Today, we showcase an interview done with Ruth L. Froese, a pastor’s wife and biblical counselor, about her recently released book. Froese holds an M.A. in biblical counseling and is certified with the International Association of Biblical Counselors (IABC). She has authored several counseling books including Redeemed: From Bondage to Freedom; Scripture: How to Study it Well; The Darkest Valley: A Biblical Understanding of Suicide; There’s No Place Like Home: Gospel Grace for Adoption; Walking in Wisdom: A Study of Proverbs; and, Women of the Savior Jesus: Christ’s Conversations with Women.
We are thrilled to introduce Reseda, Froese’s first fictional novel, to you!
Q: This summer your historical novel, Reseda, was released by Electio Publishing. I’m curious as to why you, a biblical counselor, would write a work of fiction.
A: If Christ veiled exhortation in parables, why not write fiction? A world of instant media creates calloused people, yet I notice that heart-wrenching pictures or stories can lead out a more open response. The story of Reseda wrenched my heart and I hope it touches the reader as well.
I wrote as one two generations removed from exile to socialist work-camps, the great-granddaughter of farmers living in what was then part of Russia who were forced to surrender first crops, then land, then lives, to the requisitioning of socialist government. Some escaped; some were exiled to the Gulag, ever be silenced. I wanted to give them voice.
Q: So is Reseda a story that you heard as a child?
A: None of those horrors were ever talked about. I was given a legacy of quiet, peace-loving, worshipful living. While at times my mother thought secret police might be watching the house, we fell asleep without fear of being dragged from our beds and shoved onto a train headed for Siberia.
I can only speculate that perhaps their silence was intended to protect us from the unspeakable evil they endured. But there’s fragility to the freedom we know and while one fictional work can’t begin to pierce the naïvete of the generations coming up, perhaps it can open eyes.
Q: Am I hearing you say Reseda makes a political statement?
A: While the facts of what happened may speak politically, that was never my intention. I wanted to convey the theme my grandparents expressed in their diaries—that even in the face of unspeakable evil, God is sovereign and God is good.
Q: The story uncovers horrific secrets.
A: Yes. When my parents passed and I found and read the diaries of my grandparents, it felt as if I was watching an impossible movie. Curiosity piqued, I began to research Russian history. To those interested, I recommend the difficult but important book by Orlando Figes, The Whisperers.
Q: How can Reseda be fiction and still serve biblical counselors as a case study in schizophrenia, as you claim?
A: Actually, there’s historical accuracy to the tale of Talia’s schizophrenic behavior and how it was handled. Talia’s story is reflective of the chaotic mental shifting between delusion and reality evident in my grandmother’s diaries, balanced by the organized day-to-day recounting of my grandfather’s journaling (he is such a hero in the story, isn’t he?). Talia’s hospitalization for schizophrenia and what happened during that time closely follows their writings, including Talia’s work to control her thoughts in order to convey to her children the joy of heaven.
I love reading fiction, but am often frustrated by what is labeled “Christian fiction.” Authors’ worldviews shine through their stories, and I’ve read few that flow from a mindset wherein Scripture is absolute truth.
Because Christian fiction not only reveals, but also shapes and speaks to worldviews, we need a biblical counseling platform in this forum. Perhaps Reseda will spur other biblical counselors to take up the pen and write fiction from the perspective of biblical counseling.
Q: Jakob is the hero of the story?
A: In that his character is a picture of my grandfather, he certainly should have been written up as a hero. What a strong, faithful, gentle man. I can smell the roses climbing the arbor gate of my grandfather’s perfectly tended garden, see him carefully lowering homemade noodles into my grandmother’s chicken soup, and hear him playing hymns on his 12 string guitar, making them sound like Lara’s Theme from Dr. Zhivago. He reviewed the TV Guide each week and underlined a handful of shows acceptable for watching (back in the sixties). I remember one Saturday, he made hot chocolate for me, and the two of us sat together on his front porch drinking lumpy cocoa, making awkward conversation. This man, who measured ice cream into equal pieces before slicing the brick, patiently loved his madly schizophrenic wife. I pray the character of Jakob encourages and motivates faithfulness in spouses/family members of counselees who struggle with disorderly thinking and delusions and hallucinations.
But Talia should come out as a hero of sorts too. My grandmother died when my mother was a young girl, yet the way my mother spoke of her fostered great fondness, and that’s likely why her story haunted me until I wrote it down. She was broken, understandably so, yet I was compelled to admire what was beautiful in her and to love her in her fragility. I hope that you love her too when you read Reseda.
Q: Why the name Reseda?
A: During the years of writing and rewriting Reseda, that title page just wouldn’t behave. I filled it with emotionally charged possibilities such as The Shattering, or Brokenness and Healing, or Out of Russia, none of which would stay put.
Reseda is inherent to the story in two ways—in my grandmother’s writing she names people according to the flowers by which they speak to her. She refers to her mother as “Mother Reseda.” Curious, I searched the internet regarding the reseda plant and was able to order seeds, fully expecting them to arrive from a nursery in America. One week before the book’s final draft due-date at Electio, an envelope arrived by mail, from Dnipro, Ukraine, and out fell a small baggie, full of reseda seeds. Dnipro Ukraine was originally Yekaterinaslov Russia, the name of the town printed on the frame of my grandparent’s wedding picture. Then, when I learned that in ancient Latin reseda means “healing,” it was as if, just in time, the book had named itself.
Q: Nice. So, did you plant the seeds?
A: You bet! My reseda bed brims with sweet little flowers. I grow roses too, and have attached each type of rose to a person I love, whom I pray for as I tend their rose bush. When I care for the reseda garden, I’ll pray for readers, that the eyes of their hearts can see how Christ’s stripes bring healing in a world of suffering and pain.