Category Archives: Religious/Inspirational

Tessa Emily Hall. Purple Moon. Raleigh, NC: Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, 2013.

    “…withpurple moonout the dark, we’d never see the stars. There also would be no use for the moon if there was never a night.”

Selena Taylor’s life has been pretty dark since the day her father kicked her and her mother out of his life. She can’t understand how he could go from being her best friend to not wanting anything to do with her. Eight years later, Selena’s dark night may just turn into the starlit fairy tale she’s always dreamed of. Moving in with her aunt’s family in Lake Lure, North Carolina is not what Selena planned to do this summer, but it might be exactly what she and her mother need.

Ever since they were kicked out, Selena has been taking care of her mom. But now an agreement has been made between the two: mom will go to rehab and Selena will stop smoking and drinking. Actually, Lake Lure isn’t looking too bad to Selena. She runs into someone she knew from when she was a kid, Austin Brewer, and he’s not such a nerd anymore, at least not to her. Austin and his sister Audrey soon talk Selena into joining in their church group activities. Of course she’s a little wary of church after how her hypocritical father, a preacher, behaved. Nevertheless, she goes with them and is soon having the time of her life with her new friends. Selena even begins to believe in God again. Now, if only she could avoid her cousin Whitney, then things might really start to look up.

When Whitney breaks up with her boyfriend, Richard, and he turns his attention to her, Selena thinks life can’t get much better. However, she’s breaking her promise to her mother as well as skipping out on the church skit that she agreed to do with her friends. Also, what about her feelings for Austin? In the end, will Selena be able to find the purple moon in the darkness of her life?

Purple Moon is Tessa Emily Hall’s first novel. The author wanted to write Christian fiction that would appeal to teenagers. She succeeded. Both Christian teens and those struggling with Christianity will be able to connect with Selena’s story–the struggle to run away or to trust in a being unseen.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Children & Young Adults, Hall, Tessa Emily, Mountains, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship, Rutherford

Lights, Camera, Novel: Rene Gutteridge and John Ward’s Heart of the Country.

Heart of the Country labels itself as “A modern re-telling of The Prodigal story, in the form of Wall Street meets Sweet Home Alabama meets Nicholas Sparks.” Half of the references in that description speak to notions of down-home, good old-fashioned Southern families and romance. Sweet Home Alabama was a popular romantic comedy about a displaced Southerner who returns from New York City and her successful, sophisticated lifestyle, and winds up reconnecting with her roots. Nicholas Sparks, who has been blogged about on here in the past, is a notable North Carolina resident and something of an icon who has shaped popular romantic writing, and with it, the image of the state.

After Faith Carraday’s husband, Luke, is caught taking part in some shady business dealings, he is arrested. Faith abandons Luke and their life together in Manhattan and seeks solace with her father and sister in her hometown in Columbus County, North Carolina. Unfortunately, her reception is strained. Faith bolted from home when she was given the opportunity to attend Julliard. Since then she hasn’t remained close with her father, Calvin, and sister, Olivia. Olivia is jealous of sharing their father’s affections, and, Calvin has grown old and tired. As Faith tries to heal and sort out her life, Luke approaches his high society family and attempts to make amends.

The story was co-authored by novelist Rene Gutteridge and screenwriter/director/actor John Ward. As if taking a cue from Nicholas Sparks and his writing method in The Last Song, Heart of the Country was written in novel form and screenplay, fairly close together; Gutteridge indicates working with Ward’s material in her acknowledgement. Gutteridge took a larger role in the novel and Ward in the screenplay. Both the film and the novel were released in 2013. The film version was shot on location in Wilmington, North Carolina and New York City. Jana Kramer stars as Faith Carraday and Gerald McRaney, an actor primarily known for his work on TV shows, plays her father Calvin. Funnily enough, McRaney has an unlisted role in Nicholas Sparks’s upcoming adaptation, The Best of Me. Kramer played a supporting role in One Tree Hill – also set in North Carolina and filmed in Wilmington — in seasons 7 and 8 and the first two episodes in season 9. She left the show to pursue her country music career. During this film, Kramer gets a chance to flaunt her musical talents on screen with a few songs.

It’s not a surprising coincidence that One Tree Hill and Heart of the Country were filmed in Wilmington, however. Over the years, Wilmington has earned the nickname of “Hollywood of the East,” “Hollywood East,” and even “Wilmywood.” Our State attributes Wilmington’s major break in the film industry in the early 1980s to Dino DiLaurentiis’s adaptation of Stephen King’s Firestarter, which starred a young Drew Barrymore. DiLaurentiis was interested in finding a plantation for filming, and after a location scout shared a photo of Orton Plantation, DiLaurentiis was smitten. So smitten, in fact, that he built a studio in Wilmington.

