

This is a review of my short story collection, Birds of a Feather, in which a version of Shooting at Heaven’s Gate first appeared. The insightful and appreciated words are those of Jim Hale, Goodreads Southern Literary Trail, and is one of my favorite reviews.

“Authors who take up the task writing fiction from a Christian perspective ultimately reveal whether they are theologians of glory or theologians of the cross. In this fine story collection, Kaye Park Hinckley leaves no doubt that she is a theologian of the cross. You won’t find this kind of hard-core realism in the “Christian Fiction” section at Barnes and Noble where theologians of glory are cashing in big these days.

Here are dope fiend lunatics, adulterers, and drunks, along with hard working, sympathetic, normal folks – typically of the suffering spouse model. Theologians of glory take one look at these scenarios and quickly identify who gets the glory and who goes to hell. The problem with the standard Christian fiction fare is that the derelicts have a conversion experience and then things always get better. But in these pages, it’s not so simple.

In Shooting at Heaven’s Gate, a spiraling out of control college professor is haunted by the voice of his Pentecostal preacher grandfather who warns a grief stricken adolescent that he must repent or face God’s wrath. But he also remembers the words of a kind Priest who had told him that God would continue to love him despite his actions. His actions as an adult become front-page news in the same way regular readers of Southern grit lit are accustomed.

We have a serious sinner on our hands, but we also learn that he suffered horrible tragedy at a tender age and a brain injury to boot. As far as we know, he never properly repented, but his actions put the words of the Priest to the test in a big way, forcing us to ask whether the promise made by the Priest concerning God’s mercy was just cheap sentiment. But this Priest is a theologian of the cross, and the bloody mess of the cross is the only thing that will resolve this mess.

I’ve come to appreciate how messy life is, and how wrong it is to ever produce a work of art that implies otherwise, especially if it’s that thing called Christian fiction.

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher after agreeing to write a review, which I am happy to do. Birds of a Feather is rarity in the world of Christian Fiction.” – Jim Hale

The following is part of another of my favorite reviews pertaining to Shooting at Heaven’s Gate and the other stories in Birds of a Feather, and is from Angelus News.

“Hinckley’s fallen humans are driving home. Many of them literally. All of them figuratively. Though some at the close of the story take “a procedural deviation from integrity,” we find ourselves hoping, alongside the practicing Catholic in the family, that they make it home.

Hinckley’s characters are alive. Their flaws and struggles create dramatic tension and lead us to reckon with the sinner and saint within. Throughout there is an uncanny presence of the Communion of Saints.

Each struggling character evokes a feeling of care within us. I will buy this book for all in my life on this side of the veil. It will be loved especially by the fiction aficionados and all the birds who have flown askew, losing the flock. “As one might lift a tiny, injured bird falling from a tree…”

As rare as the saints among us, a good short story is hard to find. But Hinckley’s collection, Birds of a Feather, remains with us with the power of an epic novel.”

Image  —  Posted: July 13, 2022 in World On The Edge

Image  —  Posted: July 12, 2022 in World On The Edge

Image  —  Posted: July 11, 2022 in World On The Edge

“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.

Image  —  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