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Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite
Surviving Carmelita by Susan Miura is a Christian novel that deals with loss and spiritual renewal. The main protagonist, Josie Caruso, narrates her dramatic descent into doubting her personal relationship with God after a tragic accident tests her faith. On a Halloween night, as she drives her daughter home along a foggy road, a flash of white interrupts her focus. She slams the brakes and thinks of what she just hit. She then hears the voice of her best friend, Ana. A sharp cry of grief follows that wrenches Josie’s gut, as her daughter, Ashley, from the backseat asks her what just happened. This moment changes everything in Josie’s life, as she begins to live shrouded with guilt. As if this is not enough, she learns that her teenage son plans to run away. She takes temporary leave for the benefit of the people she loves, that they might heal faster in her absence. But what she is trying to run away from seems to find its way to her, as her name rings a bell to a pastor who attended the funeral of a beloved niece who died after being hit with a car.
Susan Miura tends to wax poetic in heightening the drama. She finds her own constellation of images that revolves around Josie’s thoughts and feelings about accidentally killing Carmelita. The loss surrounding Carmelita’s untimely death supplies Miura with metaphors that weave the plot’s tension and pacing. You only need to read how her imagery builds suspense at the tragic scene of the accident. From there, everything within Josie’s perception becomes saturated by guilt that shapes her choices along the way. A dead child is a haunting element that shapes Josie’s vision. In doing so, it effectively delivers a message that self-blame can keep you from being able to function. In the end, you learn that it makes more sense to face outcomes than to indulge in blame and self-pity. Surviving Carmelita is an inspiring tale about dealing with death and the transition from guilt to healing.