In G. Elizabeth Kretchmer’s first novel, The Damnable Legacy of A Minister’s Wife, Kretchmer weaves a tangled, complicated narrative between three vastly different characters. She has chosen to narrate the story through the perspective of a woman named Beth who has died of cancer and is attempting from the afterlife to forge connections between members of her separated family in need of salvation. Beth is caught between the world of the living and somewhere in the afterlife, causing the point of view to dance interestingly between what feels like third person (because we are observing from the outside with Beth), and what it actually is—first person, as we receive Beth’s thoughts interspersed throughout the scenes she observes. The effect is that the reader experiences the story as if she is watching everything unfold from behind a window with Beth there to narrate the events and provide insight. This makes for an original and intriguing reading experience.
In terms of Beth’s plan, the expectation at first is that it will be carried out predictably. In the first pages of the novel, Beth reveals to the reader that she intends to bring her husband Ryan, her friend’s adopted granddaughter Frankie, and Frankie’s biological mother together. The assumption then is that it will all come to fruition just as she lays it out. However, as the novel progresses the story takes unexpected twists that keep it exciting and move everything forward at a steady, exhilarating pace. Frankie must battle uncontrollable life circumstances, Ryan and Lynn fight Mt. Denali’s elements and their consciences, and Beth struggles with her own motives and her solitude in the afterlife.
As for the characters themselves, Kretchmer again surprises. In the beginning they come across as being predictable—the hardened emotionally detached female adventurist, the grieving widower, the misunderstood teen from a bad home. Then, Kretchmer describes the men, with their sculpted athletic forms and their attractive features, and causes some brief worry about characters that are possibly too perfect. But Kretchmer pleasantly surprises with every chapter, adding new layers to her characters that make them complicated, deep, and often frustrating—in short, human. Beth, a minister’s wife, struggles with her own faith in God, her plan, and her placement in the afterlife. The minister himself has strayed from God and becomes angry and cynical. Characters who are seemingly perfect or simple quickly become multi-layered and unpredictable.
In her first novel, Kretchmer has undertaken the crafting of a complicated, intriguing storyline and done so admirably. She takes her readers on a journey of love, loss, and self-discovery. In the end, rather than tying it predictably together with a pretty bow, she gives only what is necessary—a sense of hope, the most these characters can ask for.
Want to read more? Visit G. Elizabeth Kretchmer‘s website