Monthly Archives: May 2012

Mary’s Blessing by Lena Nelson Dooley

My Review:

This is the continuing story of the McKenna triplets….Mary has always known she was adopted, but without knowing the details surrounding the adoption is full of unanswered questions. When her adoptive mother passes away when she was quite young, the burden of running the household fell on her shoulders. When her childhood friend, Daniel asks permission of her to come courting, she is delighted, but reality strikes hard and fast. Will she have to choose between her responsibilities for her family or her future?

I enjoyed this continuing story from the other triplet’s viewpoint. I think I will be anxiously awaiting the sequel where they all meet each other!
I especially liked in this book how Ms. Dooley, had a demonstration of a real courtship. It was sweetly demonstrated with seeking permission from the right people, following guidelines parents had set up, when hard things came up, seeking advice from older people you trust. Daniel and Mary both had to learn how get through hard times together, while young and inexperienced.
This was a great story and even though it does have romance in it, it is a very clean, courting story. – Martha

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Realms (May 15, 2012)

***Special thanks to Althea Thompson | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lena Nelson Dooley is an award-winning author with more than 650,000 books in print. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers—where she received the Mentor of the Year award in 2006—DFW Ready Writers, and Christian Authors Network. She lives in Hurst, Texas, with her husband of over 45 years.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Mary Lenora Murray was adopted by parents who had recently lost a child while on the last wagon train west in 1867. When she is thirteen years old, Mary’s mother and her two older sisters die in the cholera pandemic, leaving her the oldest child with four younger siblings to raise. Her father, in his grief, pours himself into keeping the farm going, leaving the running of the home entirely in Mary’s hands.

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (May 15, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616386177
ISBN-13: 978-1616386177

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:


“Pa?” Mary Lenor a Murray shouted back over her shoulder as she picked up the heavy picnic basket. “You ready to go?” Why does he always drag his feet when we’re going to
church?
Her father came through the mud room into the kitchen, letting the screen door slam shut behind him. He smelled of heat, hay, and sunshine, with the strong tang of muck from the barn mingled in. By the looks of his clothes, attending church was the farthest thing from his mind. His ratty trousers held smudges of several dark colors. She didn’t even want to guess what they were. And the long sleeves of his undershirt, the only thing covering his torso, were shoved above his elbows. Grayed and dingy, the shirt would never be white again, no matter how hard she tried to get it clean.
Mary bit her tongue to keep from scolding him as she did her younger brothers and sister when they made such a racket entering the house. No doubt he would give her some excuse about having too much work to go to church. Not a big surprise. She’d heard it all before too many times.
He set a bucket of fresh water beside the dry sink and gripped his fingers around the front straps of his suspenders. That always signaled he was about to tell her something she didn’t want to hear.
“I’m not going today.” This time he didn’t really make any excuses, just this bald-faced comment.
She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to calm her anger. She’d give him a sweet answer even if the words tasted bitter in her mouth. “The new pastor is coming today. We’re having dinner on the grounds after the service. Remember, I told you when we got home last Sunday.” She flashed what she hoped was a warm smile at him and prayed he couldn’t tell it
was fake.

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“What happened to the last one? He didn’t last very long, did he?” Pa started washing his hands with the bar of homemade soap she kept in a dish on the shelf. “Don’t understand why that church can’t keep a pastor. Someone musta run him off.”
Mary couldn’t keep from huffing out a breath this time. “I told you about that too.” She clamped her lips closed before she asked the question that often bounced around her mind. Why don’t you ever listen to me? At seventeen she was close enough to being an adult to be treated like one, and she’d carried the load of a woman in this household for years.
“His wife died, and his father-in-law begged him to bring the grandchildren closer to where they live, so he headed back to Ohio. Living in the same community as their grandparents, he’d have a lot of help with the younger ones.”
Mary had never known her own grandparents, none of them. Not her mother’s parents. Not her father’s parents. Not the par- ents of whoever gave birth to her. She didn’t wonder about any of them very often, but today her heart longed for someone who really loved her.
With bright red curly hair and fair skin that freckled more every time she stepped into the sunlight, she didn’t resemble anyone in this family that had adopted her as an infant. Since they were black Irish, they all had dark hair and striking blue eyes, not like her murky green ones. And none of them had ever wanted to know what she thought about anything—except her mother.
“Well, I’ve gotta lot to do today.” Her father reached for the towel she’d made out of feed sacks. “You and the others go ahead. I might come over that way at dinner time.”
No, you won’t. Mary had heard his statement often enough to know he was trying to placate her so she would leave him alone. So she would.
“Frances, George, Bobby, come on. We don’t want to be late.”

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Lena  neL son DooLey

She shifted the handle of the loaded basket to her other arm. “Frances, you grab the jug of spring water. We might get thirsty.” Her father’s icy blue eyes pierced her. “Pretty warm out today.
No sign of rain.”
“We’ll be picnicking in the field between the church and Willamette Falls. It’s cooler there, especially under the trees with the breeze blowing across the water.” She started toward the front door.
“Keep your eyes on the boys.” His harsh command followed her. “Don’t let either of them fall into the river. They could drown. Water’s fast right there.”
She nodded but didn’t answer or look back at him. All he cared about were those boys and getting them raised old enough to really help with the farming. He already worked them harder than any of the neighbors did their sons who were the same ages.
Six long years ago her mother and older sisters contracted diphtheria when they went to help Aunt Miriam and Uncle Leland settle in their house on a farm about five miles from theirs. On the trip to Oregon one of them had contracted the dread disease and didn’t know it until after they arrived. No one knew they were all dead until Pa went looking for Ma, Carrie, and Annette a couple of days later. He saw the quarantine sign someone nailed to a fence post and didn’t go closer until he had help. When he came home, he told Mary she would have to take over the keeping of the house. Six long years ago.
When did my life become such drudgery? Had it ever been any- thing else? At least not since Ma died, which seemed like an
eternity ago.

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M a ry ’s Ble s si ng

4 4 4

Daniel Winthrop whistled while he dressed for church. He looked forward with anticipation to the moment when he would lay eyes on Mary Murray. Even her name had a musical ring to it.
He’d been waiting and planning what to say when he approached her. Today he would start his subtle courting. With the situation at the Murray farm, he knew he would have his work cut out for him to convince her she could start a life of her own with him. After he achieved that, he’d ask her father for her hand.
Visions of coming home to her each night and building a family together moved through his head like the slides of photo- graphs in the Holmes stereopticon they had at home. He loved her already, but more than that, he wanted to get her out of that house, where she was loaded down with so much work and responsibility.
Daniel had often gone with his mother when she bought fresh produce from the Murrays, so he knew what her life had been like since her mother died. Their families came to Oregon on the same wagon train, so he’d known her all his life. He was only three years older than she was, and he had watched her over the last few years as she blossomed into a beautiful young woman.
Mary needed to be appreciated and cared for, and he was just the man to do it.
“Daniel, we’re leaving soon.” His father’s voice prodded him from his dreams.
With a final peek into the tall cheval glass, he straightened his necktie before he headed out the door of his room. “I’m on my way.”
He bounded down the stairs and took their picnic basket

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from his mother. “Something really smells good.” He gave a loud sniff. “Do you need me to test and make sure it’s all right?”
He welcomed her playful slap on his hand that crept toward the cover on the basket. Her laughter reminded him of the chimes he had heard in the larger church in Portland.
“Not a single bite until dinner.” Like a queen, she swept out the door Father held open for her.
Their familiar ritual warmed his heart. He looked forward to creating family rituals with Mary. Once more he whistled as he headed toward the brougham. Nothing could cloud his day.
When they pulled up to the Methodist church, his father guided the team toward the back, where a large area paved with fine gravel gave plenty of space for those who arrived in horse- drawn vehicles. While Father helped Mother down from the open carriage, Daniel took the reins and tied them to one of the hitching rails that outlined the space. He chose the rail under
a spreading black cottonwood tree where the limbs were just beginning to show the leaf buds.
He scanned the lot, looking for the Murray wagon. Not there. Disappointed, he stared at the ground. Please, God, let Mary come today.
Clopping hoofs and a jingling harness accompanied a wagon
taking too fast of a turn into the parking area. Daniel cut his eyes toward the advancing disaster. Two of the wheels did indeed lift from the ground. Before he could get a shout out of his mouth, he heard Mary’s sweet voice.
“Lean to the right, boys!”
George and Bobby, Mary’s brothers, scrambled across the seat, followed by Frances. The wagon wheels settled into the gravel, and Mary pulled on the reins.
“Easy. Settle down.” Even though she spoke to the horses, he
heard every word.

