Book Review: Someday Home

Someday HomeIn the novel Someday Home by Lauraine Snelling, Lynn Lundberg is adjusting to widowhood. She loves that her home is the central gathering place for the children and grandchildren who all live nearby, but otherwise it’s too large for just one person. She reads about a concept called house sharing in which rooms are rented out to others and everyone shares responsibilities. After doing some research and convincing her children that the idea is a good one, she begins to seek two other ladies to share her home.

She finds one through her son’s friend. His mom, Angela, was blindsided by her husband’s request for a divorce. She had spent years remaking herself into the kind of wife he wanted, even weighing less than she did in high school – but all for naught since he found someone else. Needing a place to stay, heal, and figure out her next steps, she accepts Lynn’s offer.

A chance meeting leads to another tenant. Judith spent all of her adult life caring for her ailing father, setting aside college and other dreams. Upon his death, she learns he willed the family home not to her, but to the historical society to be made into a public venue. So she also needs a quiet place to stay and time to decide what to do next.

Naturally there are some bumps along the way. Lynn is used to being the family matriarch and has to learn that independent middle-aged women don’t appreciate being “mothered.” The other ladies have not had their own voice for years and have to learn how and when to use it. They all have anger issues and wrestle with the need to forgive those who have wronged them. But ultimately they learn to work together and appreciate each other’s differences.

This story caught my eye both because it was a Kindle sale, plus I had read some of this author’s historical fiction. I enjoyed the aspects of each of these women learning to live together and having to determine in their middle years what to do with the rest of their lives and in

But there are a number of awkward sentences, like this one:

Fighting back the tears—again, she stumbled through her morning routine—and after dressing (which took some serious self-talk; the bed had looked so inviting, or at least oblivion did), she made her way down the split-log stairs and into the kitchen, where the cat was sniffing the dog dish, water bowl, and then looking out the window to the deck.

Thankfully there are only a half-dozen or so, but they are a bit jarring. I don’t remember coming across that kind of thing in her other books, but then it has been a long time since I read them. I thought at first perhaps they were all connected with Lynn, who is in the throes of menopause: maybe this was supposed to reflect her scattered thinking. But they don’t seem to be limited to her scenes.

Other than that, and one minor theological quibble in one sentence, I thought the writing, the characters, and the story were all good.

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Book Review: Sisters, Ink Series

The Sisters, Ink series (also called the Scrapbooker’s series) by Rebeca Seitz is made up of four books focusing on four sisters of different ethnicities adopted by Jack and Marian Sinclair in the small town of Stars Hill, TN. The sisters are adults now and Marian passed away ten years ago. Their father, a pastor, is seeing a new lady named Zelda, but the sisters are having a hard time accepting her, not only because they don’t want their mother replaced, but Zelda is so unconventional and different from their mother. That subplot and others carry over each of the four books, but each focuses on one particular sister. The girls call a “scrapping night” in a room set up for that purpose in their father’s home when they need to talk and solve problems.

Sisters

 Sisters, Ink. spotlights Tandy, a lawyer living in FL. She had been adopted after spending her first eight years on the streets with a junkie parent. I read this book several years ago, but for whatever reason did not review it. But her story involved an extended leave at work, visiting TN, running into and clashing with an old flame. The sisters decide to turn their love of scrapbooking into an online business called Sisters, Ink.

 

 

 

Unglued Coming Unglued focuses on Kendra, an African-American woman who is an artist and sometimes jazz singer. She was also adopted at the age of 8 from a mother whose addiction was men. Because she has her mother’s genes and because some of those men molested her as a child, Kendra struggles with self-worth. She’s dating a great guy named Darin, but she feels that if he really knew her background, he’d drop her in  flash. When a married man at a jazz club is attracted to her, she struggles with knowing that relationship is not right, but feeling flattered by it and  wondering if that’s all she’s good for, if she has no right to rise higher.

On one hand I had a hard time being patient with Kendra as she kept deciding not to see the married guy yet kept being drawn back. But, then, we all do that with different things, don’t we? “I need to cut down on sugar” on Monday, and by Tuesday, “What can a couple of cookies hurt?” So we each struggle with our particular temptations. And people do wrestle with that mindset of being “damaged goods” and “not good enough.”

