And a Yellow Tabby Shall Lead Them: Release Day Blog Tour and Review of A.M. Leibowitz’s Keeping the Faith (Faithfully Yours #3)
Today, I get the honor and the privilege of sharing a triple treat! It’s release date for A.M. Leibowitz’s third novel in the Faithfully Yours series, Keeping the Faith, and I get to interview A.M Leibowitz, share an exclusive excerpt from the new novel, and provide my review of the novel… all in a single, awesome post!
I. First, the all important interview! I asked eight writerly questions to A.M. Leibowitz, and they gave me eight, wonderfully writerly answers.
Is there a character in your work you feel especially connected to? Why?
Both Micah and Cat are aspects of myself. I suppose that’s probably true for a lot of authors, that our characters represent pieces of ourselves. In this case, it’s almost literally true. Micah is the part of me that rebels against all things spiritual, angry and traumatized. Cat is the part of me still clinging to hope in the divine. Like many aspects of my life, I can’t simply “pick a side” on this issue. So they are how I reconcile this tension.
How do you hope your writing influences other people?
At some point, I realized that the main purpose of anything I write is “You are not alone.” For most of my life, I was looking for my people, my community. While I think that the concept of chosen family vs. family of origin can be overdone, that’s not what I mean here. I’m talking about people discovering they are not alone in all kinds of ways—through friends, partners, colleagues, children, and yes, even family of origin. It’s less about who we are closest to and more about shared feelings and experiences.
Tell us a little about any upcoming projects.
I’m finishing the main story arc of my Notes from Boston series. The books are stand-alones mostly, but there’s an extended plot too. I’m outlining future novels set in the same place, with “guest appearances” from the original characters. Those will have a different style, though. And I’m drafting a companion novel to An Act of Devotion.
What genre (other than your own) do you like to read?
Mystery and science fiction.
What’s one of your hobbies?
I’m a violinist with a community orchestra.
II. An exclusive excerpt from Keeping the Faith!
A crash and a yelp from the kitchen propelled Micah to his feet. In a flash, he scooped up a crying Robbie and set the chair he’d pulled over back on its legs. He inspected Robbie head to toe, but there wasn’t a scratch on him. Relieved, Micah turned around with the baby in his arms and nearly collided with LR.
“Thank you,” she said, her shoulders relaxing.
“No problem.” Micah toted Robbie back out to the living room and kept hold of him when he sat back down, tickling Robbie’s toes and making him squirm while LR examined him for injuries. His tears transformed into giggles. Micah looked up at LR as she sank down next to them.
“Do you ever worry about him?” he nodded his chin at Robbie.
“Clearly not enough,” LR muttered. Louder, she said, “Sometimes. I try not to, but it’s hard.” She sighed. “I don’t want to make the same mistakes my parents did, but I’m not sure how else to do things. At least he doesn’t appear to be prone to the same sorts of problems Cat had.”
“Robbie does seem to be generally pretty healthy.”
“Healthy and with the energy of all the rest combined.”
On cue, Robbie wriggled and kicked, so Micah set him back on the floor. He scooted off, and both Micah and LR watched him go in silence. Like his uncle, Robbie had hemophilia, but his brother did not. They hadn’t yet had the girls tested to find out if they carried the gene.
Micah turned back to LR. “You’ll figure it out.”
She closed her eyes briefly. “I know. But I wish Cat were here to tell me what I should do.”
LR rested her head on Micah’s shoulder, and he put his arm around her. There didn’t seem to be anything else to say. Eventually, LR squeezed his hand and sat up again. They stood, and she rescued Robbie from nearly falling off the recliner he’d decided to scale before walking Micah to the door. He bent and planted a kiss on Robbie’s head then stepped out for the short walk next door.
It’s been three years since Micah’s spouse, Cat, passed away at the age of thirty-six. In the process of cleaning his house, Micah discovers a series of letters Cat hid before he died, in which he made one request: that Micah empty his life of Cat as a way of moving on. Micah has been able to work through his sorrow, but he’s unable to fulfill Cat’s last wish. He can’t see a way past his loneliness despite all the caring people around him.
