Beauty from ashes: Inside Ginger Marcinkowski’s Run, River Currents

In a recent daily devotional by Pastor Charles Stanley, I read that God shapes our lives into who He wants us to be by allowing painful events to happen. This can be discomforting about a God who says He loves us, but what if His beautiful promises would have never came to light had we not suffered?

Ginger Marcinkowski

Ginger Marcinkowski

In Ginger Marcinkowski’s Run, River Currents (2012, Vox Dei, an imprint of Booktrope), Emily Evans walks into an ornate Catholic church, as mourners leave, and punches her deceased father in his coffin. “You’ll never be dead enough,” she whispered. Sexually abused by her father, Emily wrestles with anger and forgiveness and restoring what was stolen from her.

Like Emily, Marcinkowski’s alcoholic father also sexually abused her, from around age four to nine.

“It started out as [a story] about my mother raising eight kids on her own and it turned into a dark story,” Marcinkowski, 59, said. “There were things in there I never said out loud to anybody, especially to my family and all of a sudden here it is in the book.”

Set in New Brunswick, Canada, Run, River Currents tells the back story of how Emily’s mother abandoned her because of the father’s abuse.

Run, River CurrentsMarcinkowski, of Mobile, Ala., wrote the novel during her MFA Creative Writing program at Wilkes University. Though the nature of the book was dark, it did not affect Marcinkowski as one would assume, because she said she forgave so long ago. “Writing this book was like I was just a person watching. There was no emotion in my writing. There were no tears. This was just me writing. That to me was amazing.”

Finding a home with a publisher was difficult. The secular market said it was too Christian while it was too raw for Christian publishers. Finally, it landed a deal with Booktrope an indie publisher in Seattle, Wash. The novel was also a semi-finalist in the 2012 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award and nabbed honorable mention this year at the New England Book Festival.

The Button LegacyIn June, Vox Dei published a follow-up to Run, River CurrentsThe Button Legacy. In this novella, Emily receives a tin box of buttons from her late grandfather, John Polk. Each button has a story that invokes healing in Emily and reveals her family’s Godly heritage.

The real tin box used to sit on a hutch owned by Marcinkowski’s Canadian grandparents. These buttons were collected for generations and when Marcinkowski visited them on the weekends, her grandfather would hold up a button and tell a story. Run, River Currents is a story of someone who isn’t saved and carried so much grief in her life whereas The Button Legacy is John’s story of hope and someone who loved the Lord for a long time, Marcinkowski said.

Both books are set in New Brunswick and Marcinkowski just became a Canadian citizen. I asked her how it feels. “I now have permission to say aye,” she laughs. “I actually did it to allow me more opportunities to write about New Brunswick in the Canadian market.”

She said she would’ve never published the book had her mother been alive. Her father is also deceased. I ask the one question I’m dying to know. Do you think your mother ever suspected your father?

“As a mother now, I would’ve believed that she knew and I still today believe that, but he physically abused her and I think it was trying to survive for herself as well as keep us alive. You just don’t know how she couldn’t have known.”

When Run, River Currents was published, one sister was “absolutely furious,” a younger brother didn’t want to read it, while others had no idea what Marcinkowski endured and expressed sympathy and remorse. She also learned secrets that she never knew about her siblings.

“I remember Mike Lennon saying on the first day [of class], ‘All of you want to write and you have a story in mind, but I have news for you, the story will find you. You’re going to write the story that has to be told.’”

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