Scrapping Scrapping Plans features Chinese sister Joy. Joy was left on the door of an orphanage in China as a baby and doesn’t know anything of her family and background. She’s the ultimate hostess and most organized of the group, described as a Martha Stewart rival. She and her husband have been trying to have a baby for over a year with no success, and her husband is resistant to testing. She and her husband take a trip back to China to explore her roots.

I liked the play on words with the title, fitting into the scrapbooking theme yet also illustrating the need to realize that God’s plans might be different from ours. I also appreciated the facets of Joy’s experience in grieving over not conceiving, then becoming obsessed with the desire to have a child, and how that impacted her husband.

Perfect Piece brings the story back to Meg, the oldest, married the longest, with three kids. Meg was always the quiet but steady influence of the group. But she has been struggling with headaches through everyone else’s story. In this book, she is diagnosed with a brain tumor. Since the tumor is in an area of the brain that affects personality, everyone is warned that Meg may not be the same after surgery, whether the tumor is benign or malignant. Even knowing this, her husband, Jamison, has a hard time with the bitter, angry Meg that emerges on top of the stress of her illness, taking care of the house, dealing with the children, etc. A breakfast at a diner to get away by himself for a bit results in a pleasant conversation with a waitress which leads to regular meetings.

 I thought the sisters might have been a little too up in each other’s business. I have four sisters, and though we love each other and would do anything we could to help each other, I don’t think we’d confront each other like these did. But we’re different personalities and don’t live in the same town, so that makes a difference. I thought the girls were way too harsh concerning Zelda. I understand the issues involved in getting used to a new step-mom, but they all evidenced a lack of grace in dealing with her, until they came to an understanding in the end. Though there were no explicit scenes, there was a bit too much reference to some of the couples’ sexual lives for my tastes. I also didn’t like repeated references to older women in the church as “bluehairs.” It’s sad that there are rampant gossipers in the church and no one ever deals with that, but I doubt every older woman in one church would be gossipy. There seems to be a fundamental disrespect to older people in general except the girls’ parents.

But I liked several themes that emerged through the series: being there for each other, helping each other, adjusting lives and thinking to align with God’s Word. I liked several instances when seeing a situation from a different viewpoint, or understanding the circumstances instead of assuming them, diffused misunderstandings. So, all in all I enjoyed the series.

 

Book Review: Hidden Places

Hidden PlacesIn Lynn Austin’s novel Hidden Places, Eliza Wyatt is a young widow with three children in the 1930s. After her husband’s death she had stayed on with her intractable father-in-law at Wyatt Orchards. But now he has died as well. She’s not sure how she is going to manage, but she wants to keep the house and orchards, the only true home she has ever known. With the Depression, she couldn’t sell it, anyway.

One night while doing chores outside she is startled by a hobo. She’s not opposed to helping hobos, so she invites him in and feeds him. Then she discovers he has a nasty gash on his leg and ends up tending him through a nearly fatal infection. In the meantime, her husband’s Aunt Betty – usually called Aunt Batty because she seems to have some mental issues — ends up moving in with Eliza when Betty’s roof caves in during a heavy snowfall. But Aunt Batty turns out to be an able hand around the house, and Eliza soon relies on her help. The hobo, Gabe, offers to stay on and help to pay back what Eliza has done for him.

Gabe proves an able hand as well, but seems to have an uncanny familiarity with the farm and its needs. She is drawn to him, but afraid of the past he is not revealing to her. Yet she hides her own past, too: not even her husband knew her background.

It turns out Aunt Batty has a hidden past as well, and an unexpected underlying wisdom.

One theme or motif throughout the book is that of angels, from an opening admonition to “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrew 13:2), to Aunt Batty’s prayer for God to send a guardian angel to Eliza, to other references. Harsh, self-willed fathers turn up in a number of families, and several characters have to learn to follow their dreams despite such fathers and other obstacles. “Hidden places” in each heart come to light eventually, and, by God’s grace, are healed.

A couple of favorite quotes:

“Why did God have to make our lives so fragile and so short?” Walter thought for a moment before answering. “Because life is very precious to Him. He treasures each life He created and He wants us to treasure it, too—like fine porcelain china. God knows what it’s like to live and die in a frail human body like ours. His Son suffered physical death, Betsy, so that you and I can face it without ever being afraid.”