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M a ry ’s Ble s si ng

His heart that had almost leapt from his chest also settled down when he realized she was no longer in danger. Thank You, Lord.
The wagon came to a standstill, and Mary put her dainty hand to her chest and released a deep breath. The green cotton fabric, sprigged with white flowers, looked good on her, setting off her red hair, pulled up into a bunch on the top of her head. Without a hat or bonnet covering it, the sun danced across the curls. He loved seeing the wisps frame her face. That’s how he pictured her when he dreamed about their future.
Mary sat a moment without moving. She was probably scared out of her wits. Where was her father? He should have been driving the wagon, not her. How long had it been since the man had attended services? Daniel couldn’t remember the last time. It was not a good thing for a man to neglect his spiritual nature. He’d just have to pray harder for Mr. Murray.
Daniel hurried toward them. “Hi, Mary.”
She looked up, straight into his eyes, fear still flickering in the back of her gaze. “Daniel. Good morning.” Her words came out riding on short breaths.
He took hold of the bridle of the horse nearest him. “I can hitch your team under the trees for you.”
After releasing another deep breath, Mary nodded. “Thank you. I’d like that.” She turned toward her siblings. “Frances, you get the picnic basket, and George, you carry the jug of water. Go find us a pew, perhaps near the back of the sanctuary, and put the things under the bench. I’ll be right in.”
The younger children climbed out of the wagon and followed their sister’s instructions. Mary watched them until they’d gone around the side of the building toward the front. Then she stood up.
Before she could try to climb over the side, Daniel hurried to

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help. He held out his hand to her. She stared at it, then looked at his face.
“I’ll help you down.” He gave her his most beguiling smile. For the first time since she arrived, she smiled back, and pink
bled up her neck into her cheeks. Her blush went straight to his heart. Oh, yes, he loved this woman.
Mary slipped her slim fingers into his hand. Even through the white cotton gloves, he felt the connection as warmth sparked up his arm like fireworks on Independence Day. She glanced down so she could see the step. When she hesitated, he let go of her hand and both of his spanned her tiny waist. With a deft swing, he had her on the ground in seconds. He wished he had the right to pull her into an embrace. Wouldn’t that just set the tongues a-wagging? He couldn’t do that to her. Mary needed to be cherished for the treasure she was. And as far as Daniel could see, her father really didn’t treat her that way.
He watched her walk toward the front of the building, enjoying the way her skirt swayed with each step, barely brushing the tops of her black patent shoes. That is one beau- tiful woman. He turned back to her team. Walking beside the horses, he led them toward the hitching rail where his family’s brougham was parked, hoping it would give him the oppor- tunity to help her back up onto the wagon seat. As he crossed the lot, several other conveyances entered, and he waved and exchanged greetings with each family.
The church was the first one established in Oregon City. At that time, it was the Methodist Mission but grew as the town did. Along the way, members of this body had a great influence on what happened in the burgeoning city. And that was still true today. His Winthrop ancestors, who settled nearby, had been instrumental in both the growth of the church and of the
town. He felt a sense of pride at being a part of something that

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important, and he wanted to increase the town’s assets, because he planned to raise his own family here. Maybe establish a dynasty of his own, watching his sons and daughters, then his grandchildren, prosper.
His woolgathering slowed the progress of tying the horses to their spot. He needed to hurry so he wouldn’t miss the begin- ning of the service. As he opened the front door, Mrs. Slidell struck the first chord on the new Mason and Hamlin reed organ. The church had ordered the instrument from the manufacturing plant in Buffalo, New York. When it arrived only a couple of weeks before, the music added a special feeling to the worship and helped most people stay on the right tune better than the old piano did. He hummed along with the introduction to “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” his favorite hymn.
Glancing around the room, Daniel finally spied Mary and her siblings sitting on the second pew from the back on the right side of the aisle. He squared his shoulders and confidently approached the wooden bench. He asked if he could sit with them, and she scooted over to make room. Just what he wanted. He would be sitting right beside her.
Throughout the service, Daniel had a hard time keeping his mind on the proceedings. Mary sat close enough for him to touch her if he leaned a little to his right. He was so tempted to bump against her arm, but he held back. He imagined clasping her hand in his and holding it for longer than just a few seconds while helping her down from a conveyance or through a doorway, really wrapping his large fingers around hers and intertwining their fingers. Just thinking about it caught his breath.
He whooshed it out, and she turned toward him, her eyes wid- ening with a question. After flashing a smile at her, he glanced up at Rev. Horton. The man’s delivery was smooth, and his words
made a lot of sense. He’d be a good pastor for them, but Daniel

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couldn’t keep a single word of his message in his mind. Not while he could feel Mary’s presence with every cell in his body.
Instead, in his mind he searched up and down the streets of Oregon City, seeking a place to turn into a home for him and his beloved. If the right house wasn’t for sale, he could build her one. She could help him choose the design. That’s what he’d do. Build her the home she’d always dreamed of. His heart squeezed with the knowledge of what he planned to do. He could hardly keep the idea to himself. He hoped it wouldn’t take too long for him to convince her that they should marry.
He’d even hire servants to help her manage their home. Whatever her heart desired, he’d do everything he could to present her with all she wanted. He only hoped it wouldn’t take too long. At twenty years old, he was ready to move on to the next phase of his life—with Mary by his side.
“Now let us bow our heads in prayer.” Rev. Horton raised his hands to bless the whole congregation.
Daniel dropped his head toward his chest. How had the man finished his sermon without Daniel noticing? Next Sunday he’d have to listen more closely. He really did want to get to know the new pastor and his family.
“Amen.” After the pastor pronounced the word, several other men echoed it.
Daniel watched his father rise from the second pew near the front on the left side of the aisle and take his place beside the new preacher. He placed his arm across the man’s shoulders. “Dear friends, on your behalf, I welcome our new pastor. Now let’s all meet his lovely family.” He waved toward a woman sitting on the front pew. “Mrs. Horton?”
The woman stood and turned toward the congregation. She was pretty, but not as young or as pretty as Mary.
“And,” Father’s voice boomed, “these are their children.”

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Four stair-step youngsters stood beside their mother. The tallest, a boy. The next, a girl. Then another boy, and the shortest, a cute little girl. As if they had rehearsed it, they bowed toward the people in unison.
Several women across the sanctuary oooed or aahed before a loud round of applause broke out. The three oldest children gave shy smiles, and the youngest tugged at her mother’s skirts. When Mrs. Horton picked her up, the girl waved to the people, clearly enjoying the attention.
“I hope you all brought your blankets and picnic baskets.” Father beamed at the crowd. “We’re going to spread our food together. I believe there are plenty of sawhorse tables set up near the building. And you can pick a spot under the trees to settle for your meal. Just don’t forget to take the time to greet our new ministerial family while you’re here.” Father led the Horton family down the aisle and out the front door.
Daniel turned back toward Mary. “Perhaps you and your brothers and sister could spread your blanket beside my family’s.” A tiny smile graced Mary’s sweet mouth. “If you’re sure your
mother wouldn’t mind, I’d like that.”
“Oh, yes. I’m sure.” He stepped into the nearly empty aisle and moved back to let Mary and her family precede him, and he quickly followed behind.
His heartbeat accelerated just thinking about spending spe- cial time with the object of his affections. Without thinking, he started whistling a happy tune.
Mary glanced back at him. “I didn’t know you whistled.”
“Oh, yes. I’m a man of many talents.” His heart leapt at the interest he read in her gaze. Things were well on their way to working out just the way he wanted them to.

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Filed under Book Reviews

The Anniversary Waltz by Darrel Nelson

The Anniversary Waltz
By Darrel Nelson
Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

Adam Carlson has faced down the enemies overseas during World War 2. He had first faced the opposition from his father to joining the military, unsure of his welcome home, he attempts to work through to reach his father.
Elizabeth Baxter, young, hardworking and practically engaged to be married to a the town’s banker is excited about her future. She has doubts at times about her relationship with Nathan, wondering if he is too possessive.

When Ty, Adam’s cousin invites Adam to the town function, also meant to honor soldier’s, those were were returning and those who were no longer with them, Elizabeth catches his eye and when Nathan in a boastful attempt at competing with Adam as they did in their youth, bets a kiss from “his girl” in a shooting competition…(which Adam refused by the way), Adam catches Elizabeth’s eye as well.

I am a sucker for World War 2 stories, there is just something about the era of the 40’s and 50’s that I love. I am not sure what it is, but this book was no different. I have to admit, I was surprised actually when I got to the end and realized it was written by a man. I can usually guess when I begin a book when it has a romantic bent to it, that it was written by a male author. I throughly enjoyed this book from start to finish. The lessons in the book on what true love is, what true love does and how it extends to our family was beautiful. I really loved seeing the building of the relationship between Adam and his father. The lessons on forgiveness were there as well. This book has a romantic bent to it, yes, but it is not a romance fiction novel that you typically think of. This is a story of love, how it is not always easy and told beautifully in the book The Anniversary Waltz! Great job, Mr. Nelson!
– Martha

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Realms (May 15, 2012)

***Special thanks to Althea Thompson | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

 Darrel Nelson is a graduate of the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, with bachelor’s degrees in English and education. He is a schoolteacher by profession, with thirty-three years of teaching experience, and currently teaches fourth grade at Raymond Elementary School. Nelson has had an article published in Lethbridge Magazine and has written several dramatic plays, two of which won provincial recognition and were showcased at a drama festival. He won the CJOC radio songwriting contest two years running and has had one song receive international airplay. Writing has always been a passion, and over the years he has written four novels intended for the juvenile market. They are unpublished as yet, but he reads them annually to his fourth-grade students. The Anniversary Waltz is his first novel intended for the adult market. Hometown: Raymond, Alberta, Canada

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

It’s the summer of 1946, and Adam Carlson has just returned from the war to his home in Reunion, Montana. Despite the strained relationship with his father, Adam sets out to revive the dilapidated family farm, neglected since his departure overseas four years ago. After some convincing to take a rest from his labors, he attends the town festival, where he meets Elizabeth Baxter, a young woman going steady with his former high school rival and now influential banker, Nathan Roberts.