Since Firestarter, Wilmington has been the backdrop to films like Blue Velvet, Weekend at Bernie’s, Sleeping with the Enemy, a handful of Nicholas Sparks adaptations, The Secret Life of Bees, and more. Wilmington Regional Film Commission has lists for Feature Films, TV Shows, Music Videos, and Commercials shot in the area. The North Carolina Film Office likewise has a listing of films and TV shows shot in the state. Of these films and TV shows listed, it might be interesting to consider how many were really set in North Carolina, or crafted to look like another location? Heart of the Country sticks close to home. Although the story is set in Columbus County and Wilmington is actually located in New Hanover County, the two counties neighbor each other on the southern tip of the state, so shooting in Wilmington wasn’t much of a departure from the storyline.

Read the original post that covers the novel version of Heart of the Country here. Both the novel and the film are available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Sources consulted: Bayridge Films, CMIL, Examiner, Facebook, Heart of the Country, IMDb (The Best of Me, Heart of the Country, Jana Kramer, Gerald McRaney, Sweet Home Alabama), Jana Kramer, NC Hollywood, North Carolina Film Office, Our State, Rene Gutteridge, Taste of Country, Wikipedia (Jana Kramer, Gerald McRaney, One Tree Hill), The Wilmywood Daily, Wilmington Regional Film Commission, Inc.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Coastal Plain, Columbus, Gutteridge, Rene, New Hanover, Religious/Inspirational, Ward, John

Lights, Camera, Novel: Catherine Marshall’s Christy.

Christy TV SeriesSome of the best stories originate from real life, like Catherine Marshall’s 1967 novel Christy. Marshall was inspired to write her famous book based on the experiences of her mother, Leonora Whitaker, who left her family and home in North Carolina to teach at a mission school in the Appalachian Mountains in 1909. After Marshall and her parents later visited the mission school in Del Rio, Tennessee in the late fifties, Marshall wanted to tell her mother’s story. Many elements in Christy are rooted in fact. Marshall conducted extensive research into Appalachian life and culture, so even the fictionalized aspects of the novel are still well-founded.

Twenty-seven years later, Christy was developed into a TV series, which debuted on Easter Sunday on CBS. True to the novel, the show was filmed in Tennessee. Kellie Martin portrayed Christy. Tyne Daly won an Emmy for her supporting role as Alice Henderson, a Quaker missionary, and LeVar Burton joined the cast in season two. Fans of Marshall’s novel enjoyed the series, though their satisfaction was short-lived. Executives canceled the show soon after the season two finale was shot. Twenty-one episodes were filmed in all.

Viewers were upset about the cancellation because the season two series finale ended on a cliffhanger with Christy split between two very different men vying for her affection, the rugged Dr. Neil MacNeil and the handsome Reverend David Grantland. Seeking resolution, fans wrote to CBS requesting that the show be put back on the air. Five years later, in 2000, PAX network (since renamed Ion) continued the unresolved plot line in a made-for-TV movie. Some of the same actors reprised their roles, but Christy was recast using an unknown actor, Lauren Lee Smith. Three TV movies adapting Marshall’s novel were released between 2000 and 2001 giving fans the closure they were denied in the canceled TV series. The movies – Christy: Return to Cutter Gap, Christy: A Change of Seasons and Christy: A New Beginning — were filmed primarily in Canada.

Lauren Lee Smith as Christy

A book cover with Lauren Lee Smith as Christy.

Christy still boasts an active fan base. Starting in 1997, enthusiasts of the novel and TV show have met to discuss their fascination for Christy. The annual meeting was dubbed “ChristyFest,” and it often occurs in Townsend, Tennessee, the filming location of the TV show. This year ChristyFest will be held May 23-25 in Del Rio, Tennessee. From the ChristyFest site, it appears that registration will open soon.

No doubt, Christy has captured the attention of loyal fans, and the love triangle between the main characters is a big draw. In writing this post, I found evidence of a Neil and Christy fan site with photos from the TV show and the TV movies, interviews with cast members, episode guides, and analysis and more. There are also special fan fiction sites and some fictionalized Twitter accounts created from the perspectives of Christy, Neil, David, and Alice.

