Unexpectedly entertaining spiritual novel is a treat to read
Strickland is a terrific writer. For a slim spiritual novel, Down at the Golden Coin packs a mighty punch in terms of writing, great storytelling, and insightful, funny dialogue. Down at the Golden Coin is a great read, no matter where you are on your own spiritual path.
Story: During the horrible recession, former airline pilot, Annie Mullard, feels she has sunk to a new low when she’s forced to go to a run-down laundromat, the Golden Coin, after her washing machine breaks, but it’s here she meets a messiah. Even though twenty-something, blue-haired Violet can read minds, send Annie into past lives and levitate Tide, she isn’t anyone’s idea of a messiah. Yet Violet is equipped with the wisdom, love and humor to help Annie find a way to a more authentic life, one in which Annie is free to create her own reality and where money is not the key to happiness. (from Amazon.com)
Spiritual/metaphysical content: High. Violet is Annie’s own personal messiah, literally the answer to Annie’s prayers. Violet passes along the usual advice such as creating your own reality, but she grounds the spiritual lessons in physical existence by transporting Annie into past, present, and future incarnations to illustrate her points. For instance, she helps Annie rediscover the feeling of joy by taking her back to a previous life; Annie is supposed to carry this gift forward into her current reality, but she’s not quite as compliant as Violet would like. Annie apparently needs to learn the hard way, remaining closed and cynical. Strickland deftly uses Annie’s rich internal monologue to thoroughly immerse readers in her world of financial despair, cheating husbands, and out-of-touch children. The past life interludes are exquisite, beautifully framing the story and illustrating how we repeat what we choose not to learn.
Violet’s messiah is truly original. Rather than being above the fray while dispensing her advice, she bullies, sympathizes, and whines right along with Annie. Her life is no piece of cake either. Her greatest frustration is that people don’t want to take responsibility for their own lives; they just want God to fix everything. Says Violet, “Apparently no one likes ‘do-it-yourself’ when it comes to the spiritual realm.”
My take: Violet meets Annie at the Golden Coin laundomat, an unusual and inspired setting for the story–no matter how bad she wants to get way from Violet’s spiritual self-help prattle, Annie can’t leave until her multiple loads of laundry are done. In addition, the setting is a natural place to find quirky, colorful supporting characters that provide a nice foil for the pair.
Strickland has created strong female characters to carry the plot: Annie, bowed by financial and filial pressures, and Violet, her personal messiah. Annie has nearly given up and sounds petulant occasionally, but she represents of the voices of millions of people in the same situation when they hear yet another new-thought aphorism. She articulates what we would all like to say. For instance, “Happiness is not a choice. Don’t you think if it were a choice, everyone would choose it?” And tiny, punked-out Violet always has a reasonable answer: “Not everyone knows how to choose it.” When they talk about money, Violet notes that money can’t buy happiness. What money can do is buy choices. “And when you have choices, that can make you happy.”
The give-and-take between Annie and Violet could have easily slipped into dull preaching and whiny complaining, but Strickland gets around that common problem by injecting a healthy dose of skeptical humor, great intelligence, and brutal honesty. Together they dissect common metaphysical misconceptions such as The Secret and identify where the rhetoric disconnects from reality. But the tone is breezy and conversational, firmly grounded in the physical world. The ending is predictable but still satisfying, with a nice little twist that leaves you smiling. I highly recommend this spiritual novel as a fun, fast read that’s surprisingly captivating.
Down at the Golden Coin, by Kim Strickland
Eckhartz Press, 2012
Paperback, 172 pages
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