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (May 15, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616387157
ISBN-13: 978-1616387150

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

July 1946
Adam Carlson shifted in his seat on the Greyhound bus and stared wearily out the window. He couldn’t remember being this tired, not even during the heaviest part of the
fighting in Italy. But he was too excited to close his eyes now. He had finally received his discharge and was almost home. The return voyage across the Atlantic by army transport ship made him seasick, and the four-day journey across the country by train seemed to last forever. But that was all behind him, compartmen- talized in his memory along with a thousand other images he would just as soon forget. All that remained was the thirty-mile bus ride north from Great Falls.
Running a hand through his wavy, brown hair, he studied the landscape he hadn’t seen in four years—except in his dreams. And he had dreamed about his hometown of Reunion, Montana, a great deal, especially while lying under the stars at night and smelling the earthy aroma of freshly dug foxholes. Those were the times he wondered if he would ever see the Great Plains again or feel the wind on his face. He ached to see the Rocky Mountains and gaze at the foothills as they merged with the plains and stretched eastward into infinity. This was the country he loved, the country for which he had fought. Big Sky Country—a corner of heaven.
He noticed a hawk in the distance, riding the invisible current on graceful wings, circling above a stand of cottonwood trees. At that moment, he decided, it had been worth it—all of it.
Even though he had enlisted against his father’s wishes.
As the son of Hector Carlson, dry land farmer, Adam hadn’t needed to enlist. But he wanted to satisfy his sense of adven- ture. He wanted to see the world outside the farm’s boundaries, to answer the call of plain, old-fashioned patriotism. Remember Pearl Harbor! Laborers could be hired to bring in the harvest, he’d told his father, but who was going to go overseas and fight for a cause greater than one family’s run of bad luck?
Hector hadn’t accepted this reasoning, however. He tried to talk Adam into staying and helping run the farm. When his efforts proved futile, he gave up talking to his son at all. He didn’t come to see Adam off, nor did he write once in the four years Adam was away, not even a quick note scribbled at the bottom of the regular letters Adam received from his mother, Maude.
Adam shook the memory away and felt his heart rate quicken as the bus made the last turn leading into Reunion. The anticipa- tion of meeting his parents made him feel strangely nervous. It was dreamlike, as unreal as the world he had just left.
His thoughts went to those who would not be returning. Sixteen of his friends and comrades had fallen in Europe and were now permanent occupants. They would be forever denied the thrill of a homecoming and the anticipation of getting on with their lives. They would never see the mountains again or watch the maturing fields of wheat sway in the wind like a planted ocean. In their memory he closed his eyes, fighting his emotions as the Greyhound turned onto Main Street and headed for the bus stop in front of the Reunion Mercantile.
Several people were waiting on the sidewalk, anxiously craning to see inside the bus. A face appeared in the barbershop window next door to the Mercantile, peering out to study the scene. Two doors down a woman clutching several garments paused before entering Yang’s Dry Cleaners and glanced toward the bus stop. In a small rural community like Reunion, where grain prices and the weather were the main topics of conversation, the arrival of the Greyhound attracted attention.
Inside the bus the driver announced, “Reunion. Please remember to take all your personal belongings. I’ll set your lug- gage on the curb.” He opened the door, and those who were get- ting off made their way forward.
Adam remained in his seat, looking out the window. He watched as each person emerged and was immediately engulfed by waiting arms. It was heartwarming to see people embrace, cry, and laugh all at the same time. He wondered if his father would be this demonstrative, but he already knew the answer to that.
The bus driver reappeared in the doorway a few minutes later. “Isn’t this your stop, soldier?” He smiled sympathetically. “Sometimes it’s as hard coming home as it is leaving, isn’t it?”
Adam nodded and eased his six-foot frame out of the seat. He put on his service cap and adjusted his uniform before making his way up the aisle.
“Good luck,” the driver said, patting him on the shoulder. Adam stood in the door of the bus for a moment, watching
the happy scene. A woman in a blue cotton dress made her way through the crowd. It took Adam a moment to recognize his mother. She had aged during the past four years and looked so frail that he wondered how she got through the crowd without being snapped like a dry twig.
“Adam . . . Adam!” she called, her voice filled with so much emotion she could hardly speak. Tears formed in her eyes and ran down her cheeks as Adam quickly descended the bus steps. She took him in her arms and embraced him with surprising strength. “Oh, my son, God has answered my prayers and brought you back to me.”
Adam held her for a long time, his eyes closed, his lips quiv- ering. Maude silently wept on his shoulder and rubbed the tears with the back of her thin hand. Finally she held him at arm’s length as if unable to believe her eyes. Adam smiled reassuringly and gazed out over the crowd.
“He didn’t come,” she said, in answer to his unspoken question. Adam looked into his mother’s face. “But at least you came.” She reached up and stroked his cheek, her hand trembling.
“Of course I came. Wild horses couldn’t—” She changed the topic abruptly, likely realizing it would only serve to emphasize her husband’s absence if she didn’t. “Where’s your luggage?” she asked. “Let’s get you home so you can rest. You look exhausted.” So do you, he wanted to say, but he just smiled at her. It was obvious that the intervening years had taken their toll on her too. Adam led her toward the passengers who were sorting through the luggage, which was now sitting on the curb. He had no dif- ficulty identifying his two suitcases. They bore little resemblance to the ones he’d purchased four years earlier at the Mercantile. They were now held together by rope and packaging tape, and both of them showed evidence of journeys they’d taken aboard buses, trains, ships, army trucks, jeeps, and, on one occasion, an Italian farmer’s hay cart.
Maude had no difficulty identifying her son’s luggage either. As she reached for one of the suitcases, Adam quickly intercepted her. “I’ve got them, Mom,” he said, picking up the suitcases and adjusting his grip on the sweat-stained leather handles.
“The truck’s parked in front of the dry cleaners,” Maude said, taking hold of his arm and leading him through the crowd.
Adam nodded to the bus driver, who gave him a thumbs-up gesture, and followed his mother down the sidewalk, answering her questions and asking a few of his own. He realized the words of greeting he practiced on the bus were unnecessary. He hoped it would be the same when he finally met his father. But somehow he doubted it.
As the farm came into view, Adam drew in a deep breath. The surrounding fields of wheat and barley, a vibrant green beneath
a robin’s egg sky, were a pastoral setting of majesty and peace- fulness. But in many ways, returning home was like riding into enemy territory. Several times during the war, he had run into an ambush and barely escaped with his life, using every skill possible to survive. Today he felt like there was no refuge. He could only proceed directly into the line of fire and hope for the best.
His mind raced wildly as the pickup truck rattled through the gate and stopped in front of the house. He reached for the door handle but hesitated, taking everything in one more time in case it suddenly vanished . . . like a dream upon awakening.
The farmyard had changed. The two-story, clapboard house looked tired and faded, and several shutters hung at odd angles. The veranda tilted slightly to the south, and the railing was missing several spindles. The pump out in the yard had only a stub of a handle, and the clothesline beside it sagged noticeably. The woodshed and the barn were badly weathered, and the poplar tree near the garden now held only remnants of the tree house that he and his father had built years earlier.
Perhaps the farmyard had always looked like this and he hadn’t noticed. But a fresh coat of paint would do wonders to hide the wrinkles and blemishes, and he resolved to paint every building before winter. He would shore up the clothesline, repair the front step, fix the shutters, replace the handle on the pump . . .
A burst of energy surged through him. He would make it up to his father by getting the farm back in shape. It would be like he had never left. He would show his father that he did care.
Maude put her hand on his. “Before we go in, there’s some- thing I want to say. Despite your father not coming to meet you today, he does love you.”
Exhaling slowly, Adam turned toward her. “He has a funny way of showing it.”
“He has a hard time expressing his feelings sometimes, that’s all.” “He didn’t write once in four years.”
Maude stared out of the truck window, focusing on nothing in particular. She seemed to be searching for the right words. “I can’t say I agree with how he’s handled things, son. And I’m not trying to make excuses for him. But it’s been hard on him too. I just wanted you to know that.” She patted Adam’s hand. “I just hope the two of you can let bygones be bygones.”
Adam leaned over and kissed his mother on the cheek. “You’re a good woman, Maude Carlson.”
She smiled in appreciation, but her smile faded as the barn door opened and her husband stepped out into the sunlight. She glanced over at her son, who squared his shoulders and pulled on the door handle.
Adam was struck by how much his father had aged. His hair was much thinner, and his sun-hardened, wrinkled skin was stretched like tanned hide on a pole frame. His complexion resembled buckskin, rough side out, and his leanness added a sharp edge to his features. A permanent scowl creased his fore- head, and his mouth sagged at the corners.
Hector remained motionless, as though he was a gargoyle guarding the farmyard. His expression looked equally sullen and fierce, and Adam slowly approached him. Staring down the enemy in the fields and streets of Italy had not been this hard.
Maude hurried toward her husband. “Hec, it’s our boy! Adam’s home!”
Adam studied his father’s face, looking for any sign of wel- come . . . or forgiveness. But Hector’s granite-like countenance remained unchanged. Adam stopped several paces away and stood before his father like a disobedient child.
Hector met his son’s eyes momentarily, and then his gaze wan- dered over Adam’s uniform. The silence deepened and Adam felt the tension increase.
Maude narrowed her eyes. “Well, Hec, say something.”
Hector scratched his stubbled chin and cleared his throat. “They treat you okay?”
What a strange question, Adam thought. Was his father refer- ring to the army or the enemy? In all honesty, neither of them had treated him well. The army had removed four years of his life with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel, and the Germans had been far less subtle than that. They had tried to kill him.
Adam felt numb as the memories of the past four years flooded his heart, a trickle at first and then a gush. The experience had been more overwhelming than he ever expected. And with one question his father had reduced it to insignificance.
“You know I don’t agree with what you did,” Hector said. “But
I’m glad you didn’t go and get yourself killed.” Adam forced a smiled. “I’m glad I didn’t either.”
Maude looked anxiously from one to the other. “Hec, this calls for a feast of the fatted calf. Get some beet greens from the garden, and I’ll cook a roast with all the trimmings.”
Hector remained motionless.
She shooed him away from the barn. “You go on, now.” Embracing Adam, she said, “Go have a bath and get some rest, son. I’ll call you for dinner. There’s so much to talk about.”
Adam glanced at the retreating figure of his father and returned to the truck to get his luggage, aware that his mother was reverting to her proven formula for restoring peace on earth, good will toward men: a delicious meal. In the past, good food had settled more arguments in the family than had any line of reasoning, logic, or argument. The way to a man’s heart . . .

