“He writes with consummate skill and style and clarity … A Force of Will is a beautifully rendered manuscript and memoir.”Phyllis Tickle Founding editor of the Religion Department, Publisher's Weekly
The venue for our talking circle was at the far end of the festival site, the last camping spot at the end of a long road. Those taking part needed to be very intentional, walking along the muddy path past many other venues and campers to finally arrive at a picnic table on a small spit of land wedged between the river and the railroad tracks. With only a dozen people in attendance, we quickly dispensed with the formalities. Frank talked briefly about the recent devastating loss of his dear friend, and I briefly shared my story and some of my thoughts about grief. Then we asked anyone who wanted to share to do so.
It was amazing. Folks talked about losses expected and unexpected, and about the heartbreak throughout them all. A young woman spoke of two suicides she had encountered firsthand. A man talked about the debilitating mental illness that he knew would eventually kill him. A retired man mourned the loss of his beloved wife in an auto accident, which happened on a trip to counsel a friend through her grief. An 8-year-old girl talked about her grandmother’s last word– her precious granddaughter’s first name. “I prayed for God to heal my Grandma,” she said in an even voice, “And he’s been completely silent ever since.”
All of which was for me the answer to the question, “What do we do to help one another?”
We want friends. Not friends who will distract us, or friends who will try to cheer us up. Not friends who will talk too much, or tell us that everything will be alright. Friends who know the truth: we can’t be distracted, and we don’t want to feel better. We know things won’t be normal, not ever again. There will be a new normal, and that will be alright. But we can’t turn back the clock.
What do we want? We want friends (even friends we’ve just met). Friends who will sit with us, and listen to us. Who will cry with us and then just sit in that holy silence that proves that we are not alone.
That’s all. We want nothing more, and we want nothing less.
“Mike Stavlund’s writing grabbed me by the heart and soul from the first paragraph and has yet kept its grip. I literally had to force myself to put his writing down and get back to work; the first thing on my list being to pray Mike had not already found representation. The message of Mike’s book FORCE OF WILL — that God will reckon us to himself by whatever means he sees fit – is one in which anyone who has ever suffered heartbreak will find solace. But I think it’s written even more for those who’ve somehow managed to live any measure of life and yet somehow still deny that heartbreak can be God’s greatest gift.”Sandra Bishop 2010 ACFW Agent of the Year, Vice-President of MacGregor Literary Group.
“I flew through the initial reading of the manuscript because he's just a damned good writer: intellectual without being pompous, emotional without being cheesy, poetic without being flowery. ... he writes with a beauty and sensitivity to language that makes you whisper parts of his writing to yourself as you read.”Amy Moffitt Musician, Poet, Discerning Reader.