Tag Archives: Widows

Nancy Gotter Gates. Life Studies. Detroit: Five Star, 2011.

Liz Raynor, widowed at 55, is struggling to find any joy in her life in Greensboro, North Carolina. Her husband, Peter, lost his battle to cancer only two months previously, and nothing catches her interest until someone comes to her door who feels Peter’s loss as deeply as she does. Samantha, a homeless young woman of twenty, is looking for Peter Raynor, although she won’t say why. She is visibly distraught when Liz tells her the news of his death, and disappears from town shortly after. But Liz can’t stop thinking about her.

Soon, retired Liz decides to take a fine arts course –  it was her favorite subject while in school, and painting is an activity she still enjoys occasionally. She doesn’t expect Jay, a local artist and the course instructor, to be so attractive … or to share her feelings. Liz is surprised to find that she wants another intimate relationship so soon after losing Peter, but Jay is good for her and the two become very close. When Samantha reappears, Liz decides to take her in and help her while she attends the local community college. But the young woman has an unexpected secret linking her to Liz, one that will change the older woman’s life forever if she chooses to accept its consequences.

Life is difficult, and Jay, Samantha, and Liz will all experience more trials, but the loving relationships they build with each other them help them to survive.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Gates, Nancy Gotter, Guilford, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship

Grace Greene. Beach Rental. Louisville, KY: Turquoise Morning Press, 2011.

Juli Cooke has been beaten down by life. Passed from foster home to foster home as a child, she didn’t even graduate from high school, and now works multiple jobs just to keep her head above water. She doesn’t have time for dreams – her life is an endless slog devoted solely to survival…until she meets Benjamin Bradshaw. Ben is dying from pancreatic cancer and feels almost as alone as Juli does since his devastated family can’t seem to stop grieving his impending loss. What he wants most is someone who will treat him normally and who can be a caring companion through his last few months. Juli’s sad life story and vulnerability move him, and he concocts an impulsive plan: if they marry, he could compensate Juli for her platonic companionship, and he wouldn’t be left alone with the disease or his loving but overbearing relatives.

Juli likes Ben, and while she first rejects his plan in alarm and suspicion, eventually agrees. She sees something in Ben worthy of her trust, and besides, how hard could it be to act as a platonic companion for a dying man? But living with Ben is far more emotionally entangling than she imagined. Despite the fact that their relationship is strictly contractual, Juli begins to want to belong.  Ben makes no secret of his feelings for her, and he nurtures her soul as much as he provides her body with food and shelter. His family may think she’s a tramp, and other problems from her past arise to haunt her, but Juli begins to feel safe in Ben’s beautiful home on the Crystal Coast.

Of course, this is the moment that everything in her new life changes, and Juli must draw on the lessons of faith and hope that Ben has been instilling in her. Life will always be difficult, but the difference is that Ben has empowered Juli not to give up. In her struggle with the meaning of love, widowhood, and her own past, Juli Bradshaw discovers strength that she didn’t realize she possessed.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Carteret, Coast, Greene, Grace

Tamara Leigh. Restless in Carolina. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2011.

Bridget Pickwick Buchanan, despite her large (and at times tiresome) family, the wealthy Pickwicks of Pickwick, North Carolina, has never felt more alone. The free-wheeling, avid environmental advocate, with her head full of dreadlocks and sarcastic attitude, finds herself struggling to get through her brother’s wedding one sweltering day in late July. It’s not just the terrible dress she has to wear, but the loss of her husband, Easton Buchanan, that makes it so difficult. Her sister Bonnie is convinced that she needs to snap out of it: Easton died four years ago, and since then Bridget has refused to take off her ring, kept her hair in dreads, and slept in the guest bedroom. Even worse, Uncle Obediah, the Pickwick patriarch, is selling the family estate in order to make restitution to those the (formerly) swindling Pickwicks wronged. Bridget has to find an environmentally-friendly buyer for the estate and its acres of unblemished forest, and fast, or risk seeing it developed into something horrible.

