In Part One, I discussed the prevalence of faith, God and spirituality in Water Signs, and the important role they play in the development of the plot and characters. Coming from a traditional home and raised in the Catholic Church, it never occurred to me that everyday activities — like reading my daily horoscope with my mom every morning before going to school, and later, starting each day with a passage from the Daily Word magazine — could be perceived by many as “anti-Christian, or anti-God”.
Neither has ever changed the fundamental beliefs with which I was raised. Nor did the supernatural experience I had with the “remote viewing” psychic who turned out to be the only one who could rid me of the menacing panic and anxiety disorder that plagued me for many years.
When choosing to make some of my own trials and tribulations public knowledge via the character of Madeline Rose, I also strove to uphold traditional faith. In the Prologue, readers discover that the two main characters are taking marriage vows at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Deerfield Beach, FL and throughout the book, attending weekly mass is an integral part of Maddy’s life. In fact, much of her role as a catalyst for Ken involves helping him find his way back to their shared religious faith, although Maddy accomplishes it strictly through example:
“What time is mass tonight at St. Augustine, do you know?”
“Um, I am pretty sure it is still 6 p.m. on Saturday. Don’t think they’ve gone back to winter hours yet. Why?”
“Because I’d like to go with you before we have dinner.”
“Really?” Maddy was happily surprised by his request. Although she was a regular churchgoer, it had never been her style to force anyone else to adopt her habits; as long as a man respected her right to attend mass, she was fine with him staying home. Much more important to Maddy was the way in which he conducted his life. After all, Jake knelt in a pew every Sunday, and it hadn’t prevented him from mistreating her.
“Sure,” he said softly. “You inspire me, Madeline Rose. I want to do everything the right way.”
And of course, at this phase of the book, “the right way” also entails waiting until marriage before consummating their relationship, just like God intended — something Ken is more than willing to do, having realized from the start that Madeline is no ordinary woman. But such high ideals also cause complications in the relationship, not simply due to normal, raging hormones, but also to each one’s nagging insecurities.
While Ken is thrilled by the prospect of someday being Maddy’s “first”, he fears the fact that he’s been with other women somehow diminishes her opinion of him. In Chapter 6, during an intimate moment, he flat-out asks if she’s bothered by his past:
“Does it bother you that I’ve been with a woman before?”
“Kenny, no,” she sighed. “No…I don’t judge you for that at all. I mean, it’s completely normal. It’s just that…well…I wish we were on the same level playing field in that regard, that’s all. I know it’s probably too much to hope for with any guy, but it kind of makes me feel bad, like I’m not being fair to you.”
“Shh,” he replied softly. “Madeline Rose, I am here with you because I wanna be. There’s no one else like you out there. And if I have to wait to marry you before I can be with you, then that is exactly what I’m gonna do.”
And while Catholic faith and family upbringing are motivating factors, there’s also a much deeper psychological reason for Madeline’s reticence — the devastating duo of fear and insecurity. But try as she might, she remains frustratingly unable to express her true feelings to Ken who, as a result, spends a great deal of the book hurt and confused by her actions.
For Maddy, it went far beyond the “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” teachings of the Catholic Church, repeated so often throughout her schooling she could almost hear them in her sleep. She’d long ago accepted the validity of these words; indeed, she took them to heart and wanted nothing more than to give herself to her husband — whoever he might turn out to be — for the very first time on their wedding night. It was simply that, as she grew older, she realized how few people, good people, had practically applied the same beliefs.
In Part Two, as Maddy is adjusting to life in South Florida, coping with the news of Ken’s engagement to another woman, and running into some pretty dishonorable men (I will devote another post to the exploration of the minor male characters of the book, deliberately created as a contrast to Ken), her faith in God is the one constant in her life, aside from the support of family and close friends.
Moving through these difficulties compels her to develop a deeper understanding and relationship with her Creator, an effort that is eventually assisted by Ann Claire and Unity Church. However, Madeline never once renounces the tenets of the faith within which she was raised, perceiving these new insights simply as methods for breathing life into her belief system. As a result, she’s a stronger, more emotionally mature and spiritually advanced woman by the time she and Ken reunite toward the end of the novel.
For his part, Ken has also done quite a bit of maturing by the end — mainly due to the responsibilities of fatherhood, the pressing demands of a successful career, and the struggle to save a marriage which, in the end, fails in spite of his best efforts. Still, the process of honoring his commitments makes him a better man. And it is not until his divorce is final that he and Madeline even come back into each other’s lives — a reunion that is guided along by the advice of a psychic.
To emphasize the characters’ closeness with their respective mothers and to bring their spirituality full-circle, I purposely created Chapter 31 to center around a Mothers Day celebration at the home of Carl and Paula Lockheart, Ken’s parents. He and Maddy have just spent a platonic night together in Madeline’s home, after having spent an entire day rediscovering each other and clearing up the misunderstandings from the past. I will delve more into the specifics of this mutual emotional release in another post, but it is no coincidence that their forgiveness of each other’s previous transgressions and reaffirmation of their love for each other is confirmed through their attendance at mass the next day:
“Standing in the pew with him again, reciting familiar prayers and singing timeless church hymns had been such a powerfully emotional experience — and yet another example of having come “full-circle”. There were several moments during the service when she found herself dabbing at her eyes with a tissue, thoroughly overwhelmed in the best sense of the word. It was during those times that Ken would look over and smile, or squeeze her hand reassuringly.”
This divine experience is followed by Madeline finally meeting Ken’s parents after sixteen long years — a delightful scene that unfolds over dinner and karaoke at the elder Lockhearts’ Royal Oak Hills home, where among other welcome news, Maddy learns that Carl and Ken have also reconciled their past differences and now share a close father-son relationship. This scene also marks the first time she has sung in front of audience in quite some time, another example of coming full-circle.
Both characters also acknowledge the hand of God not just in their much-desired reunion, but along the broken road that ultimately led them back to each other.
Coming Soon: more fact versus fiction, thoughts on the character of Erin and a look at some of the other men Maddy dates.