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Tortilla Soup Recipe

I will have to add a picture later of this soup….but here is the recipe.

Tortilla Soup

2 cans of stewed tomatoes, or 1 can rotel and 1 jar or large can of whole tomatoes
1/2 onion, cubed
Cilantro sprigs
1 clove garlic
1 quart chicken broth (vegetable broth if making it vegetarian)
2 t. California Chile powder or New Mexico chili powder (not regular chili powder)

In blender place tomatoes, onions and garlic. Grind until fairly smooth. Place in sauce pan, add chicken broth (or vegetable broth), chile powder and a couple sprigs of Cilantro.
Bring up to a boil and then turn down and simmer 20 minutes. Taste for salt.
To serve: have bowls of cooked beans, meat, cheese, tortillas torn up or tortilla chips, corn, avocado, chopped cilantro, olives, sour cream, or cooked rice…..whatever you want. Choose as little or as many toppings to put in your bowl and ladle hot soup over top of it. You can also just do tortillas and cheese!

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Menu for the week

My life has been overwhelmed with all the stuff that goes on this time of year. If this is any indicator of what the summer looks like, I am not happy already!

But hurrah!! School is over!! Track and Field Day is tomorrow, praying it is not pouring rain, but I bought an umbrella!

Wednesday: Fettucini Alfredo, salad
Thursday: Pork roast, noodles, corn
Friday: Tortilla soup, corn bread
Saturday: Chicken kabobs with vegetables
Sunday: Leftovers, popcorn
Monday: Enchiladas, spanish rice, salad
Tuesday: Pulled pork, buns, cut up vegetables

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What we say….

I was at the dentist today, waiting in the waiting room as my son had a tooth filled. I often enjoy time spent waiting in waiting rooms, I carry a book with me, my kindle (although I am still struggling to read books on it all the time), or enjoy magazines while waiting.

Today, however, I found myself distracted by an exchange going on between a father and his two children. The young boy, probably about 6 years old was building with legos, when his little sister destroyed it. He was distraught and the father sought to comfort him using all sorts of explanations of why the sister had done it, why it was over and done with and the boy should just get over it and move on…he did request the little girl apologize, somewhat weakly, but then shrugged his shoulders and said to his son “You know that your sister is just a little brat, so what can we do?” to which the son seemed resigned and sat quietly until he was called back.

I was shocked first of all, as the little girl was sitting them playing on the floor. She had a stubborn look on her face, refused to say sorry, and looked defiant as she sat there. But I wondered if there was something more at play here.

If a father does not care enough to train his daughter to be kind, accepts that she is a unruly child and her brother has also accepted it as an unchanging fact of life, I see an unhappy future for all involved.

Children misbehave. There is no perfect child or parent. I may work my hardest to bring up my children the right way, and they may still rebel and go the wrong way. But I felt sorrow when I first saw the defeat in this family, but also the fact that his frustration would bring him to cut down his daughter with cutting words. He seemed to care a lot for his children, he was not a bad father, but I wonder if he realized how those cutting remarks set her up to accept that she was a brat, and she could get her way utilizing her talent. Her father accepted that, and obviously did not love her enough to let her know that she did not have to live life as a brat, it is so much nicer to get along with others and give of oneself than be defiant and mean.

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A Place to belong by Lisa Troyer (Music CD)

My Review:
This CD is a compilation of nice, calm, worship type music. It is very peaceful and relaxing to listen to, with great words! – Martha

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card artist is:

and the cd:

℗ 2012 LifeWay Worship

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE ARTIST:

 Radio personality, recording artist, speaker and author Lisa Troyer finds herself heart-deep in ministries that are changing lives forever. Her incredibly successful Circle of Friends women’s ministry, formed over a decade ago, is growing in all directions. With ministry and songwriting partner Dawn Yoder, Lisa and her Circle of Friends offer women’s conferences, leadership training, counseling services, worship music, life skills classes and marriage/family resources. No matter the outlet or the venue, Lisa uses her gift of encouragement, her influence and her resources to open doors for women everywhere to discover their significance and belonging through Christ.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT CD DESCRIPTION:

Every woman needs acceptance, love and a place to belong. That’s the underlying theme of the new music CD, A Place to Belong (Lifeway Worship), from singer/songwriter Lisa Troyer, president of Circle of Friends Ministries. Refreshingly authentic and dynamic, the companion worship CD to Troyer’s recently released book, A Place to Belong: Out of Our Comfort Zone and into God’s Adventure (Barbour Publishing), tenderly draws women into a place of true freedom and belonging in the very heart of God.

To order go HERE.

Product Details:

$7.92 or $0.99 per song
Genres: Christian & Gospel, Music
Released: Mar 23, 2012
℗ 2012 LifeWay Worship

AND NOW…A SAMPLE SONG OFF THE CD:



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Everybody’s Daughter by Michael Sullivan

My Review:
Speculative fiction is not my genre to read, and I really thought this was historical. If you like history, time travel and self sacrifice, this is the story for you. Michael Stewart goes back through time to find love, but unknown to him, his daughter follows him and leaves her in danger. He is accused in present day of her disappearance and cannot explain it.
– Martha

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Fiction Std (May 16, 2012)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

 Michael John Sullivan graduated from St. John’s University with a communications degree and a promising future in the field of journalism after working for the official school paper the previous two years. Six months later, he found himself washing his hair in a toilet at the same university as he prepared for a job interview. He was homeless at the age of 23 after first watching his mother ─ his protector in a dysfunctional family ─ die from cancer. A year later his father asked him to leave. Riding a New York City subway train at night, his only companion was a green plastic bag of belongings. During these bleak days he began writing his most reflective and emotional childhood and adult memories now featured in two of his novels.

On a bitterly cold New Year’s Eve that year, Sullivan intentionally hid under a pew in the back of a church to stay warm for the night. After the doors were locked, he lay near a makeshift manger, writing and talking to the baby Jesus. It was a cathartic experience, one that would continue to resonate with him years later. He was eventually rescued by an aunt and uncle. After spending much of the past two decades raising their daughters while working at home, Sullivan returned to his notes in 2007 and began writing Necessary Heartbreak: A Novel of Faith and Forgiveness. It was published by Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Books imprint in April 2010. The Library Journal named Necessary Heartbreak as one of the year’s best in Christian fiction for 2010.