She is intrigued by J.C. Dirk, a handsome Atlanta-based developer who has established a reputation for his “green” work, but no one in his office will return her phone calls. Bridget, never one to be overlooked, decides that if the Mountain won’t come to Mohammed…in short order she finds herself in the polished offices of Dirk Developers Inc., interrupting Mr. J.C. Dirk’s busy schedule. Initially displeased when she crashes his meeting, J.C. agrees to come look at the property when she reveals her prestigious family name. But there may be more in J.C. Dirk, and his fateful trip to the small mountain town of Pickwick, than Bridget bargains for.

An inspirational tale of one woman’s journey back to life, God, and love (saving the planet along the way, of course), this third installment in the Southern Discomfort series doesn’t disappoint!

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Leigh, Tamara, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship

Ellen Block. The Definition of Wind. New York, NY: Bantam, 2011.

Abigail Harker, a Boston lexicologist turned Outer Banks lighthouse keeper, returns in Ellen Block’s sequel to The Language of Sand. A year has passed since the tragic fire that took her young son and husband, and Abby is only slightly closer to healing than she was when she came south to North Carolina’s Chapel Isle. Renting the dilapidated, possibly ghost-infested lighthouse and attached cottage isn’t helping: the toilet is constantly breaking, the windows are swollen, and the heat in the summer is ghastly. Even worse, summer brings crowds of marauding tourists, and Abby has reluctantly agreed to perform small home repairs for the local rental agency, Gilquist Realty. Wasps nests, toilet clogs, and irritable summer people are not a recipe for inner peace.

Neither are home invasions. Abby is dismayed to find that she is of particular interest to a burglar, which she correctly guesses is due to recent hubbub over The Bishop’s Mistress, a ship carrying valuables that sank off the coast of Chapel Isle in the late 18th century. The journals of the lighthouse keeper from that century (which she happened to find in her basement) could provide valuable clues, and the burglar seems to know this. But who could it be? Sheriff Caleb Larner, whom Abby knows to have secretly been a thief? Her landlord, the ditzy and manipulative Lottie? Those arson-enthused teens who are adding even more mayhem to the already tense island? Abby must try to protect the journals, handle the touchy lighthouse, and fend off both wasps and amorous summer suitors. Luckily she has the perfect vocabulary to handle any situation.

Ellen Block has written a simultaneously sensitive and hilarious mystery that happily resists descending into melancholy. Abby Harker is a strong, intelligent personality, perfect as a companion for a day on the Outer Banks, or as the subject of discussion in your local book club.

Check the availability of this title in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog, or start from the beginning of Abby’s story with The Language of Sand.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Block, Ellen, Coast, Mystery, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Diane Chamberlain. The Midwife’s Confession. Don Mills, Ontario: MIRA, 2011.

Thus far 2010 has been a difficult year for Tara Vincent and Emerson Stiles. First, Tara’s husband, Sam, dies in a car accident; then their best friend, a local midwife named Noelle Downie, inexplicably commits suicide. Sam, Noelle, Tara, and Emerson have been best friends since attending UNC Wilmington together in the 1970s, so the double loss is especially hard. The Noelle who Tara and Emerson knew was an ethical, passionate human being devoted to her work; she had no secrets, especially from them. But it appears they didn’t know the real Noelle, something that becomes uncomfortably evident as her private papers reveal more and more about her life, her family, and a horrifying mistake that may have led to her mental destruction.

The shocking revelations pile up, but what hurts Tara even more is the gaping distance growing between her and her daughter, sixteen-year-old Grace. Quiet, dark Grace was especially close to her father, as different from the blonde and outgoing Tara as night is from day. Tara loves her daughter desperately, but she feels helpless to repair their foundering relationship. She envies Emerson’s easy, close bond with her daughter (and Grace’s best friend), Jenny. But Noelle’s secrets will spiral wide to include both mothers and daughters, and nothing will ever be the same again.

