Coffee Shop God, a companion book to the film
At 35 Therese has finally found herself – the long awaited college degree, the high school teaching job, the new husband, two nearly grown children, and four stepchildren. For once, she anticipates a normal life, but a middle of the night phone call changes all of that. Her younger brother, while out of town on business, is shot and killed. Steve’s death sends her life into a tailspin of grief and a crippling depression. She becomes the glue that holds her eccentric family together.
This collection of essays, set in North Carolina, follows Therese as she comes to terms with the untimely and violent death of her brother. Never have the shortcomings of her family been more apparent. Steve had been the balance to it all; he had been the “normal,” and now Therese is left with the mother who always has a joke, the father who can not show affection, the ex-drug dealing brother who now is an evangelical Christian and the talking bird she inherits from her brother.
At every turn, a barrage of childhood memories floods Therese who would really rather live in the past. Never has she felt so alone or so desperate for connection. The essays follow Therese as she questions her new reality, her spirituality, which is in direct opposition to her parents’, and her love for her brother. She tries to recreate herself in the midst of bond hearings, autopsy photos, debilitating grief, and a new marriage. The narrator wrestles to accept the family she is left with while learning to forgive the young man who killed her brother.
A chance meeting in the bathroom with the killer’s sister reaffirms her faith in humanity and her own ability to forgive. She learns to accept her life without Steve and finds the strength to forgive the man who killed him. Richard, Therese’s father learns to express his love before it is too late, and from her brother’s bird Therese is taught that the past is always comfortingly in her present. The reader is left knowing that a new journey towards meeting the killer face-to-face may well be what lies ahead.
Coffee Shop God is available for purchase here.