Catherine Marshall is recognized as a Christian writer. The Christy Awards were created to acknowledge Christian fiction writers and the three Christy TV movies were backed by the support of the now defunct PAX network, which focused on “family-based” programming. It appears that Inspiration Network, or INSP TV, currently broadcasts episodes from the Christy TV series. INSP headquarters are in the Charlotte metro area.

Kellie Martin as Christy

An audiobook cover with Kellie Martin as Christy.

Read the original blog post on Catherine Marshall’s Christy here. The complete TV series is available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog along with the original novel and an audiobook version of the novel read by Kellie Martin.

Sources consulted here: Christianity Today, The Christy Awards, ChristyFest site and blog, Christy Fan Fiction, IMDb, Inspiration Networks/INSP TV, Neil and Christy fan site, Twitter (see paragraph above for the specific accounts), Wikipedia (Catherine Marshall, Christy [novel], Christy [TV series])

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Filed under 1990-1999, 1994, 1995, 2000, 2000-2009, 2001, Buncombe, Historical, Marshall, Catherine, Mountains, Novels by Region, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship

Monique Miller. Redemption Lake. New York: Kensington Books, 2012.

Redemption LakeAnd it was all relative when she thought about it; a person’s perception was truly their reality.

Marriage is a two-way street, and it takes plenty of effort and patience to resolve disputes and stave off conflict. Problems can erupt from a single source and branch off to create additional complications. Often, it’s tough to definitively pinpoint who is right and who is wrong. Redemption Lake covers three couples struggling to support their marriages. The spouses here have been pushed so far they can barely manage to talk to each other without contempt or anger, let alone hear what the other person is saying.

Readers of Miller’s work will recognize Phillip and Shelby Tomlinson, characters from her first novel, Secret Sisterhood. In Secret Sisterhood, Shelby and Phillip confronted their marital difficulties. After attending a marriage counseling retreat and helping with the couples’ ministry, Phillip has been tasked with leading a week-long retreat at a mountain resort for three couples, and Shelby has come along to help. Phillip is worried that he isn’t skilled enough to facilitate effective communication between the couples and guide them through their problems to a successful resolution. Based on the general profiles of each couple, this isn’t going to be an easy week for anyone.

Charlotte Knight has been collecting proof of her husband Xavier’s infidelities meticulously. She knows, in secret, that Xavier visits a number of diverse sources to stray, from the Internet to a neighbor down the street. The news of her positive STD test was the final piece of evidence that pushed her over the edge. Beryl Highgate is fed up with her lazy husband Travis. He promises to find a job and pull his weight, but he never delivers. She’s exhausted from taking care of their children, their finances, and him. Something has to change. Beryl can’t take his excuses any longer. Pastor George Jones was surprised and embarrassed to learn of his wife Nina’s hidden gambling problem. Recently, he’s found out that her addiction has affected not only their finances, but also those of his church in Greenville, North Carolina. He has to find a remedy before her gambling destroys both of their lives.

Phillip knows that there are always three sides to any story: “his side, her side, and the truth.” Novelist Monique Miller structured Redemption Lake so that readers will see the stories of the three couples from all angles. The novel is organized with brief prologue documenting the surface grievances of each couple. The remainder is largely broken up in chapters that rotate between the three husbands and Phillip, followed by the three wives and Shelby. Miller concludes with “the truth” as seen through Phillip’s eyes, observing the end of the retreat and the final outcomes among the couples. Miller doesn’t gloss over her characters and write a neat, happy ending for every couple. She sticks closer to the side of realism, where sometimes things work out but sometimes things are too far gone to fix.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under Coastal Plain, Miller, Monique, Mountains, Pitt, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship

J. J. Murray. A Good Man. New York: Kensington Books, 2013.

goodmanSonya Richardson likes a quiet life.  After ten years in the WNBA and some wise investments, Sonya has a nice income stream and a lovely home in Charlotte. But she’s living in that big house by herself and feeling a bit lonely and bored.  Out of the blue, her publicist calls to ask her to star in  “Hunk or Punk,” a reality TV show in which a bachelorette must pick a partner from dozen men vying for her hand.  Sonya knows better than to get involved, but when her publicist signs the contract, Sonya has no choice but to be “the Nubian princess” at the center of the show.

