Tooth for Tooth by Kimberley Payne is a love story – the story of the love of a mother for her daughter, and the love of the Father for His daughter. It is a story of forgiveness and trust in God based on a true story. Kimberley wrote it to offer hope and healing to hurting hearts.
It is a women’s fiction novel set in Holland, Michigan showing how serious issues in contemporary society can be addressed. Weaving together love, forgiveness and trust.
Dumped into single parenthood, Heather Williams has found a part-time job as a dental receptionist and a cozy apartment with her four-year-old daughter. Life finally looks safe and secure until her daughter reveals a terrifying secret that she’s been molested by her own father. While struggling with her feelings towards her new boss, Heather tries to get the help her daughter needs, navigate the court system, and protect the child from further harm.
When I looked about the room, I expected a lot more women at this Bible study. But, there were only four sitting around the rectangular table. The leader, Margaret, had a hooked nose and mud brown eyes. She took the seat at the end. Three elderly women sat to her right. I felt awkward taking a lone seat on the opposite side of the table, like I was at a boardroom interview. Margaret gave a gummy smile and slid a Bible towards me. The other women had their own Bibles.
Margaret glanced at her watch and said, “Let’s get started, shall we. Welcome everyone. It’s wonderful to see some old faces,” she nodded at the three ladies, “and some new faces as well.” Margaret smiled at me.
“I’d like to begin with getting to know each other. We’ll be spending the next four weeks reviewing this study and talking intimately about our lives, so let’s start on the right foot and remember that what is said in this room stays in this room.”
Intimately? I’m not sure if I’m ready for that. It was hard to swallow past the lump in my throat.
“How about we start with you, Diane?”
Diane, a woman close to six feet tall, had a large frame to match. She wore her silver hair neatly cut above her ears. When she spoke, I detected an accent. “Hello, my name is Diane. My husband, Henk, and I have been married for over forty years. We come from Holland – the one overseas, the Netherlands – and we have one grown son, Jon. We’ve attended dis church since moving here ten years ago.” She stopped abruptly and gave a big smile.
“That’s wonderful Diane, thanks. Let’s hear from Shirley now.”
Shirley sat between the other two towering women, looking small and uncertain of herself. She had eyes the color of black onyx and mousy brown hair that hung sloppily down to her shoulders.
“Hi, my name is Shirley.” She kept her eyes focussed on the middle of the table. “Like Diane, I’ve come to this church for many years. I like it here.” She looked up at Margaret as if to ask, “Is that enough?”
Margaret thanked her and then asked Patricia to introduce herself. Patricia talked fast without stopping for a breath. She had difficulty remaining seated. “My name is Patricia, but you all can call me Pat. Or Trish. But, no, I’d rather you call me Pat.” She smiled, showing a set of perfect gleaming teeth.
She must have had work done, I thought.
“I’m new to this church, but not to Holland. I’ve lived in Holland all my life. I love it here. And I just love the Dutch experience. Doug and I always go to the Tulip Time Festival and Dutch Winterfest. And I love the lake. We have a boat and go boating most weekends. Doug and I just love to boat.”
Margaret interrupted, “Thanks, Patricia. Pat. Maybe you could take us all for a ride some day.”
Pat nodded quickly, excited to see that others may share her interest.
Margaret turned to me. “And you are…?”
“Hi, my name is Heather. Rebecca signed me up for this. I’ve never been to a Bible study before. Um, I have a daughter, Caitlin, in kindergarten. I live up the street and work part-time as a receptionist at the Lakeside Dental Clinic.” Just then, the door squeaked open and Sarah peeked in. “I’m sorry I’m late. Tessa needed me in daycare for a minute. Am I interrupting?”
Seeing Sarah, my mood lifted.
“No, come in, come in. There’s plenty of room. Have a seat, Sarah. We were introducing ourselves. You’re just in time, go ahead.”
“Oh, great.” Sarah smiled and sat beside me. “My name is Sarah and I have one daughter, Tessa. My husband, Steve, runs his own business and I’m a stay-at-home mom. Umm, what else?” She looked to Margaret for direction.
“That’s fine, Sarah. Thanks.” Margaret described her role as leader and what to expect from the study. She handed out the studies and explained, “Each week, you need to read the Bible passage in your booklets. Read it through a number of times. Take your time to let the thoughts and ideas sink in. Allow the scriptures to speak to your heart. Then, answer the questions. Make sure you put down your answers in your own words. When we meet we’ll share our thoughts and discuss the questions. Then, we can talk about how it relates to our lives. Any questions?”