He recently finished the sequel, Everybody’s Daughter, featuring more memories from his young adult life, including the day he walked to Forest Park as he contemplated taking his own life. Only the strains of a song prevented him from doing the unthinkable. Sullivan lives with his family in New York. He is a nominated board member for the Long Island Coalition of the Homeless.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

What if you had a chance to ask a loved one for forgiveness – after they died? What would you say?
Would you give up your own lifetime of happiness for someone else?

Michael Stewart confronts these questions as he travels back in time through a mysterious tunnel in an old church when the Romans ruled with brutal violence and Jesus preached his peaceful message.
His teenage daughter Elizabeth soon follows Michael, but is surprised to discover that her father is nowhere to be found.  Little does she know that Michael has returned safely to the present, leaving her to battle a vicious Roman soldier.

Separated by centuries, Michael is trapped to fight his own battles in the present day.  Elizabeth’s disappearance, and the discovery of her blood in his car ignites a rush of judgment as the FBI focuses on him as a person of interest. Michael’s only hope for saving his daughter rests in the hands of his best friend – a local pastor with secrets of his own – and a mysterious old journal containing tales of miracles within the walls of the old church itself.

Thrilling and suspenseful, Everybody’s Daughter takes readers on a miraculous journey of their own, where salvation can be found in acts of sacrifice and hope remains forever eternal through the passage of a tunnel.

Product Details:
List Price: $15.95
Paperback: 328 pages
Publisher: Fiction Std (May 16, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1936558440
ISBN-13: 978-1936558445

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Chapter One
Jingling the silver coins between his fingers that he had retrieved so many centuries ago, Michael Stewart again thought about what he should do with the blood money. He leaned on his broom, transfixed in his holy land memories, only to be startled by an intruder.
“Hey, Judas. Pastor Dennis told me to bring this down here,” the young man said, stomping down the stairs. “Where do you want me to put this?”
“In the corner is fine.” He pointed to the area and continued sweeping the church’s basement floor.
The teenager set down a candle snuffer and tugged on Michael’s Boston Red Sox jacket’s sleeve. “Don’t work too hard, Judas.” He ran up the stairs, repeating Judas’ name and laughing. The sound broke the majestic quiet of the church.
Michael never took offense when his fellow Yankee fans teased him, accusing him of being a traitor.
If they only realized he knew Judas. Personally.
He relaxed, allowing the slight pain in his forearm to ease, and slipped his hand again inside the pocket of his worn jeans. He never left home without the ancient relics, touching them periodically, forcing himself to believe that the week he and his daughter Elizabeth lived in first-century Jerusalem wasn’t a dream.
It was real. It did happen.
On days when his financial responsibilities overwhelmed him, as insurmountable bills piled up on a weekly basis, he had been tempted to ask an antique expert about their value.
No. I could never sell them, no matter how much they could be worth. I’ll burn in hell.
He realized he would perhaps have to explain how he had come to own these unholy souvenirs some day.
“But who would believe me?” he whispered. “They’ll think I’m crazy.”
He heard footsteps upstairs. “Well, well, surprise, surprise,” called a voice from above. “Look who’s down there, again.”
Michael went to the stairway and glanced up at his daughter. “How did you know I was here?”
“I’m psychic.”
Michael smiled. “So what does my future say?”
She laughed. “I saw your car parked in front.”
“Wait a minute. Aren’t you supposed to be at your self defense class?”
“That was yesterday. I’m almost done with it. I can push around the biggest guys. But now I’m rocking with the history club. They want you to come in and discuss your coins.”
“You can’t be serious?” He stared at her in disbelief. “Not only will they not believe me, but they’ll think my elevator is not going up to the right floor. Did you tell them where they came from?”
She didn’t respond.
Michael walked up the stairs into the church, gave his daughter a hug and kissed her forehead. “Did you show them the coins I gave you?”
“You look good today, Dad.”
“Uh-huh.” Wonder what she’s angling for?
He sat in the first pew and gazed at the musical equipment behind the podium, gleaming in the late afternoon sunlight. Thoughts of finding another opportunity to travel to the Holy Land occupied his mind as he absorbed the peaceful beauty.
Elizabeth nudged his shoulder, shaking him out of his trance. “I didn’t show anybody the coins you gave me. They’ll think I’m crazy too.”
He slid over to give her room. “So, what do you need from me today?”
“Nothing,” she said. “It’s so quiet.” She looked around. “I haven’t been here in a while.”
“I’ve noticed.”
“I think one church nut in the family is enough,” she said.
He gave her a surprised look. “Excuse me?”
“Just kidding. Why are you spending so much time in all the churches in town? Even a Temple.”
He didn’t answer right away, needing a few seconds to think.
“I truly believe Jesus doesn’t care whether I pray in a Catholic or a Protestant church, or even a Temple or the ice cream shop or a toy store or…”
“Okay, okay, I get the picture,” she said.
He touched her hand. “I saw God in Leah as much as any person I know. She showed us so much love. Real love.” He let out a sigh. “Going back to that time and witnessing what we did, well, it changed my life.”
He rubbed his forehead and closed his eyes for a few seconds.
“And losing your aunt also changed the way I think.”
“Yeah, I know.” She nodded slowly. “I miss Aunt Sammie too. It changed the way I look at things.”
For several minutes they sat in silence. Michael found the stillness of the church rejuvenating.
His daughter nudged his shoulder again. “So what’s bothering you? That whole Jerusalem trip was incredible. But you’re still sad.” She chewed her bottom lip. “I know the real reason why you’re here.”
“Oh, you do?”
“Yup. I do indeed,” she said with the grin of a typical fourteen-year-old. “I know everything.” She injected an air of pompous self-importance in her tone, but couldn’t keep a straight face. The giggle that followed told Michael she was having a good time ribbing him.
She fiddled with a strand of neon pink hair, twisting it into a small bow. “I’m glad we get along better since that trip.” She put her hand on his arm. “I’m kind of worried about you. You want to talk about it?”
Michael refused to grab the bait she dangled. “I’m waiting for the service to start.”
She clicked her tongue. “There’s no service today.”
“I enjoy being here. Dennis is one of my best friends now. He’s different from the others.”
“Oh, yeah, he is different.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Well, he’s kind of old to look the way he does.”
“What’s he supposed to look like?”
“Like a pastor.” She faced him and touched her ear. “That earring he wears, his long hair, and the loud rock music he plays on his iPod. It’s just weird. And the motorcycle.”
Michael touched his ear. “I’m thinking about getting one.”
“Yuck. You’re old too.” She crossed her arms. “No way do I want my old man to wear one.”
“I’m not old and I’m thinking a gold sparkly one would be nice,” he continued, nodding.
“That’s not gonna happen.” She sighed. “Let’s talk about something else, so I can get that gross image of you out of my head. How often do you think about her?”
He twisted nervously, his leg pinned hard against the side of the pew. “Who are you talking about?”
“Leah. Who else?”
He hesitated for a fraction. “I think about her often.”
She leaned her head against his shoulder. “I’m sure she’s doing okay.”
“We didn’t see her get away from that Roman soldier.” He shifted in his seat to ease his anxiety. “I’m worried that I left her behind to defend herself against that maniac. I should have gone back.” He looked upward, avoiding her gaze. “That’s why I come here so often.”
She pressed her hand around his arm. “Yeah, I get it.”
“I should have gone back once I knew you were fine.”
Elizabeth’s eyes widened and she let out a gasp. “I wouldn’t have let you go alone. I love her too.”
“I know.” He glanced at her sideways and noticed another pink streak near her temple. Was that there this morning?
“We also didn’t know if that soldier was coming back after us in the tunnel,” Elizabeth said.
“I still should have turned around and made sure.”
She squeezed his arm tighter. “You’re still in love with her, huh?”
He grimaced, uncomfortable with the direction their conversation had taken and remained silent.
“Dad,” she said. “Answer me. Are you still in love with her?”
He kept staring straight ahead. “I guess.”
“You don’t sound sure.”
He cleared his throat. “Don’t get me wrong. I still miss your mom. I’ll always love your mom. I sometimes wonder if I should have let go of her a long time ago.” He lowered his voice and changed the direction of the conversation. “I also wonder if we should have waited until Jesus rose from the dead. I think about that a lot. But it would have been a big risk. I certainly wasn’t going to put your life in danger any more than I had to.”
Elizabeth shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know if there’s life after death, or whether someone can really rise from the dead like Lazarus or Jesus. But I do know what I saw. And I’m so happy to be home.”
Michael smiled.
“What?” she asked.
His heart swelled with pride. “You said you don’t know. But you really do.” He ruffled her hair. “By the way, I had to clean up part of your room.”
She shot him an angry glare. “What were you doing in my room?”
“You left your lights on. Again. I don’t have a money tree in the yard. Our electric bill was obscene last month.”
“You didn’t have to clean it up though.”
“No choice. I had to create a path to get to the lamps.” He nudged her. “Just the ones that were still on.”
She covered her ears with her hands and said through gritted teeth, “You’re going to make me crazy.”
“You’ll be even more crazy living in a dark house when they cut off our electric bill because I can’t afford it.”
An elderly man and woman entered the church, tip-toeing up the aisle, putting a temporary halt to their bickering. He whispered, “By the way, who’s this Matt fella?”
“Someone I met at school.” She shrugged. “How do you know about him?”
“Never mind how I know. Is he a boyfriend?”
“Kinda.”
He tilted his head heavenward. “No.”
“No what?”
“No. He will not be your boyfriend.”
“Why?” Her tone was loud and contemptuous.
He put two fingers against his lips. “Lower your voice.” He noticed the old man turning his head, obviously angling for a better position to hear their conversation as the lady gave Michael a disapproving glance.
“I don’t care if they hear what we say,” she said, raising her voice. “Why can’t I see Matt?”
He shushed his daughter again, wagging a finger at her. “I don’t like him.”
“You’ve never met him.”
“I don’t have to.”
“Ugh. I like him. He’s a great guy.”
“You’re too young.”
“I’m old enough to get married during Jesus’ time.”
“That was then. Different times, different rules. This is now. My rules.”
The elderly man was practically hanging over the pew to catch every word. Michael figured it was probably the most entertainment he had enjoyed in a long time.
“Let’s discuss this at home,” Michael said, trying to put an end to the conversation.
“I want to date him.”
“No.”
“Yes.”
Michael stood and gave an emphatic response. “Absolutely not.”
“Sit down. They’re looking at us again.”
“I don’t care.”
“Oh, now you don’t care?”
He waved to the elderly couple and sat.
“At least meet Matt,” she pleaded.
He looked at her adamant expression and saw how much this meant to her. “Okay,” he said, trying not to sound defeated. “I’ll meet him.”
She smiled. “When?”
“At least give me some time to adjust to the idea.”
“How about tomorrow?”
“Too soon,” he said. “How old is he?”
“Older than me.”
“How much older?”
“He’s a junior.”
He looked upward, concentrating on the church’s beautifully hand-painted ceiling. “Oh, Vicki, look at what your daughter is doing to me.” Taking a deep breath, he remembered something he’d been meaning to ask her. “Who gave you the chain with the locket?”
“Where did you find it? Did you go in my drawer?”
“You know I’d never do that. It was on top of your dresser.”
She huffed out loud. “A friend gave it to me.”
“Friend as in this Matt guy?”
She stared straight ahead, shifting in her seat. “It’s not a big deal at all.”
He breathed a sigh of relief. “Okay.” He winced, afraid to hear the answer to his next question. “Does this Matt guy drive?”
He put his hand under her chin, lifting her head. “Does he?”
“Yes. He drives.”
“Do not get into the car with him.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“I can’t lose you. I won’t lose you.”
“Can you at least meet him?”
“Soon.”
“Okay, tomorrow then, right?”
“I’ll let you know when I’m ready.” He shook a finger at her. “And no dating until I meet him.”
“That’s not fair,” she said, raising her voice again and piercing the sacred silence.
He nodded toward the elderly couple. “Shhh.”
“They’re old. They can’t hear us.”