But Sonya is her own person.  Her unscripted behavior–taking off her uncomfortable shoes in the first episode, the odd “challenges” she gives the men, her unwillingness to dump suitors on schedule–make for interesting viewing. And Sonya is not the only surprisingly element in the show.  John Bond, a widower from Burnt Corn, Alabama, is the token white suitor.  John is an assistant deacon at the AME church in Burnt Corn, a deeply religious man who has been mourning his late wife for fifteen years.  He and Sonya connect in ways that the producers could not anticipate.

A Good Man takes readers behind the scene of reality TV with funny situations and crisp dialogue. It’s clear that Sonya and John are strangers in that strange land, but their faith and their self-knowledge guide them, and even some of the people around them, to a true happily-ever-after.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Mecklenburg, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship

Monique Miller. Secret Sisterhood. Deer Park, NY: Urban Books, 2010.

Secret SisterhoodInfertility can be all-consuming. It’s a devastating setback for couples ready to start their families. Novelist Monique Miller writes a story of three women from different backgrounds united by their struggles with infertility.

At first Shelby Tomlinson loved her job as a registered nurse with the Silvermont Women’s Center. Her patients’ happiness at their good news rubbed off on Shelby. She felt excited to come to work in such a positive atmosphere. That elation has fizzled out ever since Shelby and her husband Phillip started trying for a baby. They’ve tried for two years without any luck. Now, whenever Shelby deals with prenatal patients their good fortune depresses her. Suddenly, she feels a stronger bond with the patients who suffer from infertility too. However, her anxiety attacks, a lifelong problem, are increasing and Phillip has been distant whenever she broaches the topic of children. Shelby can’t figure out his odd behavior. Does he have a secret he’s hiding? In the face of all this stress, Shelby manages to find some hope when a patient struggling with infertility gets pregnant. Maybe Shelby still stands a chance at beating her infertility.

Crystal Shaw wants to open a day care center of her own one day. She also wants to have a baby, but it doesn’t look like that dream is going to come true any time soon. Crystal is envious of the pregnant women around her, especially those who don’t seem worthy in her eyes. Everyone around her is getting pregnant, including her sister Shanice, who already has a baby with another man and refuses to work, relying on public assistance and her “Man of the Quarter” instead.  Crystal is tired of breezily claiming that she’s not quite ready for kids. Even her work toward establishing a day care center is difficult. Spending all her time around children only reminds Crystal how she and her husband Warren, her childhood sweetheart, haven’t been able to conceive despite trying for years. Crystal starts thinking how nice a desk job might be so she could stop confronting the harsh reality of her childlessness.

When she was young, Vivian Parker made a promise to her grandmother, Eva – a promise that she has managed to fulfill, and then some. Eva emphasized the importance of an education as a priceless investment. Once Vivian earned an education, she insisted, it could never be taken away. After Eva passed away, Vivian focused all her energy on her grades and her career. She obtained her bachelor’s and master’s, eventually becoming a successful and esteemed architect with careful planning and hard work. But she’s behind on her plans for her personal life. By thirty she assumed she would be married, and then a child or two would follow shortly thereafter. Instead, Vivian didn’t get married until thirty-eight. Her husband Roland is the CEO of the company Vivian works for. Together, they’re a powerful couple professionally. But now that they’re more serious about having a baby, they learn that even though they can bankroll expensive procedures like in vitro fertilization, they still might not be able to fight time.

Faith is a central element to Secret Sisterhood. Shelby, Crystal, and Vivian turn to their religion to strengthen themselves in the midst of hardships. Miller breaks the story up, chapter by chapter, alternating the perspectives of the three main characters, although she also creates some areas of overlap and interconnection between the women during their journey to become mothers.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Miller, Monique, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational

Monique Miller. Nobody’s Angel. Deer Park, NY: Urban Christian, 2013.

nobodyCi Ci Jackson really is no angel.  As soon as she finished high school she jumped into a hasty marriage to a man who had no intention of being a steady husband to her and father to their children.  When that marriage broke up and Ci Ci lost custody of her children, she left rural Duplin County heading for the Research Triangle region of North Carolina, planning to start over.

And start over she did–with a new name, a new husband, and the habit of weighing all relationships based on what she can get out of them.  But she still carries a lot of hurt and anger from her earlier life and this spills out from time-to-time.  As Nobody’s Angel opens, Ci Ci (now calling herself Morgan Tracy) is about to be arrested for attempting to murder her new husband, Will.  While in jail awaiting trial, another prisoner, Desiree, offers Ci Ci/Morgan her friendship and Will visits to say that he has forgiven her, but she rebuffs their kindnesses and the religious sentiments attached to them.  Once she is again a free woman, Morgan resumes her ways, searching with a cold determination for the things that money can buy and a man to provide them.  Only when she meets her match does she come to realize that the path that Desiree, Will, and their church friends follow is the better way.

