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Reviewed by Cheryl E. Rodriguez for Readers' Favorite
Judy Kelly pens a story of self-discovery in her novel Blessings and Curses. Olivia did it; she’s ready to graduate from the seminary. Even though she is thrilled, a dark cloud hovers over her excitement. Olivia has decided not to become a priest after all. She knows this decision will disappoint Father Wilson and, most of all, her parents. Yet, deep inside, Olivia carries a heavy burden, a dreadful feeling, a curse lurking in the shadows of her mind. If only she could remember. Olivia struggles with darkened memories, dimmed remembrances of life before she was adopted. All she knows is she isn’t priest material, she is tainted. Olivia meets with Father Wilson and tells him her decision. He is understanding but wants her to continue being a prayer team leader. He gives her the assignment to pray with a death row inmate nearing his time of execution. Fr. Wilson suggests that praying with the prisoner might possibly help her find herself and direction. Olivia feels completely unqualified but takes on the task. God indeed has a plan. The next two weeks uncover what has been hidden deep inside Olivia all her life.
Blessings and Curses by Judy Kelly is much more than a story; it is a journey into an elusive past. In the opening chapters, I felt slightly confused by the mysterious narrative hook. Honestly, I was baited by curiosity only, not really hooked. However, as the chapters unfolded, the vagueness gradually dissipated, revealing what was hidden deep inside each character. The cast of characters is woven together by the past. The conflict results when the present exposes what is hidden within them, and they are forced to face it. Each has a choice; to believe or deny the truth. The characters are real and relatable; they tug at each other while tugging at the reader’s heartstrings. Blessings and Curses reveals the effect of childhood trauma, proving that what we don’t understand, we reject and, in this case, we bury. For the young heroine, her childhood is veiled, but when the curtain is ripped aside, she discovers a transforming beauty, blessings, and freedom residing within the fear and ugliness. Judy Kelly vividly reminds us to let go of the past and choose to live life to the fullest. “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19)