“Have you ever heard of hearing aids?”
She frowned. “We’re getting off track. What about Matt?”
“What about him?”
“Ugh. Can I bring him over?”
“Soon.”
“You won’t meet him. I know you. I know the game you’re playing.”
“I’ll meet him when I want to meet him and not a minute sooner,” he said in a stern tone.
“All right. All right. I can wait.”
Surprised, Michael made a pretense of checking her forehead for a temperature. “You feeling okay?”
“Very funny.” She smiled. “I know you have a lot on your mind, working so hard, trying to pay the bills. You deserve a break.” She leaned her head on his shoulder. “How about I cook us a nice dinner tonight?”
He moved away. “You’re too obvious.”
She backed away and formed an angelic look like she always did when she tried to look innocent. “Obvious? Why, I don’t know what you mean, Father.”
He shook his head and chuckled. “What do you want now, Elizabeth Ellen Stewart?”
She smiled sweetly. “If it’s okay with you, I’d like to go to the concert.”
“What concert?”
“The one in New York City.”
“Where in New York City?”
“Madison Square Garden.”
“Who’s performing there?”
“Lady Gaga.”
“Lady Gaga? Why would you waste your money on her? Wait until Springsteen tours again.”
“I don’t think so.” She shook her head. “Hasn’t he retired? Anyway, I don’t want to see an old dude on stage.”
“Hey, Bruce is not old.”
“Will you let me go to the concert? All my friends are going.”
They sat in an uncomfortable silence for several minutes though it seemed like hours. Michael broke the quiet of the now unholy atmosphere. “No.”
“What?”
“No concert.”
“Why?”
“Two reasons. Number one. You’re too young to go into the city with friends. Number two. You’re too young.”
She rolled her eyes. “What happened to the dad who came back from Jerusalem? That dad was way more easy going.”
“I’ve changed again. I’m a complex person.”
“Would you rather have me dating a seventeen-year-old or going to a concert with my girlfriends?”
“Neither. Oh, and he’s seventeen? Now the truth comes out.”
“Ugh.”
“Shh.”
“I don’t care.”
Michael bobbed his head, gesturing to the old man and woman listening. “She wants to go see that Lady Goo Goo person in the city.”
The couple half smiled then looked away and whispered to each other as they fiddled with their ear pieces.
Elizabeth took the bait. “Don’t you think my dad should let me go? I’m old enough to get married.”
“You are not.”
“It’s in the Bible.”
Michael waved to the couple and faced Elizabeth. “Enough. Leave them alone.”
“What about the Lady Gaga concert?”
Michael didn’t answer. The old man and woman got up, and walked slowly out of the church, taking quick, nervous glances as they went by.
Michael stood. “C’mon. I’ll get you an ice cream sundae, whatever toppings you want.”
Elizabeth yanked on his jacket, pulling him back down. “I’m not a little kid anymore where you can pacify me with ice cream when we’re arguing.”
“Chill.”
“Stop using that word.”
“Chill.”
“Stop.”
“The offer for ice cream is still on the table. Concert is closed for discussion. End of story.”
“I don’t want ice cream,” she said, folding her arms. “Told you, I’m past that now.”
“You’re sounding like an ice cream snob now.” He jostled her, trying to lighten the mood. “Let’s go. I promise it’ll be a quick trip.”
She looked uncomfortable. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to go there anymore.”
“Why? You always enjoyed going there with me before.” He tried to stand up again but Elizabeth pulled him down harder. “Hey, take it easy on the jacket. It’s a gift from Susan.”
“I saw Linda with a man the other day.”
“So?”
“She was holding his hand and they kissed.”
Michael was quiet for a moment. “Oh.” He stood, banging his knee against the pew. “Ouch,” he said, trying to make a joke of it. “Look at that? Hurt twice in less than a minute. I guess I’m striking out in a couple of centuries. At least I’m consistent.”
He climbed over Elizabeth, tripping over the kneeler as he reached the aisle and headed toward the basement door.
“Dad, give it up.”
Michael stopped. “I need a minute, okay?”
“I know where you’re going,” she said. “The tunnel’s not open.”
“I have to finish cleaning the basement.”
“There isn’t a speck of dust left down there.”
He put both hands over his ears, not looking back at her. “You would be surprised how much dirt I find down there.”
Michael felt his daughter watching his every move as he veered toward the stairwell. He looked back and saw her shaking her head as she dropped her backpack on the pew and got up to follow him.
He rested his forehead against the door.
She stood beside him. “You’re going to go down there and nothing will happen. Just like the other hundred times.”
“I have to try one more time. Okay, kiddo?”
“If we had stayed in Jerusalem, we’d never have been safe.”
He put his hand on her shoulder and brushed the pink lock of hair from her eyes. For a moment he thought about grabbing a pair of scissors and cutting it off. “I know. But I’d feel responsible if Leah was hurt or had to live a life with that evil Roman. I know we made the right choice to come back. But I wish I’d gone back to be sure about her safety. I’m convinced of that now.”
She smiled. “By the way, where is your pastor buddy?”
“He’s never here on Friday afternoons. Takes off after lunch. Weird.”
Elizabeth laughed. “Probably goes joy riding on his Harley.”
“Maybe I’ll get one of those hogs.”
“Oh please, don’t.”
“Can you see me zipping along with the wind whipping through my hair? A lady holding onto me riding in the back. Baby, we were born to run…”
She ignored him. “Where does he go?”
“No idea.” He shrugged. “He never says and I never ask.”
“Huh, you sure you guys are BFFs?” They walked back to the pew and Elizabeth picked up her bag.
He shook his head and turned his back on the basement door. “Come on, I’ll drive you home.”
“I don’t need a ride. I’m going to catch a movie.”
“What are you going to do for dinner?”
“Pizza. Going to head over to Gino’s. RoRo’s working there tonight.”
They walked down the front steps to the sidewalk. “I guess you’ll need money.”
She held out her hand and smiled. “Twenty sounds about right.”
Michael took a deep breath, sighed, and pulled a bill from his wallet.
“You could make it easy on yourself and let me have your credit card.”
He ignored her. “Be home by nine and keep your cell phone on.”
“Relax. It’s not like I’m going to get stuck in Jerusalem or anything.”
“Very funny. What about your bike?”
“RoRo’s dad will give me a ride home. He can fit it in the back of the car.”
“Well, call me if you need a ride, okay? And don’t get in the car with anyone besides her dad.”
She gave a faint smile and Michael watched as she rode away. Once she was out of sight he unlocked the car and got in. The glove compartment door was open again. He saw his cell phone was still inside. He slammed the door three times before the lock finally caught. Got to get that fixed, he thought for the hundredth time. But it was never a high priority on his to-do list.
His stomach felt queasy as a sharp pain stabbed his right side. He wondered how he was going to spend his evening. I’ve done this routine a few times.
As he pulled into the driveway, he gazed up at the darkening sky. The stars twinkled more brightly than he had ever remembered. Rolling down his window, he whispered softly over the gentle breeze, “Which star are you under tonight, Leah?”
* * *
After a less than satisfying bowl of Cheerios for dinner, Michael was restless and still hungry. Despite his better judgment, he downed two boiled hot dogs, further agitating his upset stomach. He carried the salty taste in his mouth while walking aimlessly up and down the stairs several times, occasionally clicking on the television to channel surf for a glimpse of hockey and basketball scores. He sat on his chair and perched his laptop on his knees. Just as he started an email, he heard the sound of a car door slamming near his house.
Curious, he got up to see who it was. He opened the blind to the front window. “Great. Here comes hell in heels.”
He watched as his sister headed toward his front door. He stared in shock. What happened to her? Michael rubbed his eyes in disbelief, squinting to be sure. She carried an extra thirty pounds or so on her once stick-like figure. An oversized man’s sweatshirt and loose jeans were clearly an attempt to hide her extra weight. Her blond hair, usually neatly kept, now looked straggly, and the dark roots were visible under the porch light’s glare. Age looked like it had not only crept up on Connie but trampled all over her. Her wrinkles had wrinkles, which were usually hidden under a ton of makeup.
His sister had been a thorn in his side since they were kids. She was a control freak in the worst sense, always plotting for ways to hurl verbal shots to get under his skin.