Nobody’s Angel is the latest book in Miller’s series of novels set in on near the fiction city of Silvermont, North Carolina.  For the earlier novel in the series, see The Marrying Kind and Quiet As It’s Kept.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Miller, Monique, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational

Rene Gutteridge and John Ward. Heart of the Country. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013.

heartCatherine Barnett’s death in an automobile accident scarred her entire family.  Calvin, her husband, was left with the task of bringing his daughters out of adolescence and into adulthood.  That, and keeping up the farm and his horses, consumed him.  Olivia stayed close to home, marrying and raising her children near the home place in Columbus County, North Carolina.  Faith, who has her mother’s beautiful voice and stage presence, left to attend the Julliard School in New York City.  Faith’s lack of confidence and drive derailed her singing career, but in New York she met Luke Carraday, the younger son of financial wizard Austin Carraday.

When Heart of the Country opens, Faith and Luke have been married four years.  The young couple have tried to find their own way in New York, living in a modest Manhattan apartment rather than on the Upper East Side, and keeping their appearances at big society events to minimum.  None of this pleases Luke’s family, but only when Luke leaves the family firm to buy in with a competitor, the slightly shady Michov Brothers, does the Carraday family unity crack.  Luke’s brother, Jake, is particularly harsh in his judgments–first Luke marries this country girl who must be a gold-digger and then he turn his back on the firm that their father poured his life into.  It’s all Jake can do not to say “I told you so” when the Securities and Exchange Commission comes after Luke and the Michovs, and Faith turns her back on Luke and returns to North Carolina.

Faith’s return to North Carolina is no joyous homecoming.  Olivia, who is feeling worn out at thirty, resents the attention that Faith receives and she is possessive about their father.  Plus, she is offended by Faith’s failure to bring Luke to North Carolina to meet the family.  The Barnetts wouldn’t know Luke if they walked right into him.  Calvin is just feeling old, too old to care much about the house, the barn, even his beloved horse, Silver.  Lee, the local ER doctor, offers his friendship to Faith, but his special knowledge of her mother’s death stands between them like a radioactive field.

Faith has come back to re-build her life, but she cannot do that without facing up to some truths about herself.  Is she weak–someone who gives up after the first setback?  The way she bolted when Luke was arrested marks her as someone who runs at the first sign of trouble.  But what about Luke, will he survive his  legal troubles, and if he does, will he find a way to win back Faith’s trust?  Heart of the Country explores the pain that exists in even the closest of families and how religious faith and family love can bring about healing.

The film version of Heart of the Country, starring Jana Kramer, was released in 2012.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coastal Plain, Columbus, Gutteridge, Rene, Religious/Inspirational, Ward, John

Monique Miller. Quiet as It’s Kept. Deer Park, NY: Urban Christian, 2011.

Quiet as It's KeptA pretty face, a great body, and a chaste attitude? Morgan Tracy seems too good to be true. Her new husband Will can’t believe his good luck in landing his dream woman. He wonders if Morgan was a god-sent blessing — after all they first met at church. Following a quick romance, Will and Morgan raced to the altar and immediately, but by accident, welcomed a baby son named Isaiah nine months after their wedding. Will doesn’t mind the jump from husband to husband and father. He’s elated when he sets eyes on newborn Isaiah. But there’s trouble lingering over him that casts a dark cloud over his happiness. Three weeks before Isaiah was born, Will got laid off from his successful, six-figure job.

Afraid that he might upset Morgan during the end of her three-month long bed rest, Will decides to delay sharing the unfortunate information with his wife who has been increasingly moody during her pregnancy. Besides, Will is hopeful that he will secure another job before he has to tell Morgan the bad news. Unfortunately, despite his best efforts, Will struggles to find a position to replace his lost income.

With Will’s unemployment, Morgan is forced to support the Tracy household, which she reminds Will every day. Seven months after Isaiah’s birth, Will is still out of a job and Morgan is just as temperamental as she was during her pregnancy. But Will attributes her continued sourness to stress at work and their financial strain. He spends his days and nights caring for Isaiah and searching desperately for a job. The toll of his marital discontent in addition to his unemployment and his constant work as a temporary stay-at-home-dad has weighed heavily on Will.