Diane Chamberlain presents a heartfelt, intriguing novel about familial relationships: both those we construct through friendships, and those we are born into. No matter how close we are, we never truly know those we love as well as we might think. Written from multiple first-person viewpoints, Chamberlain tells the tales of Noelle, Grace, Tara, and Emerson across fifty years, flowing effortlessly between the past and present. This is an excellent beach read, book club novel, or for any time.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Chamberlain, Diane, Coast, Mystery, New Hanover, Robeson, Romance/Relationship

Michael Parker. The Watery Part of the World. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2011.

Some years ago- never mind how long precisely- having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. So begins Ishmael’s adventures, and Michael Parker likewise takes the reader straight out to sea to meet Theodosia Burr Alston. Historically, Theodosia was the highly educated daughter of the infamous Aaron Burr. In early 1813, Burr had returned from voluntary exile in Europe, and Theodosia was eager to join him. Sailing north to their reunion in New York, she sank along with her ship off the North Carolina coast, never to be heard from again. Which is of course where all the best stories begin. Parker’s Theodosia survives the pirate raid that scuttles her vessel, eking out a precarious existence on the Outer Banks with the help of a recluse named Whaley. Though far removed from the elegant lady she once was, Theodosia is still her father’s devoted daughter. Among the most valuable cargo on the ship were Aaron Burr’s personal papers; papers that, falling into the wrong hands, would certainly endanger his life. The pirate captain, a savage but educated man named Daniels, now possesses them. Theodosia is determined to steal them back. Badly injured in attempting their recovery, she flees to nearby Yaupon Island.

Sail forward one hundred and sixty odd years to 1970. Yaupon Island is “six square miles of sea oat and hummock afloat off the cocked hip of North Carolina.” Its population is three: two old, white sisters, Whaley and Maggie, descendants of the remarkable Theodosia, and Woodrow Thornton, the many-greats grandchild of the man who saved her life. Why does Woodrow stay on that hurricane-battered spit of sand, his children wonder? All to care for two crazed white women who don’t treat him any better than a handyman? Maggie and Whaley, different as night and day, are certainly more than a little mad in their own ways, but possibly from sorrow and disappointed hopes more than anything else.

Parker flashes back and forth between these two tales like lightning on the shoals, filling his watery world with historical figures, heartbreak, betrayal, and the raw desire of the human heart to outlast every attempt at drowning.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Coast, Dare, Historical, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Parker, Michael

Carolyn Guy. Autumn Bends the Rebel Tree. Vilas, NC: Canterbury House Publishing, 2011.

Clarinda Darningbush enters the world at the turn of the 19th century, the youngest in a large family rooted in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Absent parents and dangerous surroundings means she grows up quickly, learning from her older siblings how to thrive in the unforgiving mountain environment. One day, she stops with her brother to speak with a handsome, blue-eyed stranger, and her whole world does a “dipsy-doodle.” Rufus McCloud is just as smitten as Clarinda, and soon they are happily married. Seventeen children and Rufus’ banjo music fill their joyful home on Levi’s Mountain to the brim, but tragedy comes to call. Left without her dearest love, Clarinda must weather life as a widow and single mother, struggling through the Great Depression and World War II with the help of her devoted children. Hooking rag rugs for trade, fighting off panthers and bears, and even building a new house when a devastating fire destroys their old home, Clarinda is the epitome of strength and courage. Throughout this bittersweet life of toil, she sometimes sees and hears her winsome husband, although she tells no one. Clarinda is sure that one bright day they will be reunited, and as spry as they were in youth, dance off together on the air.

A Boone, North Carolina native, Carolyn Guy has put forth what many readers are calling one of the most accurate depictions of North Carolina mountain life during the 1930s and 1940s that they’ve ever read. Bursting with Appalachian dialect, music, and customs, readers will find Clarinda’s resourcefulness and faith an inspiration as much as they will enjoy the humorous scrapes and stories of her large, warm family.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Guy, Carolyn, Historical, Mountains, Religious/Inspirational, Watauga

Blonnie Bunn Wyche. Cecilia’s Harvest: A Novel of the Revolution. Wilmington, NC: Whittler’s Bench Press, 2009.

