Lone Star Book Reviews
of Texas books appear weekly
First-time novelist Diana Finfrock Farrar is a native Texan and financial adviser representative who loves snow skiing and traveling, she is an advocate for social justice issues and an ordained deacon and elder in the Presbyterian church (PCUSA), where she sings in the choir every Sunday. Blessed to have been born into a family that taught her how to live a life of faith, love, and relationship, she has always found the idea of family at her center.
Feeling called to make a difference in a world full of polarization and intolerance, Farrar has penned her first novel with the hope of educating her readers on issues of empowerment, injustice, and compassion. She and her wife, Charlotte, were married in Ontario, Canada, in 2010. They live in Texas and share five children and three grandchildren.
The Door of the Heart won a statewide fiction award in April 2015.
Diana Finfrock Farrar
Paperback, 978-1-4918-7124-9 (also available in hardcover and as an ebook), 425 pgs., $18.99
Diana Finfrock Farrar’s first novel begins with fifteen-year-old Jamie O’Dell, gay and closeted, in the principal’s office at his high school, victim of chronic bullying since middle school. This time the football team’s intimidation has been so blatant that school officials can’t ignore the problem. The bullies have been sent to the alternative campus and banned from extracurricular activities for the remainder of the school year, but Texas Land Commissioner Ed Sloan’s son, Michael, is one of the bullies and Ed won’t take this punishment lying down. Tammy, Ed’s wife and Michael’s mother, is torn between remaining silent as she has for twenty-two years, or speaking out for what she knows is the right thing. As the controversy rages, Ed and Tammy’s jeopardized marriage mirrors the polarization in the media, the community, and the schools.
The Door of the Heart is a timely story, well plotted, evenly paced, and thoughtfully told with pleasantly surprising plot twists. Farrar has imagined complex characters while still allowing room for development. Ed is the exception; he is one-dimensional — but that is the point of this story. Can even the most obstreperous understand the need to change? It is a pleasure to witness Tammy’s transformation from well-meaning but oblivious mouthpiece and smoother of Ed’s rougher edges to an adult human being with agency and convictions all her own.
Farrar’s subject matter is provocative and understandably elicits strong emotional reactions, though sometimes the character’s language is overwrought. “If he could only allow his trumpet to sound on the side of justice and mercy and not just judgment,” Tammy thinks of Ed. “We got Osama for cryin’ out loud,” Ed complains. “Surely we can contain this threat which is every bit as serious to the continuation of American culture as we know it!”
There are many layers to Farrar’s tale. She’s eager to touch all the bases — emotional, physical, legal, cultural, theological — and at times can sound pedantic. Other times she uses her obviously vast knowledge of the subject matter to produce an enlightening and impeccably reasoned argument, such as in Ed’s confrontation with a preacher which produces an easily understood discussion of covenant theology and dispensational theology. “We must remember that we modern readers are picking up the Biblical conversation midstream,” the preacher argues. “We can’t ignore the cultural, doctrinal, and historical context those scriptures addressed. Reading twenty-first century concepts into ancient scriptures will guarantee an incorrect interpretation every time.”
As an elder and deacon of the Presbyterian Church, Farrar infuses The Door of the Heart with her faith and confronts head-on the prejudices, ignorance, and misunderstandings involving homosexuality and biblical teachings in a balanced manner and a spirit of compassion. As Tammy says to Ed, “I seem to remember a story about a teacher in sandals, a woman, and a circle of angry men with rocks.”
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