Will accepts more than his fair share of the blame for Morgan’s hostile attitude and her snide behavior toward him. Since being laid off, it seems that Will can’t make Morgan happy. Anything from his attempt to revise the family budget to leaving lights on around the house sets Morgan off.  But when her behavior grows suspicious and even dangerous, Will questions his wife’s intentions. After a few strange accidents, Will realizes that he doesn’t know all that much about his wife’s background. She’s remained closemouthed on the details of her home town and her deceased parents. Maybe Morgan Tracy is too good to be true.

Novelist Monique Miller covers topics of domestic violence, female-on-male violence, and childhood abuse. Miller’s story emphasizes Christian faith. Will is a devout Christian who attends church regularly and prays about the difficulties and troubles in his life. Although tested, Will’s faith is one element that helps him through his ordeal of unemployment, fatherhood, and marital strife. Quiet as It’s Kept delivers plenty of suspense and an interesting twist on a familiar plot line about abuse and deception. Miller is a North Carolina native who graduated from North Carolina Central University and resides in the Raleigh/Durham area.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Miller, Monique, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational, Suspense/Thriller

Lisa Wingate. The Prayer Box. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2013.

The Prayer Box“I don’t believe it,” I answer. “Men are always trying to solve the mysteries of God, but they never will.”

She plucks a whelk shell from the sand, contemplates it, turning it over with her bone-thin fingers. “There will always be another mystery. God is infinite.”

Ninety-one year-old Iola Anne Poole doesn’t have the best reputation. The people of Fairhope regard her as a hermit and a squatter. Word around town is that Iola wormed the Benoit House away from its rightful owners. Girard Benoit’s nephews intended to sell the estate to a group of locals who had grand plans to turn the Victorian house into an upscale beach resort on Hatteras Island. But supposedly Iola intervened and manipulated the old Mr. Benoit, who was not in a clear frame of mind. Or so the story goes.

Meanwhile, thirty-three year-old Tandi Jo Reese has recently started renting Iola’s nearby cottage. Desperate and down on her luck, Tandi fled from an abusive and criminal husband with her two children, JT (age 9) and Zoey (age 14). Without a home, the cottage was the best deal Tandi could find, apart from sleeping in her car. But her money is running out. The rent is already overdue and Tandi is struggling to find a job that will hire her since she is too afraid to provide any details of her former life.

Tandi grew up in a family of slick smooth talkers – her father, her mother and her sister, Gina – who merge fact with fiction to get what they want. Her home life was tumultuous. Then again, it still is. Although Tandi has escaped from her husband, Trammel, she sees the disillusionment in her kids’ faces. Up until Tandi decided to leave, she hadn’t been the world’s greatest mom. After an accident, she became hooked on Oxycontin and walked around in a doped up haze. Because of her tough upbringing and her abusive husband, Tandi hasn’t trusted anyone in a long time, if ever. Now JT and Zoey’s faith in their mother is wavering.

One day, not long after Tandi and her kids have moved into the cottage, she notices a suspicious lack of movement in Iola’s house. When she investigates, she finds Iola’s body lying peacefully in a bed. At first, Tandi is worried that hubbub surrounding Iola’s death might draw notice to the fact that she’s behind on the rent. But Tandi isn’t aware of Iola’s general unpopularity around Fairhope. Tandi’s financial woes aren’t a complete secret though. One of the lay people at the Fairhope Fellowship Church strikes a bargain with Tandi: she will clean out Iola’s house in exchange for her rent.

Tandi accepts the deal. But it isn’t an easy job. The house has been damaged by the most recent hurricane. Architecturally, the house is unsound. Buckets are scattered throughout the rooms to catch dripping water. And Iola hoarded a massive stockpile of food from home grocery deliveries. Canned goods flooding out of the pantry shock Tandi, especially since she can barely afford food for JT and Zoey without skipping meals herself. However, the prayer boxes are the best surprise that Tandi stumbles upon.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of a prayer box, check out this blog entry by Lisa Wingate on making and using prayer boxes. The basic concept behind a prayer box is to create a box or decorate a pre-existing box, which the owner will fill with prayers and reflections, or even favorite scriptures. Every year, for eighty-one years, Iola fashioned a prayer box and filled it with letters to her father. As Tandi combs through the boxes she relates the struggles in Iola’s life to her own. Strangely, the lessons in Iola’s letters resurface and guide her through this trying chapter in her life. And in the process, Tandi discovers that Iola was not the woman that many presumed her to be.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Dare, Religious/Inspirational, Wingate, Lisa