He took his time walking down the stairs“I need this like I need a hole in the head,” he muttered.
Opening the front door, he tried to sound enthusiastic but couldn’t control himself. “Ah, the last person I want to see on a Friday night. I’m kind of busy.”
She looked at him through the screen door. “Oh, my little brother is doing something on a Friday night? Armageddon must be just around the corner then.”
Michael cringed as he held the door for her. He could tell it was going to be a long night. “What do you want?”
She swept past him and into the kitchen. “I need something to drink. I’m thirsty.”
He followed behind her and watched as she stared at the dishes piled in the sink and the cluttered countertop. She snickered and his stomach turned. He was acutely aware now of the pot on the stove, with its one remaining hot dog.
She laughed, pointing to the pot. “I see the gourmet cook is hard at work again. Bet you’re waiting for the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous to give you a call for a feature, huh?”
“That show is off the air.”
“So, apparently, is your life. How does my niece live in such a pig hole?”
“We like to think of it as a mud hole, and we love it.”
“Are you working?”
“Yes.”
“Yeah, really? Where?” She reached into a cabinet for a glass and opened the refrigerator. “Oh, dear, Lord. Look at this mess. Old Chinese food, milk that’s expired. A cucumber? My poor niece.”
He grabbed the milk container away from her. “This is fine.” He put it back and closed the door.
She put her hands on her hips, her lips slanted in cockiness. “So where are you working?”
“At the church.”
“You? In a church? Hell hath frozen over.” She passed him and headed back to the living room. “I heard you talking to someone when I was at the door. Is someone here, or are you talking to yourself these days?” She danced a few odd steps around the room. “Are you finally dating? It’s about time. Where is she? Why haven’t I met her?” She laughed in the way that always grated on his nerves. “Are you embarrassed? Is she hideous or something? Does she look like one of the Teletubbies?”
I need a drink. “Would you like a glass of wine?”
She sat in his favorite recliner and pushed the footrest up. “Wow, my little brother is asking me if I want to have a drink with him. My goodness, life is certainly getting better for me.”
“Do you want a glass or not?” he asked, raising his voice as he headed back into the kitchen.
“I’d better take your offer since it probably won’t happen again.”
He reached into the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of white wine. He grabbed a couple of glasses and a corkscrew from the cabinet. He soothed his anxiety with a deep breath before returning to the living room. “Why am I blessed with your visit?”
“Blessed? Since when are you so holy?”
“Why are you here?”
“Do I have to have a reason?”
He plunged the corkscrew in and twisted. “You never stop by.”
“You never invite me.”
“And you really wonder why I don’t?” He pulled the cork out harder than he’d intended. “So, what gives?”
“Maybe I wanted to see how my little brother’s doing.”
“I’m fine. Nothing for you to worry about.”
“I am worried.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “When’s the last time you were with a woman? Don’t tell me you still haven’t been with anyone since Vicki?”
He dropped onto the couch, pulled the coffee table closer, and poured them each a glass of wine. “It’s none of your business.”
She scoffed. “It is my business.” She gestured toward the wine bottle. “Keep pouring.”
He filled the glass nearly to the top and handed it to her. “No, it isn’t.”
She took a long sip. “Are you going to tell me or not? Or do you spend your nights drinking yourself into oblivion?” She took another sip and placed her feet on the ground as if to make an important point. “Like Dad.”
Like Jim? What a sucker punch. “Knock it off.”
“Grumpy, just like the old man. And you’re living your life in that drunken illusion. How’s the writing going? Are you working for the New York Times yet? Did you win that Pulitzer?” She slapped her hand to her forehead in mock realization. “Oh, right, right. You’re a novelist now. One of those self-published people who can’t find a real publisher because your work is misunderstood. Shouldn’t you be a bestselling novelist by now? Oh, right, I forgot, it takes time,” she said, mocking the words he’d said a long time ago. “So, how many copies of the great American novel have you sold? Two? Three?”
Michael hadn’t talked much about his book nor had he shared the contents of the story with any member of his family. Apparently, word about the publication of his novel had made its way around his large group of relatives.
“Yup, you’re just like Dad.” She drained the last bit of her wine.
“You never change, do you?” He shook his head in disgust. “You come to my house, uninvited. And you sit here, drink my wine, and goad me.”
“Well, excuse me,” she said, drawing out the word. “Sorry for caring about you.”
“You call this caring?” He waved his finger at her. “I call it hateful.”
“Hateful? Oh, please. Come and join me in this great crap hole of life.”
She grabbed the bottle and filled her glass half way. They were both silent as he watched her take a long swallow.
“Look,” she said, her expression softening. “I really am concerned about you. This is how I show it.”
“Worry about yourself. I can handle my own life.”
He topped off her glass. Maybe she’ll shut up and snooze if I ply her with more wine. Yeah, a silent Connie.
She raised her over-plucked eyebrows as he refilled his own glass. “Drinking a lot there?”
“I’m not going anywhere tonight.”
“Maybe you should. You can’t find a woman while you’re sitting in your chair drinking wine on a Friday night.”
Can’t she stop her needling for five minutes? “Get off it.”
“Oh, did I touch a nerve?”
“I had a good woman in Vicki. I had a good woman in Leah . . .”
She slammed the footrest down. “Hold on. Who is Leah?”
He recoiled. He had never told his sister about his trip to Jerusalem, knowing she’d be on the phone to the nut house in a New York minute to turn him in. He struggled to come up with an answer. “She lives far away.”
“Far away? Where? California? Europe?” She laughed, sounding like her younger self when she taunted him. “Is Leah your drinking buddy?”
“She’s out of my life. Subject closed.”
“Yeah, right. Does she even exist? Or is this one of your fantasies?” She shook her head, twisting her mouth in a mean sneer. “Geez. Even Dad doesn’t make up this kind of junk.”
He held the bottle up. “Why don’t you stick this up…” He caught himself and stopped. She’s getting to me again. Michael stood and walked back into the kitchen.
“Why are you running away?” she called out. “I’m just curious about this Leah woman.”
“You’d never understand,” he shot back.
“Come back in here. I promise I’ll listen. I’ll understand. Tell me about Leah.”
Michael placed his glass down on the counter. She’s like Lucy to my Charlie Brown, always pulling the football away right before I can kick it.
He took a long sip of his wine, hoping it would erase the last ten minutes of their conversation and headed back to the living room. He sat and looked into his glass.
Connie threw back more wine as she settled herself comfortably in the recliner, crossing her legs. “C’mon. I promise I won’t tease you. Who’s Leah?”
Michael hesitated, downed more wine for courage, and chose his words carefully. “You’re not going to be a jerk about it?”
“I swear.” She put her hand over her heart.
He blew out a loud breath. “Leah is someone I met a few months back. Elizabeth and I took a short trip, we got into some trouble and she helped us out.”
“Hold on.” Connie leaned forward. “Trouble? Are you broke again?”
“I’m not broke.” He scowled. “It had nothing to do with money. She kept us safe.”
“Safe from what?” She looked concerned. “And since when did you start traveling?”
Michael sighed. “It’s hard to explain. We were in a different town.”
“Where? Here on Long Island?”
“Not even close,” he replied.
“Were you drinking before I came over? You’re not making any sense. I think the wine’s making you delusional.”
“It has nothing to do with the wine. I’m telling you the truth. We were in a different town and Leah helped us.”
“Well, then, where is she?”
“I don’t know. I can’t get in touch with her even if I wanted to.”
He rubbed his forehead. And I desperately want to know if she’s okay.
“Didn’t you get her phone number?” she asked and Michael laughed. “What’s so funny?”
He shook his head. “You wouldn’t understand.”
“Well, where does she live?”
Michael waited for the football to be pulled away. He emptied the remaining wine in his glass. “Jerusalem.”
