I love this picture, it makes Susie Finkbeiner look entirely like the Virgin Mary in some Byzantine painting, or a medieval saint. Which is quite fitting really, because a saint is what this woman is (in the true sense of the word) to a small handful of women in the city where she lives. She is very much a saint. A Michigan saint. A Grand Rapids, USA Saint.
I’m not here to tell you today all about how wonderful Susie is though (although she is, and I love her dearly). I’m here to tell you about her debut novel, Paint Chips. It tells two stories, that of a mother and a daughter, and the tremendous losses they faced, both separately and together. Both stories deal with the tragedy of sex trafficking – forced prostitution – and the culture that exists around that, and the amazing redemption that can come from such horrors. I had no idea such a culture existed, not to the organised level portrayed in the book (hey, I’m a small town girl), and I’m glad there are people out there, as portrayed in the story, who work hard to rescue these girls and offer them a chance to start life again.
I don’t know anyone who’s ever been the victim of such horrendous circumstances, and I don’t know anyone actively working to rehabilitate these women, but Susie does. The reason I call Susie Finkbeiner a saint in my opening paragraph is because one of the first things I learned about her (aside from the fact that she’s a mum to three gorgeous little kids and she writes incredibly powerful novels with them tearing around her feet) is that she volunteers her time to teach a creative writing course to women who were once caught up in that culture. She helps them write stories – their own, and ones they just like to dream about – and find new skills and outlets in a life after sexual slavery. She’s loved them, she’s sat with them through the hard times, through hospitalisations, through them pouring out their hearts to her, through endless coffees and heartache. She knows their stories. When I read Paint Chips it broke my heart (and then put it back together) because I couldn’t deny that these stories were, for so many people, true.
So that’s Susie. And this is Paint Chips. Click on the link to check it out for Kindle. The paperback version is being released in April.
Here’s what Amazon has to say about it:
What lies beneath the layers of hurt?
Though haunted by her troubled past, Dot has found a safe haven. She has a fierce protector and a colorful collection of friends…but sometimes she wonders if her life will ever be normal again. Though college and romance await her, embracing them requires a new kind of strength one she isn’t sure she has.
Emerging from years of confusion, Cora struggles to latch hold of the sanity she needs to return to the real world. She yearns to find a place of peace…but first she must deal with the ghosts of her past.
Can this mother and daughter overcome abuse, betrayal, abandonment, and the horrors of sexual trafficking, and make it back into each others arms?
Facing the past is never easy. But as they chip away the layers, they might just find something beautiful beneath the mess.
A word of warning…this book deals with some difficult subjects but it handles them very carefully. But it’s difficult to put down. Seriously.