Well-known African-American poet, Langston Hughes' poem, Mother to Son ran through my mind when I picked up the book, Crystal Stairs. Once you delve into its pages and follow the journey of Jewel, its main character, along with "the Syndicate" (as she calls her group of friends), you'll know that the title is fitting.
When I read the summary of the book my stomach flip-flopped. It wasn't going to be one of those pleasant stories. This was no escape from the cares of the world into some sweet, romantic fairytale.
Multi-dimensional with thick, heavy layers, none- too-easy to peel back, Crystal Stairs showed not only the harsh realities of life in the natural, but that of the supernatural, as well. So many people are somewhat drawn to Christ because they believe that life will be problem-free --all moonlight and roses. This is most times not the case.
Dr. Jewel Prunell, a PK born into a dynasty of sorts, has anything but an easy time of it. The same for one of her closest friends, Aliyah, whose life is almost as closely followed as Jewel's is in the novel.
Despite her godly upbringing and being surrounded by a large
family, she is raped as a girl.
Nine months later, a tiny baby boy arrives from whom she is
separated soon after. When I read as much
in the summary, I was surprised. I
foolishly assumed that this was the climax of the story. But the journey author K.D. Smith takes
readers on is far more than a journey of rape and retribution, if you can
imagine. When, alas, Jewel meets her
son, it seems that all is now well in the world. When I arrived at the middle
of the book, I wondered what else could there be left to say? What more could
Jewel possibly experience? But the
challenge of the story seems to be what comes after she and Chase find one
Grace and forgiveness are far more complicated and convoluted for Jewel. How do you forgive and love when those who you would expect the most understanding from fail you so miserably. This is where the rubber meets the road of true service and submission to Christ. This is where the 'picking up the cross' is no romanticized image of serving our Master, but an often painfully uncomfortable process.
Although the novel dragged in some sections and had a few grammatical and mechanical areas, it was a book worthy of reading. Honestly, I didn't agree with every decision and statement the characters made. There were moments that tears came to my eyes, moments that I got frustrated and had to put it down for a day or two. But Crystal Stairs, with its ups and downs and twists and turns, calls us to 'a higher place of Praise.'
Through the life of real characters who don't always say and do the holiest of things, who have real hardships in life and struggles to see God's hand at times, we are gently (and not so gently) reminded of what Christ daily asks us to do.
Like the Mother in Hughes' poem, even with the torn up floor boards, splinters and lack of light at times, we must all keep climbing and helping those around us in the trek upward. This life is definitely not a crystal stair, but as the lives of the characters of Smith's novel make it clear, without Christ, the journey would be so much more unbearable. His grace and mercy are present and always sufficient, even when we don't sense it.
Shari Grant is a Registered Nurse in South Florida, where she was raised in a (very!) Jamaican home. Some of the loves of her life are words (both reading and writing them) and missions work. She enjoys spending time with friends and family while living for a good laugh - one that makes her belly ache and her eyes water. Her bottom line goal in life is to make the Lord smile and maybe even serve Him up a chuckle from time to time, too.