Article on Lynn Anders’ “Of the Seven: Sinner or Saint?”
Expect to put the kibosh on whatever you had previously planned for the next day or so, for once you start reading about Anders’ compelling characters (some sinners, some saints and some with the line blurred between the two) in her “Of the Seven: Sinner or Saint?,” you’ll realize that she’s a wonderful wordsmith as well and you won’t be able to put this captivating collection of short stories down.
As Anders explains in her Introduction, “The short story genre is not a short novel, it is its own genre and in the short story you may get all the components of a novel with a beginning, climax and ending or you may get just a few portions of that formula…. The writer does not have to come up with a resolution or a solution. The writer can literally leave you hanging and guessing as to what just happened.” The only thing I’d add to this is that short stories seldom have slow-moving plots, as I’ve known a few novels to have, and because of this I feel they tend to be less lugubrious overall even with bleak subject matter.
So, reading these short stories can be a refreshing break from perhaps your standard-fare reading. Obviously, the good characters in this collection of stories are in the saint category, and the mostly feckless ones are found in the sinner part. And, though, as is often the case, the sinners make for interesting story lines, a bit paradoxically perhaps, I favored the saints’ story lines as a whole.
So, I mention two of the sinners’ stories in particular and three of the saints’ stories specifically. In addition, Anders is careful to explain the types of Catholic sins, such as whether they are venial or mortal. Plus, she touches on the origins of the top seven sins to Catholics nowadays: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride.
Each of her stories illustrates the seven sins and their probably not-as-well known corresponding virtues: chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility. You don’t have to be Catholic to enjoy these stories; in fact, if not, you may find a sort of tepid agreement or even full agreement at times with certain variations of meaning.
For instance, as Anders writes, besides “The Virtues” meaning “the quality of being morally good or righteous; a cardinal or theological virtue,” they can also, less dogmatically, mean “a quality that is good or admirable.” So, without further ado, a couple of good sinful stories in this collection are: “Beastly” (which showcases gluttony) and “Good for One’s Sexuality” (which showcases lust).
“Beastly” is the story of a kind of lycanthrope who is a gluttonous beast that feeds on only humans; in fact, he can’t eat other furry animals. “Beastly” isn’t your standard Hollywood tale either in that this werewolf of sorts became one through being cursed (due to his own willfully bad actions of overindulgent, gluttonous consumptions when he was human), not by being bitten by another werewolf. Though it’s a shame that other, mostly innocent humans, die in this tale, there’s some satisfaction in the lycanthrope getting his just desserts, so to speak.
“Good for One’s Sexuality” might spark some fear in any lusty female (great change-up that Anders chose a female character for lust, rather than the somewhat stereotypical lusty male figure), for what happens to this promiscuous woman named Jessica is pretty heinous. Basically, her sexuality is taken away in a really shocking turn of events.
Beware: If you’re a female, then this one might give you a nightmare or two!
On the bright side, Anders’ talents as a wonderful storyteller continue in the virtuous stories: a few of the best in this category being “The Teacher’s Roses” (which shows the virtue of charity, meaning in this case, as Anders explains, ‘love, in the sense of unlimited kindness’), “Chuckie’s Gazebo” (which shows the virtue of temperance) and “A Confession.”
Since “A Confession” is arguably the best out of all the stories in “Of the Seven,” I’ll show a little temperance myself (but only because I’m talking about the virtues at this point) and abstain from typing about that one till the end.
“Chuckie’s Gazebo” actually started as a dream that Anders had and changed somewhat to fit the temperance theme. Besides developing the idea of less self-interest in a character named Danny, it’s the inspiring story of a character named Chuckie who has savant syndrome.
“The Teacher’s Roses” shows how love prevails, even in death, and how a kind of pay-it-forward mentality works…passing from teacher to students. Now back to “A Confession”: This one may give you the chills in a kind of Stephen King meets Rod Serling way! Great twist to this one (though you’re given clues throughout), and it’s a really gripping love story as well. Though it showcases the virtue of chastity, it’s about an old married couple, still in love, who haven’t been abstinent from sexual activity all their life; rather, Anders portrays an aspect of the definition of abstinence which might be more palatable to most which means, `to be honest with oneself, one’s family, one’s friends, and to all of humanity.’ One can only eagerly await more future fiction from Lynn Anders…albeit in a patient manner of course.