Ready to Dance in the Desert?

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This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing TO DANCE IN THE DESERT (RiverOak, May 1, 2007)by Kathleen Popa


Raised in the American Southwest, Kathleen began her love affair with the desert as a child. Before becoming a writer she, among other jobs, worked in both the juvenile facility for incarcerated girls and a home for emotionally disturbed children. Mother of two, she lives in Northern California with her husband and youngest son. Visit her blog, Reading, Writing, and What Else is There? She is a member of the CFBA, too! Give her a holler!


“Not a safe world.” How many times had she heard it over and over again? Well, it is not a safe world and Dara Murphy Brogan knew it better than most, which is exactly why she had tucked herself away on a desert mountaintop. Now it was just her, the voice inside her head and the boxes of hastily packed odds and ends—all that was left of her pathetic excuse of a life. Hadn’t she chosen the desert because it was barren and brown and dead looking and far, far away from anyone who may have seen the news?

So what was this, this trespasser, this interloper, this whacked out earth mother doing dancing outside her window? Celebrating life and the Spirit in a way Dara never could have dreamed. Until she opened her door and met Jane Cameron.


I’m still reading this one, but I wanted to get a word in while the tour’s still going on. From what I’ve read so far, Popa’s got a real winner. She’s filled her pages with the kind of sensory details that bring the desert to life, the kind that comes like pulling teeth to me (speaking of which, pray for my husband as he goes in to get his wisdom teeth pulled!)

But back to dancing in deserts. Popa’s imagery with the mouse is excellent even if it’s not wise to treat a wild, disease-carrying rodent like a pet. Then again, even that aspect could be seen as a metaphor for sin or the burdens we hold onto.

I couldn’t figure out whether Popa intentionally gave Dara a mother named Clara, but part of me is inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt on that little rhyme.

Dara’s still small voice is also well done (I really sympathized with her concern about hearing a “voice in my head.”) Over all, a great first effort here.

I’ll try to update this post with more once I’m finished. Happy reading!


I finished it this weekend, and Popa stayed on pace pretty well with what I mentioned before. The only other note I wanted to make is about half way through, she takes on a common false teaching that goes around the church in the form of a well-meaning, but overbearing former missionary, ah, friend of Jane’s, who in the book is working on a book that takes “the prayers of a righteous man are powerful and effective” and concludes if one diligently keeps the ten commandments (or rather his interpretation of them and few other traditions and non-ten commandments) one’s prayers will be answered.

This amounts to an attempt to manipulate and control God, and simply won’t work. Especially if you’re keeping score as this fictional program calls for–the participant is awarded points for good works and deducted points for bad works. The problem is, if you’re keeping score, that’s all the reward you’ll get.

Even if you take out the manipulating God to get what you want aspect, you still have the problem of treating symptoms rather than the disease. Who scrubs the outside of a clogged commode while it’s still overflowing? First, you gotta unclog it and cleanse the flow coming from inside the bowl before you have any hope of getting the outside truly clean.

Likewise, as Jesus always emphasized in his ministry, sin comes from inside the heart, and it’s the heart we need to address first. Change the heart, and the bad works will lose their attraction, and the good will come naturally. Far more effective than treating spiritual acne caused by a heart problem with clearasil. Treating the skin might get rid of the acne, but it only results in covering up the true problem.

But Popa illustrates the point quite well. If I can fault her for anything, the plot seemed to wander a tad, but she didn’t dance off any cliffs in my judgment. Which leaves just one question: are you ready to <a href=”″>To Dance in the Desert</a><img src=”″ width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />?


  1. Thank you, Andrea – I’m so glad you’re enjoying the book. Very observant about the names. I don’t know if it ever came out in the book, but Dara’s father’s first name was Dan. So… Dan plus Clara equals…

  2. Author

    You’re welcome. That makes a lot of sense (good character trait, that says something about her folks)

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