“All these troubles you’ve been having aren’t a punishment from God. He wants to use them to draw you closer to himself.”

Lynn’s writing and characterizations here are stellar. I was drawn in to each character’s story and ached with them through their trials and rejoiced in their triumphs. Excellent book overall.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)

Book Review: Fly Away

Fly AwayIn the novel Fly Away by Lynn Austin, Wilhelmina Brewster faces forced retirement after teaching music at a Christian college all her adult life. She’s depressed and doesn’t know what to do with herself. She never married, never had any other hobbies or interests.

She volunteers playing piano at a cancer center sometimes, and one day there she runs into Mike Dolan – and they got off very much on the wrong foot.

Mike is a widower and a pilot who still flies for the business that he started and his son now runs. But Mike has just learned that he has cancer with a life expectancy of only three months. He doesn’t want to put his family through the same agony they experienced when his wife died, so he plans not to tell them. When the cancer gets too bad, he plans to fly – “and forget to land.”

Somehow he ends up telling Wilhelmina his plans, and she is horrified, especially when she learns he is not a Christian. But she has never witnessed to someone in her life. She talks to her pastor, but he feels like she should be the one to talk to Mike, since she knows him. She talks to her pastor brother, but he has someone over the evangelism department in his church and is not much help. She appeals to her professor brother, and he gives her several detailed arguments from Christian apologetics that she knows she won’t remember and doesn’t think Mike would respond to anyway. No one seems to know how to simply tell a dying man about the Savior and hope of heaven.

Wilhelmina tries to give Mike some tracts, but her efforts are thwarted. Somehow, though they keep finding reasons to see each other, and a tentative relationship begins. Mike feels sorry for her when he learns she has been retired against her will and tries to think of things to cheer up up – like a kite-flying contest with his grandchildren, something Wilhelmina never thought in a million years that she would do.

She learns that Mike isn’t just a project. And even though he’s dying, he knows how to enjoy life much more than she does.

My favorite line in the book comes from advice Wilhelmina’s father gives to a friend: “We have two choices, you and I; we can lose ourselves in despair or find ourselves in Christ” (p. 170).

My thoughts:

I loved this story. I could identify with Wilhelmina’s personality so much. There were so many comical moments, yet serious ones, too. The book blurb says one of them is “figuring out how to live, the other how to die.” Lynn’s notes in the book share that this was one of the first books she wrote. The story takes place in 1987, later than her many historical books, but too far back to be called contemporary. It was published in 1996 and went out of print, but has since been reprinted, keeping the 1987 references, which I enjoyed. I am so glad it was reprinted. I would have hated to miss this story.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday)

Laudable Linkage

Welcome to another gathering of great reads discovered this week:

Downstream. Love this analogy: “A river reaches places which its source never knows.”

If Kids Don’t Understand Why Miracles Don’t Discredit the Bible, Their Faith Will Be Easily Crushed, HT to Challies. “Miracle accounts simply don’t automatically discredit the Bible. Anyone who thinks they do hasn’t thought critically about the subject. Please help your kids understand this so they’re prepared the next time someone tries to make them feel like a fool by making simplistic appeals to ‘common sense.’”

Musical Choices–Objective Subjectivity. What music is appropriate for Christians has been the subject of multiple debates for years. But I think we can agree that music (not just words) which appeals to the flesh would fall on the wrong side for us. And we have to be honest about that appeal: as is shown here, if even secular musicians apply words like “raunchy” and “angry” to their music, how can we deny those elements are there?

Praying for Your Missionary’s Emotional and Mental Health. We pray for physical safety, but missionaries need help in other areas, too.

Josh Harris releases a statement on his book I Kissed Dating Good-bye. HT to Challies. I’m glad to see this. We gleaned some good principles from the book but formed our own philosophy which disagreed in parts with his.

The Literary Christmas Reading Challenge runs from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31.

If you like Christian Fiction and/or scavenger hunts, the annual Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt starts here, with an opportunity to win “25 books as well as Amazon gift cards, an iPad and more!” Plus most of the individual authors are hosting giveaways on their own sites as well.

And, finally, a couple of thoughts found on Pinterest:

Happy Saturday!

