Treha Langsam is a mysterious young woman who has fallen through the cracks, much like many of the elderly people she works with at Desert Gardens Retirement Home. But Miriam Howard, director of the facility, sees her extraordinary gift and untapped potential. Treha is a whisperer of sorts, calling those who have slipped into dementia back to a life of vibrant, if only temporary, clarity.
When Treha's and Miriam's stories intertwine with a documentary team looking for stories of the elderly, Treha's gift is uncovered, and the search begins for answers to the mysteries of her past. As their paths converge, each person is forced to face the same difficult question: What if this is as good as my life gets?
An uplifting, human tale of an ordinary woman with an extraordinary gift.
Every Waking Moment released in September 2013 and received the 2014 Christianity Today Book Award of Merit in the Fiction category. The book was also named a finalist for the 2014 Christy Award in the Contemporary Standalone category. Visit the Christy Award Archives for a list of the 2014 winners and finalists.
Q: What was your inspiration for this book, Every Waking Moment?
The question at the center of this story is "If this is as good as it gets, am I okay with life?" I find this is a universal question that hits at the heart of our outlook on life and our belief in God. The other question it raises is this: If you could bring someone back from dementia or Alzheimer's and have a conversation, what would you ask? What would you say to that person?
Q: Tell me about your main character, Treha Langsam. Was this character based upon anyone in particular?
She was loosely based on my own children and what they've gone through the past five years. This is probably my most personal story to date. We were exposed to toxic mold. Most people think you can only get a rash or have respiratory damage, but it can attack the brain. Treha's symptoms are similar to what I've seen in them and others who have been exposed.
Q: What lessons or truths will your readers find in the pages of this novel?
I love the fact that God doesn't look at the exterior; he looks at the heart. As humans, we have a tendency to judge on first impressions, but we miss so much by doing that. Those who are disabled, those who have some kind of struggle in life, those who are older—all are lumped into a category, and this is such a disservice to them and us.
Q: How do you expect Treha's story to resonate with your readers?
I think everyone feels a bit like Treha. She is the little engine that could, even if she isn't given a chance. And it only takes one person giving someone else a chance. I'm hoping readers will give someone a chance—or maybe let someone else give them a chance.
Q: As a writer, what did you particularly enjoy about crafting this story?
I loved getting to know Treha better because she's so mysterious to everyone around her. She's also a bit scary. To crawl into her skin and walk around and see what she sees is a heartbreaking, life-affirming journey. I also liked the discovery that came with other characters who encounter Treha and see how she changes their lives.
Q: What is your hope for this story? How would you like it to impact readers?
My hope is that this force of nature, Treha, would empower readers to believe the truth about themselves and others. In Christ, you are stronger than you think you are. With God, you can do anything he calls you to do.
Q: How has this novel helped you to grow as a storyteller?
Trying to tell a complex story in a simple way is always difficult, and people's lives are hugely complex. Trying to uncover the truth about Treha—why she is the way she is and where she might be able to go from here—helped me as a human being as well as a writer.
Q: Your novels typically touch on a relevant and current topic in our culture. What topics do you weave into this novel?
One thread running deeply through this story is the reliance we have on drugs. It's much easier to take a pill than to make a lifestyle change. And this is affecting individuals, families, and our culture. It also means a great deal of money to institutions, so in tackling this, I know I'm not going to make friends in the pharmaceutical industry. I'm grateful for drugs—my son wouldn't be alive today without insulin. But every positive thing can have a negative side as well.
Q: What big questions will this novel get your reader thinking about?
What is your backstory? What is the worth of an individual? Old, young, disabled, unsuccessful . . . several characters are faced with questions of their own worth as well as how they treat others. I've always heard that your faith is tested by how you treat someone who can't do anything for you. This story will get you thinking about some of those deep issues of the heart.
Q: How do you manage your time with such a full life, including a writing career, a radio career, and a large family?
Everyone has the same amount of time each day. We simply make choices about what we invest in. Hence, I spend less time watching television than I used to. That's a huge time waster. I get up earlier and go to bed earlier. And when you begin your day centered on God's Word and ask him what your priorities should be, things generally fall into place. I haven't arrived at that balance, but I'm struggling as well as I can.
"This novel has authentic characters, a compelling narrative, and a complex exploration of the brokenness and hope of human life."
