EASY MAGAZINE: Book at the write time
Maria Carter has written a Christian novel that Caribbean people can relate to. It is a step to filling the void the avid reader said she experienced in finding this kind of literature.
Through the characters and situations in Under The Juniper Tree, the British-born Barbadian author expresses her thoughts on a wide range of issues and challenges confronting the Christian in the church.
“I saw the need for Christian fiction. There are lots and lots of self-help books; there are lots and lots of books on theology and things like that to help you with your Christian life. But there is not much Caribbean fiction for your reading interest and this [book] is the end result.”
She read voraciously and has translated some of her own concerns into the lives of ten individuals who all attend the same church, as she explores the religious and societal issues which confront them.
“What I have done,” she said, “is that I have dealt with issues that were close to my heart and I have put them as issues that come up with the individuals. I have looked at spousal abuse, at the HIV question, at race relations.”
Born in Britain to Barbadian parents, Carter came to Barbados at age 16, a move that was for her “a massive culture shock”.
“Nothing really prepared me for the actual living,” she remarked to Easy Magazine, as she went on to recount the early experiences settling in her parents’ homeland – experiences of the child born to Caribbean immigrants, coming from a multi-racial environment and struggling to understand what she detected back then was a clear racial divide in Barbados.
Race relations are something that was an eye-opener when she came to live in the Caribbean, having lived in a very cosmopolitan London. “It was a kind of culture shock. I saw a line of divide which I did not expect.”
And she does give expression to this aspect of her life through the white character in her book, married to a black man, all within the church, and feeling the pressures of race from parents and others in the church, though she stresses this is not the focal point of the book.
It has been a long journey to publishing. Maria started writing the book about eight or nine years ago, at last maturing as a writer from those childhood days when she would often put pen to paper to express her thoughts.
Maria explained Under The Juniper Tree lends itself to the trials and testings of each individual as you follow their lives and she pointed out, “All of us have our juniper tree experience, our trials – unplanned pregnancies . . . . It is how you handle them.
“Because we are Christians, it does not mean that we always handle them well.”
She is therefore hoping the book will be an eye-opener that will bring readers to acknowledge the reality that Christians face the same trials as non-Christians.
“We are not perfect. We make bad decisions; we say the wrong things sometimes at the wrong time. But then we have a very present forgiving and loving God who is there to help us and help us get back on track.”
She also hopes the book serves as an inspiration to the young readers on whom she and Ambrose, her husband of 24 years, continue to impress the value of maintaining virginity until the time is right.
The couple has four children ages 18 to 23.
Together they started the Pure Sex Centre, a ministry in which they deal with HIV prevention from a moral standpoint, going around speaking to schools, churches, youth groups, giving the flip side to the condom message and encouraging young people to remain sexually pure and save virginity until marriage.
They have made primary schools the target because “we are very cognisant of the fact that lots of children are engaging in sexual activity, and starting much younger.”
She made the observation “sex sells and sex is in your face. Society is sexy and that alone is enough to be challenging to any young person to remain sexually pure”. In addition, she noted a style of dressing that was “more open and loose with everything hanging out”, a provocative style that could trigger temptation in weak young minds.
“I want for young people to see and understand once they have read the book that as I personally believe, you don’t necessarily have to have erotica and out-and-out sex portrayed and written in graphic detail in order to sell a book.”
Even though it is written about the lives of Christians within a church setting, according to the author, Under The Juniper Tree has attracted non-Christian readers who Carter said have been “totally intrigued” by it.
“It has touched people across the gender and age barriers and people are asking for a sequel,” she disclosed.
Carter and her husband, both members of the Bethel Pentecostal Church, are juggling roles – managing their plumbing company and ministering to young people they discern are desperately in need of the kind of guidance they are offering.
“This was our calling,” said Carter.