Book Giveaway: My Hands Came Away Red

by Lisa McKay on May 5, 2014

This month, Moody Publishers has offered to give away three copies of my Christy-award-nominated first novel, My Hands Came Away Red. Below  is a little about how I came to write this novel and what I learned during the process. You can find out how to enter to win a copy of the book at the end of the post.

My_Hands_Came_Away_Red_med qual


Cori signs up to take a mission trip to Indonesia during the summer after her senior year of high school.  Inspired by happy visions of building churches and seeing beautiful beaches, she gladly escapes her complicated love life back home. 

Five weeks after their arrival, a sectarian and religious conflict that has been simmering for years flames to life with deadly results on the nearby island of Ambon.  Within days, the church building the team had constructed is in ashes, its pastor and fifty villagers are dead, and the six terrified teenagers are stranded in the mountainous jungle with only the pastor’s teenage son to guide them to safety.  Ultimately, Cori’s emotional quest to rediscover hope proves as arduous as the physical journey home.



The Story Behind My Hands Came Away Red

When I was eighteen years old, I went on a ten-week short-term mission trip to the remote island of Camotes in the Philippines.

My motivations for signing up were complicated. I was looking to “do some good”, sure. But I was also looking for a grand adventure. And I chose the backpack team mostly because I figured it would be less work than a construction team.

Boy, was I ever wrong.

I’d envisioned acting out gospel stories for eager kids, hiking along gorgeous beaches, and bonding with new friends around a campfire. To be fair, there was some of that. But right along with it came no shower, and no toilet. We washed clothes in buckets and slept in tents. We pumped our drinking water through hand-held filters. We hiked up to 15 miles a day. There was an absolute epidemic of blisters. And there was heatstroke.

I didn’t have the gracious fortitude to be thankful for it at the time, but all of this roughing it did come in handy later when I buckled down to a task I’d set myself before I even left on the trip…

Someone should really write an honest story about a mission team that collides with some of the worst this world offers, I’d thought after reading an article about piracy in south east Asia one morning, months before leaving on the trip.

Somehow, during the following weeks that thought slowly became a conviction.

I should do that.

Then it morphed into a promise.

I will do that. After all, how hard could it be?

I never dreamed at eighteen that it would take me eleven years to fulfill this promise, or that the story would be so profoundly influenced by my own life in the decade following my mission trip. I never dreamed that I would learn so much about writing and life along the way.

When I started writing the book I knew some of what would happen to my characters. What I didn’t really know was how they would react and cope when the world they thought they understood was rocked so violently. How they would begin to find hope again. How hope would have changed.

During the years it took me to write the book, the story wasn’t the only place I encountered these issues. In various jobs as a young psychologist I counseled murderers, debriefed police officers after traumatic incidents, reviewed hundreds of case files on children’s deaths, conducted risk assessments of child sex offenders, and ran workshops on stress and trauma for humanitarian workers on the front-lines of disaster and conflict all over the world. Among other things, my career has been a whirlwind tour of some of the worst experiences life has to offer.

People often say that you should write what you know, but I felt driven to write this novel more by what I didn’t know than by what I did. Writing my way into this story when I couldn’t see the way out was sometimes exhilarating, sometimes terrifying, and always difficult. I often wondered whether my personal sanity would have been better served by writing a romance novel instead of a book set in the middle of a civil conflict in Indonesia. But as I labored to write this novel while also working to try to help people profoundly challenged by their own witnessed and experienced traumas, several life lessons were being ingrained.

I learned, for example, that when I hear myself asking the question “how hard can it be?” the answer is almost always “much harder than you think is possible.”

On a more serious note…

I learned some about sitting with tough questions in life, staring them down honestly, and respecting the fact that there are no easy answers that satisfy, and sometimes no answers at all that satisfy completely.

I learned a lot about the temptation to let the magnitude of suffering and evil apparent in this world overwhelm, and ultimately paralyze.

And I learned a little about the responsibility we have to choose hope in the face of all that – even when it doesn’t seem to make any earthly sense.

OK, now that I’ve talked about some of what I learned through writing, I’d love to hear from you about reading.
To enter to win a paper or electronic copy of My Hands Came Away Red answer one or more of these questions by leaving a comment on the facebook page of A Life Overseas or here on the blog:

  1. What is a book you really loved, one that stuck with you long after you finished it?
  2. Has a book ever changed your life? How?
  3. What is one thing you’ve learned from reading?

Thanks for entering! I’ll randomly select the three winners on May the 16th and email you shortly after that.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About Lisa McKay

Lisa McKay is a psychologist and the award-winning author of the memoir Love At The Speed Of Email, the novel My Hands Came Away Red, and several books on long distance relationships. She lives in Laos with her husband and their two sons.
  • Joslyne

    First of all, I love the idea of hope as a responsibility. That is something I will take with me for a long time. One book that really stuck with me is “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving. In college I read the essay “Your Life as a Girl” by Curtis Sittenfeld and it did change my life. I love these questions! I can’t wait to see what other people say. Great post! xo

  • Katy

    Sounds like a great book! For me…Hinds Feet in High Places has stuck with me long after I’ve read it.

  • Jethron

    The book Crazy Love by Francis Chan meets the criteria of both questions 1 and 2. I’d been going through a “spiritual dry spell” when I read that book. It made me realize that God actually longs for a relationship with me. It began a personal revival in my life.

  • Dave

    Looking forward to this book. As for life changing reads… “Flags of our Fathers” was one I could only read in short doses.

  • Paola Barrera

    For me Hind’s Feet on High Places is one that really stuck for a long time. Made a big impact when I was a young college student. Also Passion and Purity was another one that really encouraged and challenged me. And more recently, Love at the speed of Email 🙂 I loved not feeling alone as a third culture kid, and also reading about someone who has an even more varied background than me and still remain so grounded!
    The one thing I have learned from reading, is that there is hope for situations I otherwise would not know how to sift through and that God is personal and intentional with us. I love the insight and food for thought I get from reading a good book, it is that , that stays with me long after reading the last page.

  • Shawna

    It’s a fictional series, but Francine River’s trilogy “Mark of the Lion”. Amazing books of persecution and faith.


    Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies changed my life. Anne taught me to grieve, and I desperately needed to know how to grieve. Reading has allowed me to be connected to people I’d never meet in any other way. Reading has taught me that every voice matters, every story counts.

  • Richelle Wright

    A favorite book, one that I go back to time and again because of its message, is “Les Miserables” by Hugo… I love the story of amazing love, redemption, grace and hope amidst so much horror and suffering. God’s power to redeem all that seems so lost and so hopeless makes for a compelling read – even when it means sloughing through so much history and detail that isn’t as relevant to the well-known parts of the story. I also love the books of Job and Ruth in the Bible… for much the same reason.

  • Chris Moore

    Frank C. Laubach’s… “Letters by a Modern Mystic”. As a missionary in Greece sharing the gospel with Muslim refugees, this book has changed the way in which I interact with those around me. Instead of trying to teach Jesus… I try to know Jesus more. Spending my minutes with Him. One thing that I learned from the book is that one can never have “enough” God in their life. There are deeper waters to explore… there are further spiritual continents to travel to. I encourage you all to read it, especially those in relational ministry.

    In Christ Alone, Chris (

  • Christistianna

    One book, out of MANY, that have changed me is “The Circle Maker,” by Mark Batterson. It opened my eyes to see the truth of prayer through Scripture and how big our God is. After reading it, I have been anxious to become a prayer warrior, per say. I am excited to see what God does through my prayers, as I watch him answer them before my eyes everyday.

  • Raechel

    So many books…”Kisses From Katie” by Katie Davis was one of those. 🙂

  • Matthew Gingerich

    “Island of the World” by Michael O’Brien was a novel that shaped my summer last year. I have read a lot of books throughout my life, and I think one of the things reading has done for me is to give me insight into the way other people think. I love discovering kinship with characters or being surprised at how they respond to situations.

  • You’ve piqued my curiosity! Two books for me, actually – Evidence not Seen by Darlene Doebler Rose and The Insanity of God by Nik Ripkin. “Evidence” lingers still after my first read several years ago. The reality of suffering, yet, a faith that deepened in the most horrific situations. Ms. Rose showed faith when all was hope against hope. I am humbled by her story as I live within my safe haven of suffering. “Insanity” shows suffering through the eyes of the persecuted Church. The author was driven to find God in the extremes while living in a place of desolation…he cried out “God, are you even in this forsaken place?” These stories require me to pause and consider whether I’m willing to forsake it all for His Sake. These author’s have lived the extreme – and told about it – to encourage and give glory to the One who suffered it all for us.

  • Debbie

    I am stumped to choose one book that changed my life or that I still think about – there are too many! Reading has shaped me as a person, though, by enriching my vocabulary and expanding my world! I love getting to “see” new places and “meet” new people through stories.

  • Summer

    Oh to choose one book! That is tough as I love to read and have been shaped by so many books. But to narrow it down to one that I keep coming back to…would have to be “Kisses from Katie” by Katie Davis. There are so many new truths that jump out to me each time I read it…which seems to be a yearly (if not twice a year) occurrence!

  • Kristen Torres-Toro

    One of my favorite books and the one I recommend the most – I am SO GLAD you wrote this, Lisa!

  • Julie

    I read Blue Hole Back Home, by Joy Jordan-Lake, about a year ago. I really enjoyed the read, and it has left me thinking a lot about issues of race and what it means to be an cultural outsider.

  • Erin Anonymous

    What is a book you really loved, one that stuck with you long after you finished it?/Has it every changed your life/How? THE first that comes to mind would be C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters.” Perhaps it’s because I’m morbid and gritty, but his real look at sin and motivations, temptations and near-misses, was enlightening to me. It opened my eyes to all the little every-day sins and temptations we face, as well as spiritual warfare and temptation. Elisabeth Elliot’s “A Chance to Die” was also a life changer, as well as the first missionary biography I read. It helped grow my views on third world living, preparing for the missionary life, trust, finances, and being set apart from this world. Also Christy, by Catherine Marshal, because it is awesome–and actually a good missionary fiction, as Christy struggles with adjusting to a new culture, loving the people, and finding grace from God in her soul and every day life.

    What is one thing you’ve learned from reading? Well, that’s a broad question because reading can teach you a million things. You can escape, learn empathy, research a culture, grow closer to God through the wisdom or experience of others, and learn to see things from a different point of view than your own. You can also learn that you are not alone–in fears, awkward moments, loves, likes, quirks, bad habits, or weird or agonizing or joyful times.

  • Laurie McClary

    “Gone With The Wind” is a book that read as a teenager is a book that taught me to love reading. From there I have read hundreds of books, most of them teaching me and influencing me.

  • For me it has been “The Last Battle”. The scene where the dwarfs cannot see the beauty because it was not what they expected and their minds were too small. I feel like I view life differently after reading just that.

  • Lisa

    When Helping Hurts… really opened my eyes to the ways I had done harm in the past with my helping and showed me how to better “help” now. When we lived in Haiti I went to the book frequently to help with tough situations.

  • Megan

    Wow, I was reminded of so many books as I read through the comments. Recently I’ve gone back to my “roots” and re-read the Narnia series, The Hobbit, and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I told a friend while I was in the midst of the Narnia series how much I loved the simplicity of the stories, but how they left my heart longing for… home? Maybe? It gave me that same feeling of being overseas and longing for “home,” but then getting “home” and longing for, well, “home.” The stories remind me that when It feels like hope is lost, He shows up. But that the truth is that He was always there, it just takes letting go of my idea of how things should happen and letting my eyes be opened to His reality.

  • Melinda Todd

    I’d love to read this! Hubby and I just returned yesterday from Haiti after working in an orphanage for 10 days. My two favorite books are Kisses From Katie and Anything by Jennie Allen.

  • Will Deeds

    Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis helped me so much. Probably most life changing book for me because I read it at just the right moment in my life. I also was deeply impacted by the biography of Keith Green.

  • Melissa G.

    Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse by Steven Tracy changed the way I viewed abuse and showed me there was more types of abuse than I realized and also how to heal from it.

Previous post:

Next post: