Intersection Column | Finding the Lost Melody
by Joanna Davidson Politano
I honestly never wanted to write an asylum story set in the old Victorian asylums. They are fascinating to some, but I cringed at the idea. The devaluing of people in these places bothers me more than I can express, and I definitely didn’t want to invest my heart in this setting for over a year. The stories were worth telling, but I wasn’t the best writer for this task. Yet every “I would never . . . ” is usually followed by God’s invitation into that very thing.
So He nudged, and I set out to write this story—which ended up not being that dark after all. Still, it was an asylum. My heroine was just as hesitant, unsure of the setting in which she found herself, and often she was tempted to flee. But she had a reason to be there, someone lost who needed to be found. What if that was true of my writing too?
I paired the storyline with a strong music element to infuse beauty into the tale, and honestly that part delighted me more than I expected. I absolutely loved writing that part.
Even though my novels are considered “gothic” fiction, the shadows are usually more interesting than creepy, and the lovely and colorful parts overpower the dark, so I had no interest in writing a truly dark, dark novel.
Then I had a conversation with my eight-year-old daughter. She had faced the natural consequences of a bad choice that day (sneaking candy) and had come to me for help—and to vent a bit. “I hate that sin’s in the world,” she said. “If Adam and Eve had everything they wanted in that garden, why did they ever want to sin?”
I felt a gentle invitation to set aside trite answers and instead pull out my cell phone—just for the flashlight feature. I had her press the button, and turned it to a rainbow-prism setting. “Look at this. Isn’t that beautiful?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “I can’t really see it with the lights on.”
I told her the Garden of Eden must have been a lot like daylight—all beauty and wonder and ease, with no real darkness or struggle. They had luscious food within reach, an abundance of God’s presence and His lovely creation everywhere they looked. Yet it was too light in there. They couldn’t see the light that is God, and felt they needed more.
“So what if we turn off the bedroom light?” I asked my girl.
She did, and a brilliant display of color shone bright and clear in the darkness. God always stands out in a sin-darkened world. “Now I can see it, Mama,” she whispered.
The beauty in an asylum book didn’t come from a lack of darkness, but all the pieces that contrasted it so starkly. Music, yes—but so many other parts of the story. Human kindness and sacrifice. Unexpected breakthroughs. Surprising strength. Laughable moments and tender encounters that never would have happened without the opposition those characters faced. They stood out when I thought back over the story, these flashes of colorful light on a spinning prism. Stars against a night sky.
This writing project wasn’t exactly what I’d have chosen, and neither was the position my heroine took in the asylum. Darkness is part of this world, and we can’t always avoid it. But wow, does that light stand out.
Sometimes I don’t understand it. I don’t understand a lot of terrible things that happen to people. But I do know that with every shadow that falls upon me, the vibrant beauty of God shines clear and strong against the backdrop of it.
About the Author
Joanna Davidson Politano is the award-winning author of Lady Jayne Disappears, A Rumored Fortune, Finding Lady Enderly, The Love Note and A Midnight Dance. She loves tales that capture the colorful, exquisite details in ordinary lives and is eager to hear anyone's story. She lives with her husband and their children in a house in the woods near Lake Michigan. You can find her online at www.jdpstories.com.
About the Book
When concert pianist Vivienne Mourdant's father dies, he leaves to her the care of an adult ward she knew nothing about. The woman is supposedly a patient at Hurstwell Asylum. The woman's portrait is shockingly familiar to Vivienne, so when the asylum claims she was never a patient there, Vivienne is compelled to discover what happened to the figure she remembers from childhood dreams.
Did You Know?
Researchers from the University of California San Diego recently reported that the rates of loneliness in the United States have doubled in the last 50 years. A majority of people disclosed feelings of moderate to high levels of loneliness across the lifespan. Loneliness paired with the isolation created by a pandemic has left many believing they are insignificant and invisible to others. Here are some biblically based steps a woman can take to liberate her loneliness and leave her wallflower ways behind.
Find people who will fill your heart rather than drain your soul. Sometimes problems in relationships result, not because of personality or lack, but because many seek out the wrong people. The Bible offers sound principles on how to navigate our relational spaces.
Develop a willingness to fail. Much of what is required to leave that sense of aloneness and invisibility behind requires effort. Failure is likely, and often the only path toward real and lasting change.
Become familiar with how God views His children. The Bible records the lives of women we might categorize as insignificant nobodies. Yet, these women were seen, heard and known by the God of the universe. Realizing how God sees His own can cultivate the confidence and courage to be seen for all the right reasons and in all the right ways.
For the woman who knows the sting of never being missed, there is a path forward. You can start enjoying the woman God created you to be and leave invisible you behind.
-Cheri Strange, Can You See Me, Now?
Why I LOVE My Local Christian Bookstore
“I like shopping at bookstores because I discover books on topics I didn’t even know I was interested in!”
-Donna Schlachter, Double Jeopardy