I’ve had the book, Among the Lesser Gods, on my nightstand for about four months. It was not for the lack of time or desire, but it was the selected read for my book group’s September meeting. I reluctantly allowed it to wait in my growing stack of books, but the wait was oh so worth it!
“Tragedy and blessing. Leave them alone long enough and it gets real hard to tell them apart.”
The tagline for this novel captured my attention. Tragedy and blessings are topics near and dear to my heart, and after finishing this endearing story, I felt it deserved a review and recommendation for you, my readers.
Set in the 1970’s version of Leadville, Colorado, Elena Alvarez finds her life sliding into a dead-end fast. As a pregnant, college graduate with nowhere to go, Elena agrees to help a widowed father upon the request of her grandmother.
Tragedy is carefully woven throughout each of the main characters individual lives. Elena has lived with a burden related to a fire she started as a young girl. Paul Kofford has lost his wife to a tragic accident. Kevin and Sarah are struggling to live without a mother. And, Tuah, Elena’s grandmother, has a lifetime of tragedy that is slowly revealed as the plot develops.
The thing about tragedy is we all have it in our lives. We live with it and try to figure out what to do with it. Hopefully making a blessing out of a curse.
There were three themes I felt bound the plot together. They each spoke a powerful story of how we can learn and overcome trials in our own life.
Among the Lesser Gods
The title evolves from a reference to a picture in an art mythology book that had captured Elena’s attention.
“[The] picture of Zeus in a columned hall, surveying tiny fields and towns below Olympus. He held a white urn against his hip, tilted, and reached into it with one hand to cast blessings on those he chose to favor below. A black urn of sorrow stood at his feet.” (Among the Lesser Gods, p. 162)
Rather than believe each blessing and curse comes from God, Elena chooses to see the two so tightly woven together that is impossible to see when the curse ends and the blessing begins. This perspective reflects a profound conclusion from which we can all learn.
Inspired by The Odyssey’s reference to people as the lesser god – among each of us are the remnants of the good and bad blessings Zeus sprinkles upon us. The reality is they were all blessings. Good comes from bad and bad comes from good. In our human way, we can learn from tragedy and become stronger. We choose what becomes a blessing.
Fear of Failure
Another beautiful theme in the book was the fear of failure. We are harder on ourselves, judge our actions more critically, and see our faults more visibly than the rest of the world. What you choose to believe says a lot about you. Paralyzed with fear or willing to try. Failure’s only measure is in what we try.
While each of the main characters had a tragedy they needed to heal from, there was a contrast in how they choose to mend and rebuild their lives. How often does our fear of failure push us to choose things predictable and safe? Staying within our comfort zone keep us from growing, healing and even moving on.
Mountain or Mole Hill
Sometimes our fear lies in our perception. Our cumulative thoughts create a story. Regardless of how accurate those thoughts may be – we believe it. It becomes our reality and the missing pieces often get exaggerated into much more than they actually are.
Elena made assumptions her whole life, leading to a series of bad choices based on missing information. It is very much human nature to try to fill the blanks in any situation. The biggest problem is when our ability to change our perspective is hampered because of what has become fact in our mind.
Among the Lesser God’s is Margo Catts’ first novel. Our book group was lucky enough to have her join us the night we discussed her book. She has a witty sense of humor, an eye for a great story, and a mind to challenge the intellectual. Having known Margo for over 15 years it was a pleasure to see her again as we delved into the schematics of her book.
This book truly has it all. There is a little bit of adventure, mystery, love, and hope. It will speak to your heart because there is a trace of Elena in each of us.
Be sure to look for this one – it promises to please!