Cecilia Moore is certain of two things: first, that she has to get away from her hardworking older sister Pauline and the hateful family tavern, and second, that Kenneth Black, atop his fine stallion, Big Boy, is the handsomest man in Wilmington, if not all North Carolina. The winter’s day in 1775 when he asks for her hand in marriage is the happiest of her sixteen-year-old life: he drapes her in a diamond necklace and promises to whisk her away to his prosperous farm full of servants. Cecilia cannot imagine that within a few months, just as the country plunges further into deadly warfare, she too will be fighting for mere survival. Murder, pregnancy, wild animals, and marauding British soldiers make life an unforgiving onslaught, and as quickly as Cecilia’s fortunes rise, the next day only brings more brutal tests. But Cecilia, in addition to being a crack shot with her rifle, is possessed of a nimble mind and a brave heart. Whatever dangers threaten, she finds she has the strength to rise and meet them again and again.

As Americans, we know the story of the Revolutionary War: taxation, then Declaration, followed by fighting and eventually freedom. But what of the smaller stories, the personal tales that won our nation its liberty? Blonnie Bunn Wyche follows her award-winning novel, The Anchor: P. Moore Proprietor, with the suspenseful story of a young woman struggling to survive the bitter years of revolution. Cecilia Moore Black is a stalwart, gutsy heroine who will make an excellent addition to any young adult’s reading list.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Brunswick, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Historical, New Hanover, Pender, Romance/Relationship, Suspense/Thriller, Wyche, Blonnie Bunn

Jacquelin Thomas. Shades of Gray. New York: Steeple Hill Books, 2006.

Sela and Rodney Barnes married when they were quite young, and as this novel opens they are celebrating their twentieth wedding anniversary.  They have built a good life together–their two oldest children are in college at North Carolina State University, and Rodney owns a successful trucking business.  But Rodney’s parents have never accepted Sela.  They believe that Rodney’s marriage to Sela and the quick birth of their oldest daughter kept Rodney from finishing college and becoming to white collar professional that they expected him to be.  Although it is unsaid, Sela can sense that they disapprove of her because she is African American and Mr. and Mrs. Barnes are white.

Sela’s relationship with Mr. and Mrs. Barnes is one of the few points of tension between her and Rodney.  Religion is the other one.  Rodney has been born again as a Christian; he and the children attend church each week and he looks to the Bible for guidance in his daily life.  Shortly after the celebration of  their twentieth wedding anniversary, Rodney is diagnosed with heart disease.  After a heart transplant fails to save Rodney, Sela is left to raise the children and run the business alone.  Reading Rodney’s diary, and an intervention by her two oldest children, help Sela to see the value of religion and to make peace with her in-laws. There will be challenges ahead, but Sela and her family–all of them–will go down the road together.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2006, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational, Thomas, Jacquelin, Wake

Sherry J. McFarland. Second Chance at Happiness. Raleigh, NC: B-About-It-Productions, 2010.

Nina, Tracy, and Amanda have been friends since college.  When this novel opens, the women are married and living in Raleigh.  Luckily, their husbands are compatible and the three couples often socialize and travel together.  A trip to Atlanta–for a fun day at Six Flags and an evening at a Beyoncé concert–reveals that Amanda’s marriage is shaky. Her long-suffering husband, Darnell, has had enough of Amanda’s indiscriminate flirtatiousness.  At Darnell’s insistence, the group cuts the weekend short and leave Atlanta late at night.  The crisis in Amanda and Darnell’s marriage pales in comparison to what happens next.  With Amanda at the wheel, the van overturns, killing Amanda and Darnell, and two of the other passengers.

Nina and Bryan survive, although each has lost a spouse.  How they accept the tragedy and move forward with their lives is the heart of this book.  The network of family and friends, especially Nina’s mother, comfort and support the two survivors, and work also helps them move past their pain.  By using chapters featuring different characters points of view, the reader understands the struggles and strengths of each one.  Bryan is the first to find strength in his faith, but as the book concludes that strength has spread to Nina and her mother, and even Nina’s shallow friend, Nicki.

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

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, McFarland, Sherry J., Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship