Friday, April 21, 2006

Dwelling Places & Soldier's Lady

Tonight I get to do one of my favorite things: go to a library book sale. Library book sales are one of my absolute favorite things in the world. Lots of books at cheap prices, and for the price of membership in their Friends association, I get to pick through them before the general public. I put library book sales on my calendar months in advance. My mom and I have a system: she hits the kid books while I go first to the movies, then adult books. Between us we usually spend over $50.00, but the fun we have is priceless. We arrive 45 minutes early and stand in front of the locked door and catch up with the week's events. We try to sneak looks at the tables to figure out our gameplan so we're ready when the doors open. Both Jesse and Jeff, my step-dad, grumble about the amount of boxes we bring home, but it could be worse, we could be hitting the malls this way! Doogie's coming along as well. We promised him supper at McDonald's if he would be our packhorse at the sale. Maybe we can indoctrine him into the love of book sales too.

The Soldier's Lady by Michael Phillips is book two in the Carolina Cousins series, which is itself a sequel to the Shenandoah Sisters series. Micah Duff, the buffalo soldier last seen in A Perilous Proposal, shows up tired and injured at Rosewood, the North Carolina plantation that has became a haven for both blacks and whites. He meets Emma Tolan, a former slave, and sparks fly. I really enjoyed the first series, but I've been disappointed by the Cousins books. They start with a chapter without names throwing the family into distress. Then the book backs up a few months and tells the story preceding the disaster to come. I don't like books that use this technique; it feels like blackmailing the reader into finishing the book. Mayme telling the story in the Sisters series felt natural, but the jumps between narration in this book seem awkward at times. When Micah tells the story of his childhood, it feels unnatural and a bit forced. The premise of McSimmons wanting to get rid of Emma and William also seems contrived considering that it (I won't go into detail because of spoilers) was common practice in the South before the War. I've really enjoyed reading about the Clairborne family, and it's obvious that there will be more books in this series. I just hope that the others are more rooted in history and plot.

Dwelling Places by Vinita Hampton Wright is a terrific novel. Mack Barnes returns home after a spell in a hospital for depression to find his family slipping away. His mother Rita is struggling to hold on to her independence, his daughter Kenzie has found Jesus in a way that's not completely healthy, his son Young Taylor is exploring his Goth side, and his wife Jodie has some secrets of her own. This is a powerfully told story about a family that has lost its roots. Mack and his family have been farmers for generations, and when the farm is taken away, everyone starts to fall. Warning to Christian readers: the sex in this book is a bit more graphic than what most Christian fiction publishes. It's not titillating or provocative, just true. True is a good description of this book. The emotions and people ring true, and the church service at the end of the book had me in tears. This is a story about a family losing its heart and its struggle to find it again. In that there is a lesson for us all.

Tonight I'll finish up The Five Love Languages for Teenagers and I'm just getting started on Boo. Have a wonderful weekend!