Inspired by a true story, C.W. Ducey’s new novel, Stained Glass, tells the story of a successful abstract painter in London attempting to reconcile with an abusive and painful past. Lucas de Moraes grows in small-town Brazil in the 1970s, where he lives in poverty and suffers abuse at the hand of his father and brothers. Despite the darkness that stains his everyday life, Lucas’s spirit remains as vibrant and fierce as the colors that paint his daily struggles.
Through a series of immense hardships and suffering, Lucas escapes his destructive home in Brazil and builds a new life in contemporary London. As Lucas struggles to embrace his newfound life, he realizes that he must make peace with his past in order to truly move on and heal.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Ducey, who lived in Britain for 12 years before moving to Santa Barbara. She was kind enough to share the inspirations and thoughts behind her debut novel.
Based on a true story, the novel paints an incredibly sad yet very beautiful depiction of a young boy who grows up in a destructive and abusive environment but, regardless, is able to see the beauty in things. How is Lucas able to keep his spirit so strong and driven?
Lucas has the ability to see beyond the realities of his day-to-day life. He finds beauty all around him: in the stained-glass windows of the church, in the oil shimmering in the puddles, and in the colors that dance in his mind. He also has the love of his mother and his sister, Sara, who offer him redeeming kindness and compassion. And Lucas has a fierce desire to live and create a better world for himself.
What inspired you to write this story?
I was so moved by my friend’s strength and perseverance and quite awed by his ability to retain such a deep kindness and compassion for others. And so many children suffer similar emotional and physical trauma in silence. I wanted to give one such child a voice.
Religion is a significant part of the story and it is portrayed as corrupt but also as a source of goodness and internal strength. Why does Lucas continue to have faith despite having been betrayed and cheated so many times?
I wouldn’t say that religion in the novel is portrayed as corrupt but that some of those who speak and act in the name of the institution of the church have been corrupted by power. Lucas has faith because he believes in beauty and goodness, and religion offers him solace when he can find none anywhere else.
It is not until the middle of the story that Lucas begins to view sex as something positive. Throughout the first part of the novel, young Lucas is aware that sex was a means of power and control. Could you elaborate on this through the eyes of young Lucas?
The violence and pain the boy experiences at the hands of Father Lorenzo has a traumatic impact on his understanding of sex. The boy experiences sex as power — rape is an act of power. The boy has no choice. Sex is something that is done to him. And then Father Lorenzo uses the boy’s fear of hurting his mother and Sara to control him. The boy also sees his father use his mother’s body as something that belongs to him. Sex can be an expression of power when it is used to trample on the boundaries that we need around our bodies to feel safe.
How has art given Lucas the ability to both empower and heal himself?
During his childhood, art offers Lucas an escape from his world. The glowing colors of the stained-glass windows in the church bring beauty into his life and connect him to a life-affirming force that offers salvation. He finds purity and hope in the incorruptible and transcendent power of his art.
What is the significance of “stained glass” in the story?
The title Stained Glass represents several main themes in the novel. The stained-glass windows in the church give Lucas his first glimpse of beauty and provide a daily canvas for his imagination as the changing light of the sun and the moon shine through them.
Glass is also fragile — like the human soul. Just as one can stain glass with color, so can one stain the soul of a child with pain and suffering.