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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

071017 TIC coverCHARLOTTE — In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a description of free will begins with the words: "God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions" (1730).

Freedom, responsibility, salvation, sin – this is all heady stuff for most adults, as it requires the ability to see beyond oneself and the present moment. For teenagers, who have limited life experience and a shorter-term outlook on life, the concept of free will can be even more challenging to understand.

In local author Michelle Buckman’s latest novel, "Turning in Circles," teen sisters Savannah and Charleston, growing up just outside a sleepy coastal town, are at the age when actions and consequences can reverberate well into a future not measured in hours but in years.

The story is told from Savannah’s point of view, reflecting on and recounting events that occurred several years previously. Like most of us, Savannah understands intellectually that free will is a gift from God. She knows that each of us must choose for ourselves the voices we listen to and the actions we take, and that each of us is responsible for our own lives. Whether we choose to listen to and be guided by Holy Spirit is up to us. Our lives however, are intertwined with others, so our choices sometimes help the people around us or, just as often, become a burden for others. For Savannah, the burden is heavy indeed.

“You have to force yourself to let go of certain things,” Buckman said when asked about her hopes for this novel.

“Yes, you can influence people but you can’t change the nature of who they are,” she said. “In the end, what they do is their decision. I hope that (this story) helps some people understand that.”

Some people carry around a great deal of guilt, Buckman said, and "Turning in Circles" is about the realization that we are not guilty of something that someone else has done.

071117 Michelle Headshot 3“God has given us this free will to make our choices,” she said.
“Even though we interact, we love and influence the people around us, we cannot force someone to do something against what their nature is telling them to do, and if God’s not going to force them then we can’t force them.”

"Turning in Circles" is listed as Southern fiction and not written specifically for teens, but like all good books it is a great "discussion book." It’s perfect for summer youth groups or parents or godparents and the teens in their lives, Buckman said.

“It’s a great book for discussing with teenagers about their life choices,” she said. “How they let those outside forces influence them - the groups that they’re hanging out with, the friends they choose and how they let them influence, for or against things, they know in their heart are the right thing to do.”

Buckman was born in New York, raised in Canada and now lives near the Carolina coast with her husband and five children. She is the author of seven novels, several of which have won awards both in Catholic fiction and in the secular markets. She is an international speaker, writing instructor, conference speaker and editor.

She is available to lead group discussions for parish youth groups or high school (secular and Catholic) classes. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and her website is www.michellebuckman.com.

— Annette K. Tenny, correspondent

Upcoming book signings

Wednesday, July 19: 6-7:30 p.m.
St. Francis Catholic Shop
649 St. Andrews Road
Columbia, S.C.


Tuesday, Aug. 15: 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Gaston County Library – Main Branch
1555 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC 28054