Rev. Callie J. Smith didn’t plan to write a novel for Lent. However, the #MeToo story she began writing one spring became just that. Smith’s novel, Kat’s Dreams (Clay Patin Press 2022), explores a scenario that happens all too often in the life of the church.
Why Lent? What makes this season an appropriate setting for your novel?
Repentance. When I first started writing this novel, I knew I wanted to tell a young woman’s very difficult story of encountering sexual harassment in her church setting. I began with the idea of her second-guessing herself: how she handled the situation, how she approached reporting it, how she kept silent when the leadership did nothing. I saw her journey as one of “turning” from silence to speech. Very soon, though, I realized the novel was dealing with so much more than that. Each person who heard her story had to wrestle with what it meant to them and their community.
I realize we tend to associate this time of year with devotionals or books for study. In the case of Kat’s Dreams, though, I chose to set this story during Lent – and I envision it as a Lenten story – because it has to do with repentance. The fact that abuses of power do sometimes happen in our congregations is a structural sin that Christians are still coming to terms with. Much like the characters in this story, I think individuals as well as communities are still learning how to constructively and faithfully “turn” from these experiences.
Who is this novel for?
I imagine this novel speaking to anyone who’s had a love-hate relationship with The Church or a church. The main character, Kat, refuses to set foot in any church, and her story gives us glimpses into why. She’s only just beginning to practice trusting again after an experience of betrayal. It doesn’t take a situation like hers to resonate with a healing journey like the one she’s on. Besides, this is a novel. Between a budding romance and a couple of mysteries to be solved, the plot has enough happening to keep a variety of readers turning pages.
The book concludes with discussion questions for individual readers and groups. I’ve also put resources on my website like a series of brief videos that reflect on topics within the novel. Whatever else the novel is, I’ve meant it to be an engaging and enjoyable read. I’ve meant it to generate conversation, too, though. If it starts even a few good ones, then I’ll think of the project as a success.
Check out this video to hear Rev. Smith speaking more about the season of Lent and the novel Kat’s Dreams.
To read more about Kat’s Dreams, click here.
Rev. Callie J. Smith (CTS class of 2007, M.Div.) is ordained in the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ and serves as a special projects consultant to church-related organizations and other non-profits.