Book Review: My Hands Came Away Red

HandsIn the novel My Hands Came Away Red by Lisa McKay, eighteen-year-old Cori decides to spend her summer on a backpacking mission trip in Indonesia. Though she has a vague desire to do good, to help people, to “spread the love of Jesus,” her main purpose for going is to get some time away from Scott, her boyfriend. Cori is a Christian, but her relationship with God isn’t as close as it once was. Scott is not a believer, but he wants to marry Cori. So Cori needs time away to think, to sort things out.

After meeting the mission leader and the five other teens who will be going on the trip, they spend several days in a grueling boot camp. Then they travel on to Indonesia where they will help build a church as well as performing puppet shows and such. They meet Mani, the son of the local pastor, whose English is best and who acts as an unofficial liaison between the mission group and the church folks.

The group learns there is a tenuous peace between the Christian and Muslim villages. The Muslims view those who convert from Islam to Christianity as traitors, and Mani’s father is such a convert. But, though they are advised to be careful, no serious trouble is expected.

After several weeks of work and getting to know each other in the process, when the thatched-roof church is nearly finished, the mission group leader’s wife falls suddenly and dangerously ill. As the leader, Gary, makes hasty plans to get the group ready to leave, the kids protest. They can finish the church in the next couple of days and catch the next boat to meet up with Gary. Reluctantly, Gary agrees.

When the church is finished, the teens decide it needs a cross on top, so they go into the woods to find a suitable log. Nearing the village on their return, they hear angry voices. Mani stops the group close enough to listen, but far away enough not to be seen. Men from a neighboring Muslim village are angry that Christians have attacked their village, and, grouping all Christians together, they call on this village to answer for it. Mani’s father tries to explain and calm, but tempers flare and fighting breaks out. Mani’s parents are killed before the group’s eyes. One of the teen guys rescues Mani’s younger sister, Tina, while Cori tries to help Mani’s father. But it’s too late. The horrified and shaken teens head back into the woods. Mani says it would be no use to try to go back to the village. Their best bet would be to hike through the mountains to a neighboring village and then to the airport.

Thus begins a harrowing three-week journey in which the teens are tested in almost every imaginable way.

My thoughts:

Though teens are the main characters, and this book would be good for teens to read, it’s not just teen or young-adult fare. I found the story riveting. First, from my own standpoint, I don’t think I could have survived what the teens went through. And secondly, as a parent of young people, I can imagine what the parents went through with news of fighting in the area and no word from their kids.

On top of the physical hardships and mental and emotional strain they all face, some of them, especially Cori, wrestle with their faith. Reading Bible passages about God’s protection seem hollow after what they witnessed. Yet, to whom else can they turn?

Before this summer those words [Romans 8:28] were part of whole set of trusty beliefs that defined my life. I knew they were true the same way I knew it really was good for me to eat my green vegetables. God is good, and everything works out for the best . . . and we all live happily ever after. I was so naïve. It’s not that I don’t want to trust those promises I’ve always believed in, but I just don’t understand

_____

If God didn’t see fit to save them, who’s to say that we weren’t all going to end up dead in this whole mess? And I hardly saw how that might produce a rich crop of faith, hope, and peace in my life. Unless it was in my heavenly life. Which, as much as I believed in heaven, was hardly a comforting thought.

In some ways I wish Cori’s faith struggles were more resolved by the end, but then I think part of the author’s point is that there are some things we can never resolve. One of the other teens tells Cori, after everything is over physically, but not mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, that sometimes you “just have to make a choice based on what you know about God. And relax and trust for the rest of what you don’t know” and “You know, life’s a journey…Some questions get answered later. You can’t stop traveling just because that’s not now.”

Besides the story itself, I loved the clearly-drawn characters. And I love the Jip and Kiki story game that started back in boot camp and helped distract the kids on their trek. One of the teens would start with, “Once there was a boy named Jip,” who loved chocolate and had a pet monkey named Kiki, and each one would add a few sentences, often based on what the kids themselves were going through.

In the author’s afterword, she shares that though the people in the story are fictitious, the circumstances, the fighting in the villages she named, were very real. The author’s own international and even inter-continental upbringing informs her writing, making it even more realistic.

