An Im­per­fect Rap­ture

Kelly J. Beard Zone 3 Press (NOVEM­BER) Soft­cover $14 (282pp) 978-0-9906333-6-5

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews | Adult Nonfiction - LETI­TIA MONT­GOMERY-RODGERS

In the Foursquare Pen­te­costal Church in the 1960s, Kelly J. Beard’s mother saw de­mons, though those de­mons ended up be­ing noth­ing like Beard’s child­hood self imag­ined: “In­stead, they will ap­pear in fires and floods, in her fam­ily’s frac­tured lives, and in the car­nage of their faith.” An earnest me­moir about the de­struc­tive in­flu­ences of poverty and fun­da­men­tal­ism, Beard’s An Im­per­fect Rap­ture bears wit­ness to their legacy.

Beard’s par­ents were deeply in­vested in each other, of­ten at the ex­pense of their chil­dren. When they trans­formed into strict fun­da­men­tal­ists, the fam­ily en­tered a “spir­i­tual and fi­nan­cial vise” with last­ing reper­cus­sions. Theirs was a god who func­tioned as en­abler and source of their fa­tal­ism, one whose an­swers to prayers be­got a hope­less­ness and des­per­a­tion so pro­found it’s ab­ject.

Once her par­ents’ anger and un­pre­dictabil­ity com­bined with a rigid sense of God and church as the only sources of com­mu­nity and trust, the dis­so­nance of vi­o­lence, ne­glect, and poverty wasn’t dis­cussed. From au­thor­i­tar­ian par­ents to abu­sive sib­lings, the trauma in this me­moir is phe­nom­e­nal and har­row­ing. The ne­glect ranges from be­nign to ma­lign, and Beard de­liv­ers these hor­rors without cer­e­mony, drop­ping them into her nar­ra­tive al­most ca­su­ally.

Beard’s prose con­fers beauty on even the ugli­est mo­ments. The me­moir thrives on un­ex­pected and vi­tal im­agery: her fa­ther an “in­ter­mit­tent pulse of im­ages held un­der wa­ter,” their Dober­man pin­scher paw­ing “the seam at the back door,” and peo­ple pray­ing in tongues “wo­ven through like sil­ver through silk.”

Not­ing “I don’t think you can com­pare pain any more than you can com­pare love. I don’t try to com­pare theirs with mine,” Beard doesn’t dis­tance her­self from the mirac­u­lous or the hor­rific. Rather, she names both ex­pe­ri­ences as real and claims her her­itage in each.

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