Friday, January 19, 2007

The Fragrance of Roses, by Nikki Arana--review and interview

Third in the Regalo Grande series, The Fragrance of Roses continues Angelica Amante’s story. She and Antonio raise their 10-year-old Down’s syndrome son, Manuel, and younger daughter, Anica. Little do they know that Manuel’s leukemia, once in remission, will return with a vengeance.

Trusting God has been a regular part of Angelica’s life. Having entrusted her marriage and family to God, now she must entrust Manuel’s life to Him as she and Antonio seek a bone marrow donor. An impatient Antonio travels to Mexico, hoping to find a blood match within his extended family. The search is more difficult than expected, and Manuel is fading fast.

Will Manuel be saved in time? Can Angelica and those she loves trust God for a miracle in their lives and accept His will for them?

Arana’s stories are rife with heart-wrenching emotion. We meet, understand and love each point-of-view character she develops. Angelica experiences the bitter agony only a mother with a sick child can feel. Antonio takes matters into his own hands to prove he has tried everything humanly possible to save his child. A young man in Mexico longs for a real life, a home and escape from poverty. A doctor attempts his best, but grieves when he can’t deliver the health his patients need. And we feel with them all, page after page.

The end of a series is always sad, but we can look forward to Arana’s new release later this year.

Q & A with the author:

Me: Why did you write about leukemia and bone marrow donors? Have you known someone personally who struggled with this?

Nikki: This story idea originally came to me as I read about a child’s battle with leukemia in a magazine. I wanted to help. That led me on a search to discover what I could do to get involved. I began to learn about how to donate to bone marrow registries and through that process learned that minorities are terribly underrepresented. I also learned there are age and other restrictions that apply to donors, so I would not be able to donate. But I could do something else. I could raise public awareness about this issue. So I wrote a book.

Me: How do you decide which POV characters you will use (besides the obvious choices of the heroine and her husband)?

Nikki: I choose my POV characters up front by deciding whose point of view is needed to deepen the story. Beyond what the reader needs to know externally, how do I make the story compelling, how do I draw the reader in and get them to invest emotionally in what they are reading? Because POV characters reveal themselves, the reader can bond with them.

My books tell internal/spiritual stories as well as external stories. When I began writing this book, Dr. Dorak was not a POV character; he was not a Christian either. But about two-thirds of the way through it, I realized I needed him to deepen the spiritual message of the book. How God used a tragic event in his life to impact the lives of others. I went back and rewrote his character.

Me: Tell us a bit about your use of symbols, i.e., the fragrance of roses.

Nikki: As I began to think about my story, the phrase “the life is in the blood” kept coming to me. Clearly for the child with leukemia this is true. But I understood it on a deeper level, in a spiritual sense. For all mankind, the life is in the blood. The blood Christ shed for us. The story is a metaphor for salvation. Without giving away too much, we find that the least among the characters is the one with the unique, specific blood. The blood could not be bought by the wealthy grandparents of the dying child. It was given freely, and the child gave nothing in return. The reader will see other symbols and metaphors in the book that have to do with healing, how prayer is answered in unexpected ways, and how Jesus makes His presence known to us as He chooses. Yes, sometimes amidst the fragrance of roses. At least that is what I have found.

Visit Nikki's website.

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