I had heard this book highly recommended years ago and have had it on my TBR list since then. Somewhere recently I read that someone bought the rights to the book for a movie, and the book was being re-released. That brought it to the forefront of my attention again, so I decided now was a good time to read it. I am glad I did. I hope the film does it justice.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday, Carole’s Book’s You Loved)

Book Review: The Lost Castle

Lost CastleIn The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron, Ellie Carver’s Grandma Vi had raised her since her parents’ deaths when she was a child. Now her grandmother was in a care facility suffering the ravages of Alzheimer’s, often not even knowing who Ellie was.  But one particular day, her grandmother seemed especially agitated and could hardly keep herself from the window. While Ellie gently attempted distraction, her grandmother pulled out a book of The Sleeping Beauty in French. While wondering  why her grandmother had such a book in French and flipping through the pages, an old photo fell out. The picture was WWII-era vintage of a young woman sitting on a stone wall smilingly staring up at a young man who was definitely not Ellie’ grandfather. Ellie learned that there was a castle called The Sleeping Beauty in France, and Vi was supposed to have met this man at the castle to tell him whether or not she would marry him.

These revelations sent Ellie to the Loire Valley in France, uncovering a story that spanned hundreds of years.

In 1789, Aveline Sainte-Moreau was much more interested in the politics and current events of the day than a lady of her station should have been. Though she did not condone all the actions of the disenfranchised poor, she had compassion on them and helped as she could. To keep her in her place and divert her attention, her father arranged her marriage with a man she had never met. On the night of her debut and the official announcement of her engagement at her fiance’s home, the castle was attacked. While the castle crumbled and burned, Aveline was rescued, but not before being scarred by the flames. Her rescuers had to keep her hidden while she recovered: unrest had been fomenting into revolution, and the nobility in general was in danger.

In 1944, Viola Hart was a linguist caught in France, having escaped the Nazis. Taking refuge in a chapel, she was discovered by a neighboring vigneron, Julien, who secreted her to his family’s home. Eventually she learned he was part of the French Resistance, and her skills would be valuable. Having no way to safely get home, she stayed to help. In their preparations, they painted a large red V on the walls of a deserted castle.

When Ellie came to the Loire Valley, she wanted to search for the castle wall where her grandmother’s picture had been taken. She was distressed to learn that the castle grounds were closed to the public. Her host and tour guide, Quinn, was reluctant to push any further into the mystery, wanting to respect the castle owner’s wishes. But at Ellie’s  and his own grandfather Titus’s insistence, Quinn took Ellie where she needed to go and helped her unravel the clues. She learned that the castle’s nickname, The Sleeping Beauty, came from a legend of a member of the nobility hundreds of years before who seemed to disappear in the area. As Ellie uncovered more of her grandmother’s past, she unlocked more of her own story as well.

My thoughts:

I loved the three women’s stories and how Kristy wove them together. I loved the strength of each character in her circumstances. I enjoyed some of the touches in each timeline: the castle itself, a brooch passed down to each woman, a fox that lives in the woods and visits the castle grounds, the various shades of lavender and purple, from Aveline’s shawl and love of violets to Grandma Vi’s cardigan. The faith element is subtle but steady.

And isn’t that cover gorgeous?

One quote that encapsulates the book’s theme:

Titus says the land is a witness of the generations who have come before. That it stands resolute. It’s the same yesterday. Today. And who knows what tomorrow will look like. He likens it to God’s influence over creation. That He’s immovable. Steady. Watching from a distance, yet ever involved. A bit like your lost castle, hmm? (p. 244).

I’ve read many books with two timelines: this is the second in recent months that had three. It wasn’t confusing to keep up with them, as each setting with its characters was distinct. The only confusion within a timeline came when a new chapter opened at a time earlier than where we had last left those particular characters – a flashback within a given timeline. But it only took a few moments to get oriented.

With elements of mystery, the fairy-tale quality of Aveline’s story in particular, historical elements, and above all a lovely story and testimony of God’s faithfulness, Kristy has another winner here. So far I have never been disappointed with any of her books, and I hope she writes many more!

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday, Carole’s Book’s You Loved)

Book Review: Borders of the Heart

Borders of the HeartIn the novel Borders of the Heart by Chris Fabry, J. D. Jessup has moved from Nashville to Tuscon and works on an organic farm. Tuscon is close enough to the border of Mexico that a lot of illegal aliens come through the area. J. D. has been instructed to call Border Patrol if he sees any illegals.

While on his rounds one morning, J. D. Comes across a beautiful Mexican woman in the desert. She is dehydrated and injured, with a handcuff on one wrist. Instead of calling border patrol, however, he takes her back to his place and then to a doctor. Before long he learns that a killer is after the girl, a killer who has no qualms about killing anyone who has had contact with her.

Several times J. D. thinks perhaps he should leave well enough alone, and the girl, Maria, urges him to for his own safety. But he just can’t let go. For various reasons he feels compelled to help her, and in doing so, the walls around his own heart begin to come down.

Both J. D. and Maria are close-mouthed about their pasts at first, and their stories come out piecemeal as they get to know each other. Maybe for this reason, it was a little hard for me to connect with the characters at first. And, though I know the lead characters in a story have to go through all kinds of trials and setbacks before they reach the end, they usually face both ups and downs. In this story, however, there seemed to be unrelenting and worsening downs for most of the book before things finally turned around.

But things did turn around near the end, and by that time the characters had grown on me. Along the way, the book tackles some tough issues, like racism, false assumptions, and wondering where God is during tragedies. The only quote I marked touches on the latter:

But think of it this way. A lot of people don’t believe in God because bad things happen. A follower of Jesus can hope in spite of the bad things. Look at the crucifixion. That didn’t look like a good outcome for his followers. But God gained his most glorious victory on that cross.

While this is not my favorite of Fabry’s books, it’s still a very good read.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books,
Carole’s Book’s You Loved)

Book Review: Emma’s Gift

Emma's gift Emma’s Gift is the sequel to Julia’s Hope by Leisha Kelly. I think you could read and understand the second book without the first one, but you’d get much more out of the story with both of them. Plus, since Julia’s Hope will probably be one of my favorite books read this year, I encourage you to read it, too.

In Julia’s Hope, Julia and her husband, Samuel Wortham, and their two children lost everything during the Depression. They were hitchhiking east to get a job with Samuel’s cousin when they got word that the job fell through. Totally alone and with no hopes, they find shelter in an abandoned farmhouse. Then Julia gets the idea that perhaps the owner would let them stay in return for fixing up the place. They find the owner, Emma, who is an elderly amputee who can no longer live alone. She agrees to the arrangement, much to the consternation of some of her friends who think the Worthams are taking advantage of her. Before long the Worthams suggest that Emma come back to the farmhouse and stay with them, which she agrees to do, and they become something of an adopted family for each other.

Emma’s Gift picks up the story several months later. Emma was not in good health in the last book and knew her time was soon coming to an end. She passes away near the beginning of this story. It’s not unexpected, yet it’s still a blow to the family. But then their neighbor, a mother of ten children, passes away the same night, totally unexpectedly. The Worthams take in the children while the woman’s husband, George, deals with his grief. While glad to help, and, really, having no choice, an addition of ten children, one a newborn, weighs heavily. Helping the children through their grief while dealing with their own is a challenge.

Uncertainty also weighs on both families as their houses and land were owned by Emma. Emma had tried to give the Worthams the deed to the house they were in, but Samuel refused at the time. George has been unable to make any payments for months, if not years, and Emma wanted to forgive the debt. But now her affairs are in the hands of her nephew, so everyone has to wait to see whether he’ll abide by Emma’s wishes or take the property as his own.

Some of the townspeople bring food out and stay to help with the children, which helps Julia to feel that they are finally accepted. Some of the men help Samuel deal with George, who is on the verge of doing something stupid.

Even though the first part of the book is heavy with grief, please don’t let that deter you. The light does break through in the end, and it’s heartwarming to see the progression.

The point of view switches back and forth between Julia and Samuel. Two themes emerged for me: that everyone has something to give to help others no matter how much or little they have, and when you’re weighed down almost to the breaking point, God’s grace sufficient.

A few favorite quotes:

It made me feel good inside to love her right over top all the rough edges.

Kissing cheeks, passing plates, even listening to George pour out his woes one more time over a late cup of root coffee—it was all the work of God. Because people need each other. And sometimes we don’t realize how much we have to give until we’ve started giving it.