We all sat quietly, looking around at each other to see if anyone had a question. No one did. Then Margaret asked if anyone would like to open in prayer this week. I kept my eyes down, afraid that she might ask me. Pat took the challenge. “Dear God, I pray that we have a good meeting today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
“Thanks, Pat.” Margaret gave a gentle nod and started, “I enjoyed how this week’s chapter opened with a definition of forgiveness.” She read, “Forgiveness: to excuse a fault, to pardon, to cancel a debt, to send away, to remit the punishment due, to let loose and leave it, to drop it, to let it go.”
“Let go and let God,” Pat added. “I have that written and posted on my fridge. It helps me to remember every day to let go of my problems and let God handle them.”
“Would you radder take poison?” Diane’s question caught us all off guard.
Diane sat up taller, “Well, I’ve heard dat not forgiving someone is like taking poison for yourself. You wouldn’t drink poison just to get back at someone else would you?”
“Of course not!”
“Not forgiving someone is just like dat.”
I’d never thought of it like that before. Diane’s conviction interested me. I wanted to know more about this woman. I boldly asked, “Diane, you seem so sure of this. How do you know?”
She leaned forward and shared with us her experience of growing up in Europe during the war.
“My family and I woke up to de sound of explosions. Hitler had suddenly attacked Holland widout warning. The Dutch army fought bravely for five days, but dey had no chance against Hitler’s army and air force.” Diane’s eyes began to water from the memory. She continued, “Life changed for us. The town where we lived was filled wit German soldiers. No one could buy food unless dey had a ration card. Dutch newspapers were stopped. All radio sets had to be given up. No one was allowed on the streets after six o’clock in the evening. But den it got even worse. One Sunday afternoon, all de young men out on the streets were rounded up by German soldiers and sent to Germany as slave factory-workers.”
Diane’s voice wavered. She let out a soft sigh. “My brodder, Willem, was one of de young men. We never saw him again.”
“Oh Diane, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to bring up old wounds,” I said, meeting her gaze.
“No, no. You see I held hatred and anger in my heart for so many years. But once I’d accepted Jesus into my heart, I’d found de grace to forgive my brodder’s killers. Once I forgave, I could finally move on and begin to live again. Dat is why I can share my story wit you today.”
Diane’s story touched me deeply. I didn’t want our time together to end. I’d never experienced such transparency in an elderly woman. Her testimony, although heart-wrenching, was inspiring. She obviously loved the Lord and believed everything that she said.
Her story stayed with me as we continued to talk and share for the rest of the morning.
Finally, Margaret said, “The power to forgive can be found in the Word of God, the Bible.” She then closed the meeting by saying that we needed to put our troubles and pain into God’s hands and no longer hold onto an unforgiving attitude. She ended in prayer and dismissed us a little early.
I watched Diane fold her booklet and stand to go. She met my eyes, smiled and raised her hand in a small wave.
I returned her gesture and packed up my own stuff.
“I’m not sure I can handle reading a chapter a week, what with work and Caitlin and all,” I said to Sarah as we ascended the stairs to the main doors.
“Oh, it’s not a lot of work. And it’s interesting, too. I’ll help you if you need it.” Sarah beamed a big smile. “I have to go get Tessa, but maybe we could meet for tea sometime soon?”
“I’d like that, thanks. I can give you my phone number.” I scribbled my name and number on the back of an old flyer and handed it to Sarah. “See you next week.”
Walking back to the apartment, I smiled at the church sign. It read:
God answers knee-mail
I felt hope coming in like morning light through a mist. I cherished the feeling not knowing how long it may last considering that I’d be going to court on Friday.
What others are saying
Tooth for Tooth is not a novel for the faint of heart. The book isn’t a warm and fuzzy story with the blasé Christian happy ending. Author Kimberley Payne has tackled subject matter that few are willing to acknowledge exists let alone desire to write into a story plot—incest.
Donna Dawson, award wining author
This is a novel I hesitated to read because of the subject matter, but although what happened to Caitlin and her mom is troubling, author Kimberley Payne doesn’t go into traumatic details of the abuse. The story gave me more insight and understanding into a situation nobody should ever experience but far too many do. It also reaffirmed what I’d sensed from a few people who’ve expressed similar—or worse—experiences: as traumatic as it is, there is hope for healing.
Kimberley Payne deals frankly with questions such as “Why, God? Where were You?” and with issues of anger, guilt and forgiveness.
Janet Sketchley, author