Enter two new friendships. Jude, Micah’s vivacious new coworker, brings joy back into his life. But she has a big secret about her family, and the truth will rock Micah’s understanding of who she is. Chris, the new minister at Cat’s former church, intrigues Micah. Unlike Jude, Chris is an open book, from his musings on theology to his work as a trans advocate and activist. His gentle manner and deep faith become safe space for Micah to open up about his loss.
Through them, Micah becomes involved with the town’s new community center, where he offers a creative writing class. Using Cat’s detailed letters, he fictionalizes their love story to share with his students. In doing so, he at last begins to sort through his complicated grief. Micah learns he doesn’t have to erase his life with Cat in order to make new memories. He may even be falling for Chris, despite their vastly different spiritual views. With a little help from family and friends, Micah will need to open his heart to love completely again.
Content warning: This book is about loss and grief, particularly the death of a long-term partner. There are scenes of character death, funerals, and reactions to loss. There are also numerous references to spiritual trauma, lgbtqia antagonism, abusive family members, and previous suicide attempts. There are no graphic or detailed scenes of the content, however they are mentioned throughout. It may bring up strong feelings in readers. It is not meant to describe every person’s experience nor give advice.
Author Bio: A.M. Leibowitz is a queer spouse, parent, feminist, and book-lover falling somewhere on the Geek-Nerd Spectrum. They keep warm through the long, cold western New York winters by writing about life, relationships, hope, and happy-for-now endings. In between noveling and editing, they blog coffee-fueled, quirky commentary on faith, culture, writing, books, and their family.
Yes, a yellow tabby. But that’s not a spoiler, just a hint, and enough to launch me into this review. Once again, A.M. Leibowitz made me break one of my fiction-reader rules… no crying. *sniffles and reaches for another tissue* What a way to wrap up a series I have unexpectedly grown to adore.
WHAT I LIKED: That darned cat and his oh-so-timely appearances. Okay, that and the way Leibowitz masterfully spun the past, present, and hopes for the future together without losing me. I knew what was happening every step of the way, even when it made me blubber like a sentimental fool.
WHAT I LOVED: The interconnected themes: 1) Family. Family is what you make it, especially to the LGBTQIA community, and Leibowitz shows this in a beautifully accepting manner. There’s the family we’re all born into as well, but even most of it’s beautiful in Keeping the Faith, or at least trying to understand, with a few, glaring exceptions. 2) Healing. Healing means more than the mere physical. The spirit is in there somewhere too, which leads me to the third distinctive theme I found in Keeping the Faith— 3) Faith. Faith means more than opening a religious text. Faith means… well, read. Okay? I promised no spoilers, and I mean it.
CONCERNS: The only factor I think someone open to LGBTQIA fiction might object to is the deep Christian faith involved in this novel, and, indeed, the entire Faithfully Yours series. Some might be put off by it, but knowing it’s there, and that it’s laid out in such a heart-warming manner will help readers understand that they’re not being preached at. If anything, Leibowitz is showing how simply and joyously faith can be included within the LGBTQIA community, no matter what that faith path might be. I say this as a non-Christian, but, honestly, I had no complaints about the faith expressed in the Faithfully Yours series whatsoever.
ONE NOTE ON CONTENT: There is some mild erotic content in this novel, but I, as someone who doesn’t like erotica, wasn’t put off. The scenes were brief, non-gratuitous, and delicately written. I had no problem with them whatsoever. Leibowitz also gives content warnings about grief, loss, character death, funerals, spiritual trauma, LGBTQIA antagonism, abusive family members, and non-detailed, past suicide attempts. I had no problems, but that doesn’t mean another reader wouldn’t find these issues to be trigger points. Forewarned, is forearmed.
MY REVIEW RATING: Sorry, I no longer do those, but as with Leaps of Faith, Keeping the Faith is time well spent. It will not disappoint, and will certainly leave your soul warmed and your outlook hopeful.