— Susannah Clements, department chair of literature, Regent University
"Writing in his trademark lyrical style, Fabry spins a poignant tale about our society's invisible seniors and the woman and man who see their potential."
"A fresh voice in Christian fiction . . . [Fabry] brings his trademark rich character development to this story, which delves into weighty issues like judgment, contentment, giftedness, and society's outcasts."
— Evangelical Christian Publishers Association
"Fledgling documentary filmmaker Devin Hillis finds simple stories fascinating. When he arranges to film the residents of Desert Gardens Retirement Home, he thinks he has hit the mother lode. Unfortunately, investors are not as enamored with his concept of focusing on 'old people sitting in a nursing home' and Devin's inheritance is dwindling. Time, and the patience of his partner Jonah Verwer, is running out. When Desert Gardens' director, Miriam Howard, is forced into her own retirement, she remains drawn to the lives of the residents and staff, especially a young janitor named Treha. Treha has a gift for connecting with residents that the new retirement home director does not particularly appreciate. As Devin and Miriam join forces to help Treha understand her own mysterious past, the story uncovered has momentous effects on all involved. Against the somber landscape of the physical and mental deterioration that often accompanies aging, Christy Award-winning novelist Fabry (Almost Heaven) crafts a character-driven tale of dignity and compassion for those who seem to have lost importance to society and, for some, even to their own families. This thought-provoking read challenges the prevailing cultural calculations of the value of a person's life."
— Publishers Weekly
"The skillfully woven plot twists, intermingled with humor, angst and questions of faith, make Every Waking Moment a true page-turner."
— Homecoming Magazine
"Every Waking Moment has depth and beauty. I really don't think I could say enough good things about this novel. It's thrilling. It's poignant. It's touching. It's deep. It's beautiful. And it should be read."
— Josh Olds, Life Is Story
"This is a book full of deep sorrow but also deep faith . . . its intellectual puzzles, dark and resonant themes, and passionate and sensitive heart combine in an ultimately redemptive but also immensely disturbing story that deserves wide readership and acclaim and thoughtful reflection on what it says about ourselves and our world."
"Like small streams converging together to form a river cascading over a falls, these stories soon merge together and become a powerful force in the lives of them all. Once again, Chris Fabry's brilliance in developing full-fleshed characters within a thrilling, yet poignant and sometimes painful story has captivated my heart and mind. Long after I've put the novel down flashes of Treha still come to me. I highly recommend Every Waking Moment to readers of all ages."
— Melody Ballard, Fiction Addict
"There's something special going on over at Desert Gardens Retirement Home . . . a story that everyone should take a minute to enjoy."
"Ultimately a story of love and forgiveness, [Dogwood] should appeal to a wide audience."
— CBA RETAILERS + RESOURCES
"An evocative novel . . . Fabry weaves the events of the past and present into a finely layered story exploring the relationships of faith, forgiveness and family in the midst of healing from pain buried deep in the past."
— PUBLISHERS WEEKLY on Under a Cloudless Sky
"Once again, Chris Fabry's brilliance in developing full-fleshed characters within a thrilling, yet poignant and sometimes painful story has captivated my heart and mind."
— FICTIONADDICT.COM on Every Waking Moment
"Once the story starts cooking, [Dogwood] is difficult to put down, what with Fabry's surprising plot resolution and themes of forgiveness, sacrificial love, and suffering."
— PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
"Few authors can weave such unique stories with such perfect language. . . . Fabry is an artist with words. All I can say is: Read his novels."
— EXAMINER.COM on June Bug
"Fabry has written a nail-biter with plenty of twists and turns to keep readers riveted."
— LIBRARY JOURNAL on Not in the Heart
"A mesmerizing tale . . . [Almost Heaven] will surprise readers in the best possible way; plot twists unfold and unexpected character transformations occur throughout this tender story."
— PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
"[June Bug] is a stunning success, and readers will find themselves responding with enthusiastic inner applause."
— PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
"Not in the Heart is the best book I have read in a long time. The plot is unique and creative, containing both ethical and moral dilemmas. . . . It challenges not only the readers' emotions but also their minds."
"A conflicted, memorable main character. . . . While the mystery at its core is compelling, it's Wiley's inner conflict that's truly engrossing. Down to its final pages, [Not in the Heart] is a gripping read."
Under a Cloudless Sky is entertaining and a wonderful addition to the inspirational fiction genre . . . a multilayered, engaging story with rich details and interesting characters."