It doesn’t take away the pain of this world. But just knowing the outcome can stop the ache that comes in the middle of some lonely night, or can give you words to make a crying child smile again. God is faithful. Our shelter in the time of trouble. Our refuge in the time of storm. We don’t always know what he’s given us. When we’re deep in the hurt of some awful moment, we don’t always know what good things God has prepared for the days ahead. But we do know so much of himself has been given to our hands. To cherish. To rest in. And especially to share.

These two books are all I have, but there is another sequel, and then another three-book series with some of the same characters as well as a Christmas story. I’d like to get to the rest of them some day. In looking up Leisha Kelly after reading the last book, I was sad to discover that she and her teenage son had died in a car accident some years ago. But I am glad she left this legacy behind.

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved, Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday)

Book Review: Julia’s Hope

JuliaIn Julia’s Hope by Leisha Kelly,  Samuel Wortham is out of a job, like so many others in the early 1930s. Not only did his business close, but the investment he financed with money from his wife’s inheritance failed. The family has just a few dollars. Sam’s cousin says there’s work for Sam in Illinois, so the family is going to hitchhike from Pennsylvania.

Julia, Sam’s wife, is understandably angry with Sam over the lost investment, but she tries to keep a brave face for the children and make the trip an adventure.

It occurred to me then that I ought to pray for help in getting over the anger I felt towards Sam. But I didn’t do it. I guess it was easier to think that I’d forgiven him already and was just entitled to my feelings beyond that.

A few days into the trip, with money gone and the family eating in soup kitchens and sleeping wherever they can, Sam calls his cousin to tell him where they are. He’s told the job fell through and the cousin himself is looking for work.

But when Samuel stepped out of that office, looking like a stormy wind had dashed him against a wall of stone, the clouds descended over me and I turned away. I knew by his face. Dewey wouldn’t be coming. Dewey couldn’t carry all the hopes we’d pinned on him. We were alone.

One day, caught by a sudden downpour, the family takes refuge in an abandoned farm house. Something about it appeals to Julia and the children, so she proposes they find the owner and see if they might be allowed to stay in return for working on the place. Sam thinks the idea is crazy, but Julia is so set, he humors her.

They discover the homeowner is an elderly lady named Emma. She loves the house, but due to a heart condition and the loss of  leg, she can’t live there alone any more, so she has been living in a boarding house in town. Though what the Worthams propose is unconventional, she agrees to let them stay at her house so that it doesn’t deteriorate further.

The Worthams feel like they are taking unfair advantage, though. So within a few days they propose a new situation: that Emma come out and live with them at the house. She agrees.

Emma and Julia both know how to live off the land – what greens are good for food or tea, how to plant seeds and cultivate vegetables etc. But Sam is totally out of his element. He has never farmed and he’s worried about Emma’s care. But there doesn’t seem to be anything else he can do, so he puts forth his best effort.

Emma is a town treasure, so many of her friends check on her and the Worthams. Some of her friends, however, suspect the Worthams have “sweet-talked” her and are out to milk her out of her property, and they make no end of trouble despite Emma’s assurances. One in particular “was a difficult sort, one who was pleased to be displeased.”

My thoughts:

I loved this story. Its main appeal to me is how clearly Leisha communicates the character’s feelings. I ached along with Sam in his financial predicament, his guilty feelings, and his loss of self-respect. I understood Julia’s struggle to put aside her anger,  forgive, and attend to her children in a way that kept them hopeful, rather than afraid. I felt Emma’s joy at being home again.

But I also enjoyed reading about this time era, not one that I can remember seeing much in fiction. I enjoyed the gelling of a new family group. And I appreciate the way the people in the community helped each other though most of them didn’t have a lot themselves.

We all need each other, and that’s how the good Lord intended things to be.

“You think when that boy come bringin’ the Lord bread and fish, that the Lord shoulda just sat an’ ate it all his own self?”

“Well, no, he couldn’t. He fed the five thousand.”

“That’s right,” she said with a smile. “Didn’t look like it, but God’s got plenty for ever’body. So it don’t hurt me none to share.”

The point of view switches between Sam, Julia, and Emma, so we see their different perspectives. The faith element is woven in naturally.

This is the first book in a long time that I stayed up too late to read and had a hard time putting down. I immediately started reading the sequel, and I am looking forward to more with the Wortham family.

(Sharing With Literary Musing Monday, Carole’s Books You Loved, Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)