In Blessed, Sherry Robinson has created an eclectic cast of characters who could live in any American small town. Everyone here is searching for their own mercy, grace, and forgiveness. Robinson is a rare voice who explores many angles of a situation, including those that might seem easily defined as right or wrong; good or bad; evil or virtuous. In the end, even those people who seem most confident in their beliefs come to see that nothing—in religion, friendships, family, or life—is so simple.
—NATALIE SYPOLT, author of The Sound of Holding Your Breath
The characters inside Blessed are so real readers will feel they could shake their hands after a Sunday sermon. The descriptions of church are vivid: you can smell the familiar scent of a dusty sanctuary, hear golden-toned, gospel music humming from the choir room, and feel the heft of a rugged, time-tattered hymnal in your hands. Despite such striking descriptions, Robinson is able to step back and weave this wonderful tale simply, with a calmness of tone and straightforwardness that lets the characters speak for themselves. She does this to great effect. Blessed is a beautifully-written story told by a tremendously talented writer.
—FRANK REDDY, author of Eyes on the Island and award-winning journalist
Sherry Robinson has a true understanding of small towns and their spiritual turmoils. In Blessed she gives us the compelling story of the town of Mercy, through its characters and their attempts to understand the words of Christ and the conflicts that result from their differing interpretations. She writes with such clear humanity that I knew each character in the town, and therefore knew the town itself. She has a rare gift for making true characters involved in an absorbing narrative, and to our benefit she has chosen to write about real people struggling with faith, belief, and action. Her work here is so true, so immediate and compelling, that it is hard to put down.
—CARRIE MULLINS, author of Night Garden
- 2019 INDIES Winner
- Bronze, Religious (Adult Fiction)
- 2019 INDIES Finalist
- Finalist, General (Adult Fiction)
Blessed is an appealing, thought-provoking novel that interrogates religious obligation and altruism.
In Sherry Robinson’s contemporary Christian novel, Blessed, a charismatic, enigmatic new preacher creates rifts among his parishioners and in his own home.
Twelve years ago, the conservative New Hope Baptist Church wasn’t quite prepared for its new minister, Grayson Armstrong. Now, the town gathers to mourn his death, though not all who knew him grieve. The story of Grayson’s controversial tenure unfolds through the perspectives of his wife, children, and the citizens of Mercy.
As Grayson’s funeral ends, his story is told in a round-robin of voices. Chapters are brief, sometimes no more than a page long, and each character speaks with a firm, distinctive voice, with enough backstory given to make them engaging and credible.
This story has depth; characters’ recollections and experiences result in a complex, multidimensional view of Grayson. It becomes apparent that, while some benefited from his compassion and understanding, others resented the changes he forced on them. These included abolishing the choir, removing stained-glass windows, and renaming the church Ignite Community Church—decisions driven more by ego than by fellowship.
The story’s pulse quickens in time with Grayson’s increase in proposed changes and how they stirred dissent. It shows deepening divisions, rumors flying, and church members feeling the chill of alienation. Grayson’s wife struggles to accept her husband lavishing time on his parishioners at the expense of time spent with his children, and his oldest son adds his account of his father’s rejection. What begins as a story of normal change and adjustment shifts to something darker.
Grayson’s successful defeat of an effort to oust him does little to lower the story’s tension, built through skillful opposing examples: a non-churchgoing waitress found him to be a sympathetic listener, while a meek, elderly widow felt shut out of the church she’d once found comfort in. A portrait of the town emerges as an alcoholic veteran describes the once-thriving but now abandoned plant he and other homeless men take refuge in; others describe church traditions going back generations.
The fact that Grayson’s premature death is not explained looms large in the story, driving it to an unexpected but realistic conclusion. Throughout, the book withholds judgement of Grayson and those around him, leaving that space for readers to fill. Themes of obligation and the limits of idealistic altruism are tied together.
Noteworthy for the questions that it raises, Blessed is an appealing, thought-provoking work of contemporary Christian fiction.
—Foreword Reviews Clarion Review
“A thoughtful religious novel…[that] asks many probing questions, using a light blend of mystery, tragedy, and reflection.”
Robinson (My Secrets Cry Aloud, 2012) tells the story of an unorthodox preacher’s effect on a small Southern town. …The novel, as narrated by various members of Grayson’s congregation, explores the ways that the exceptional young preacher touched the lives of the people of Mercy—including the diner waitress who wasn’t a churchgoer when he moved to town; the Vietnam veteran whose PTSD causes people to avoid him; and even the congregants who disagreed with Grayson’s controversial views… Grayson’s widow and children also speak their pieces, revealing the personal side of a man who was reviled by some and beloved by others. The portrait that emerges is not only that of a godly man, but also of the imperfect community of everyday Christians that he attempted to serve. Robinson’s prose is precise but malleable as she channels the voices of her many characters and reveals their fears and desires. …Robinson does an admirable job of exploring the varied personalities of other players as they grapple with their faith and other beliefs. Grayson is the name on every character’s lips, but he ultimately acts as a lens through which the reader can view each narrator.”