Paraclete Fiction | “This Heavy Silence” | Preview

August 2018 — Paraclete Fiction expands its acclaimed collection by bringing Nicole Mazzarella’s This Heavy Silence back to print.
Mazzarella’s novel captured the literary world’s attention when it was first published back in 2005, by breaking the norms of Christian fiction with a heroine’s controversial choices, edgy themes and language. In 2006 the top fiction award from Christianity Today, and a subsequent Christy Award, confirmed Library Journal’s “highly recommended” accolades.
Now Paraclete is pleased to reintroduce readers to Mazzarella’s mesmerizing portrait of betrayal, forgiveness, and the mysteries of grace. In This Heavy Silence, discover the world of Dottie Connell — strong, resilient, and deeply loyal, she farms three hundred acres in rural Ohio alone, having sacrificed love and family for land she does not own. A sudden, inexplicable event leaves the daughter of her childhood friend in her care. Pressured by her community to allow her former fiancé to raise the child, Dottie must face the past she has worked fifteen years to forget. 
“Nuanced characterization, finely wrought scene-setting, subtlety in addressing questions of faith, repentance, and forgiveness.” —Christianity Today Book Awards 2006, Winner in Debut Fiction
Part One: 1962
Chapter 1

Thousands of seasons of deciduous rot in the sandstone ridges of this Ohio valley yielded wheat fields that brought farmers begging to buy Brubaker land. My great-grandfather convinced a Brubaker to sell him three hundred acres, not revealing to anyone he had discovered a spring-fed patch of land. Land that would never go dry. So while our land never rivaled the Brubaker’s in size, my great-grandfather made a name for the Connells. And names could last for generations.

In winter, this valley belonged to no one. Snow covered the fields and then drifted over our fences. I wrapped my scarf around my head and stepped into my boots on the black rubber mat by the door. The snow from last night’s milking puddled between a row of boots that promised seasons to come: my mid-calf green rubber boots for spring, the tan suede hiking boots with yellow laces for summer.

Quickly lacing my boots, I worried Zela’s daughter would wake before I returned from milking, or, worse, that Zela would arrive and find her alone. Zela had never left her only child in my care. Most women assumed I had no instinct at all if I didn’t have the sense to marry and give birth to my own children.

Reaching for my thermos on the kitchen counter, I noticed a neatly stacked pile of cloth next to the telephone. I flicked on the light. Zela’s aprons. Starched and pressed. This was the second time Zela had left her aprons at my house. Yet she knew I would never use them. Cooking could not stain my work clothes any more than transmission oil, so I never bothered.

In November when she first left these aprons, I folded them over a hanger and kept them near the door, hoping to prompt her to explain why she hadn’t simply tucked them in a drawer or donated them to her church’s rummage sale. Only a month later, she slipped in the side door quietly. By the time I came into the hallway, her coat bulged slightly from the aprons tucked inside. Her silence encouraged my silence. If I noticed her taking them, she didn’t want me to mention it.

“What does he say to make you stop wearing aprons, and then make you start wearing them again?” I asked. Zela rubbed her hands on her legs as if she already wore an apron that could absorb the nervousness in her palms. I knew she wouldn’t answer. Our friendship was based on old secrets, not new ones.

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