Connie’s eyebrows shot up. “Get out of here. When did you find the time and money to fly over there?”
“We didn’t fly.” He let out a loud sigh.
“You’re drunk.”
“Maybe I am, but I was there and I know what I saw and who I met.” He dug into his pocket and fingered the coins. Should I?
She laughed and sipped her wine, choking a few times. Michael stared. Connie continued. “Great fantasy you’ve got going there. This is better than the movies. So, did you take a boat to Jerusalem or did you drive?”
Okay, this is where I stop. “Actually, we rode our bikes.”
“Now you’re being a jerk.”
“It’s called payback.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes. After finishing her wine, Connie asked, “Were you serious about this woman?”
“It doesn’t matter. She’s gone.” He leaned back on the couch, rubbing the space between his brows. “I didn’t expect you to believe me.”
“Then why did you tell me?”
“Probably because I hoped that someday my older sister would be a friend.”
“Ouch.”
“Now you know how I feel when you’re around.”
“Then why did you ask me to come in for a drink? Why do you still talk to me if I’m such a pain?”
He opened a drawer in the side table, dusted off an old Bible and waved it at her. “Because I remember a time when we were partners in crime.”
Nauseous from drinking too much wine, eating Cheerios, and the hot dogs, he retreated to the bathroom, still clutching the Bible. He splashed cold water on his face, sat at the edge of the tub, smoothed the cover and closed his eyes.
He replayed a memory when he and Connie were kids and with vivid recollection remembered one time when they had each other’s back.
The memory was so vibrant, he could still hear his father’s deep voice, booming, “Connie. Michael. Get down here now!”
Connie ran from her room to the hallway, almost colliding with Michael. “We’re in trouble,” she whispered.
He shrugged. She ran down the stairs.
“Hi, Daddy. I’m here,” she said, standing at attention.
Michael took his time entering the room. He stood close to his sister and cowered.
Their father reached up and tugged Michael hard on his arm, his face only a few inches away. Jim’s eyes were bloodshot and his short sideburns were streaked with gray. The air around him was heavy with the smell of whiskey.
“What was the gospel about today?” Jim demanded.
Michael glanced at Connie.
Her expression mirrored his feelings.
Fear.
His father tightened his grip.
“Ouch.” Michael rubbed the sore spot and Jim squeezed harder.
“Go to the basement,” Jim yelled. “And don’t come back up until you can tell me what you learned in church today.”
Jim let go of Michael’s arm and he followed his sister down the basement stairs, upset that he’d have to miss the football game on TV.
They headed toward the back room behind the boiler. “What do we do now?” he asked.
Connie fell to her knees, her short black hair bouncing as she peered into the crawl space behind the boiler. “No problem.”
“What are you doing?”
“Hold on, give me a sec.”
She reached in with her hand. “Got it.” She pulled out a small, dusty, pocket handbook.
“What else you got in there?” he asked.
“Nothing.”
He shrugged. “Whatever.”
Connie hopped up, wiping the dirt from the cover. She flipped through several pages. “Here, look. What’s today’s date again? Yeah, this is it.” Her cheeks were flushed with excitement.
Michael read the page and understood. “Nice.”
For the next few minutes, they sat and read the gospel from that Sunday together.
Michael looked at his sister, surprised they’d been communicating without tearing each other apart.
“Are you ready to go upstairs?” she asked, after quizzing him a few times.
He nodded with enthusiasm. “I know it now. It’s about Thomas doubting Jesus was alive and he wanted to touch his wounds. It’s gross but I guess that’s what Dad wants, right?”
“Yeah, right.” She dropped her hands down so he could slap a low five. He walloped her hand hard. “Hey, that hurt,” she yelled.
Loud, heavy footsteps crossed the floor above their heads. “What’s going on down there?” Jim called down.
“Nothing,” Connie said. “We’re ready to talk to you.”
“Then get up here.”
They ran up the steps, eager to share their newfound information. Standing before their father, they lifted their heads high with pride as Connie started the story and Michael finished it. They both stood in front of their father, grinning.
Jim stopped rocking back and forth in the recliner, and strained to see, like he did when he was suspicious. “Next week I’ll ask you again,” he said. “And you better know it the first time. No more trips to the basement.” He picked up his paper off the floor and held it front of his face.
“Can we go?” Michael asked with trepidation.
Jim’s eyes peeked over the paper. “Go.”
As they scurried back up the stairs, Michael leaned over and whispered, “That was a great idea. I really liked teaming up with you.”
“Yeah.” Connie smiled back. “Me, too.”
* * *
“Hey, did you fall in the toilet?” Connie’s voice brought Michael back to the present.
He opened his eyes, stood and splashed more cold water on his face, toweled himself off, heaved a deep breath, and returned to the living room.
“What were you doing in there?” she asked. “Did you fall asleep? Did you fall in the toilet?”
“Wasn’t sleeping. Just deep in thought.”
“I know I don’t visit a lot, but I can tell I’m not really welcome here.”
“It’s because sometimes you can be a pain in the backside,” he said. “But I hang on to the good stuff we used to do together.”
She put her glass down and wiped the corner of her eyes.
“Oh, no,” he said, surprised. “What’s wrong? I thought I said something nice.”
Tears ran down her face faster than she could dry them. “You don’t understand. My life is a mess. I’m lonely and scared.” She fumbled with her purse. “I’m sure that makes you happy. Right?”
“Of course it doesn’t make me happy. Why would you think that?”
“I’m a loser. My husband left me, I’m eating cupcakes and cookies for breakfast, I don’t even feel like putting on makeup anymore and I’m spending Friday night drinking with my little brother.”
“Gee, thanks.”
“Oh, shut up, you know what I mean.”
He burrowed through his pockets and handed her a tissue.
She took it and dabbed her eyes. “Thanks.”
They sat in awkward silence until Michael felt she had composed herself. “I’m expecting Elizabeth home soon.”
“Oh, great,” she said. “I can’t let my niece see what a loser I am.”
“Stop. You’re not a loser. Elizabeth doesn’t think that either.”
“Why do you say that?”
“You think I don’t appreciate the times you helped me with her when she was young? The times you took her to the movies when I had to work. She told me how you spoiled her with candy and popcorn at the movies. She still remembers how you both laughed when you spilled a big bag all over the seat. She’ll always have those wonderful memories, and she brags about how fun and cool her Aunt Connie is.”
A peaceful understanding of silence fell between them. “Let me call you a cab. You’re in no condition to drive and I won’t let you anyway. You know how I am about that.”
She nodded and her body shook. “I miss Sammie so much.”
“I miss her too.”
She stood. “Look at me. I’m a mess.”
He walked over and hugged her. “I’m not much better.”
“Did Dad call?”
“Me?”
“Yes. Did he call you?”
“You’ve got to be kidding. Why? Is the old man dying?”
“That’s not funny.”
“Is he dying?”
“Now’s not the time to talk about this. I’m sure he’ll talk to you soon.”

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Menu for the week

Wednesday– Swiss steak, noodles, salad
Thursday– Baked chicken, bread, salad
Friday: Baked potatoes with toppings, leftover meat
Saturday: Pizza, cucumbers, carrot sticks
Sunday: Leftovers, popcorn, cookies
Monday: Crock pot roast, twice baked potatoes
Tuesday: Enchiladas, spanish rice, salad

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The Messenger by Siri Mitchell

The Messenger
By Siri Mitchell
Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Hannah Sunderland is content to be a Quaker. Her life though outside of her faith is a mess. Her twin brother is in jail, after joining the army against his families’ wishes, soldiers take over their home and chaos rules the streets.

Jeremiah Jones- Hero, injured on the fields of war, embittered by the blow life has dealt him, makes the choice to be a spy for the Rebels. When the aloof Quaker girl whom is determined to visit her brother in jail surprises him, his whole life seems to change.

This story set during the Revolutionary War is told in a different voice. It is almost as if you the reader are on the outside, looking in as the story is being told to you, from the perspective of Hannah and Jeremiah. It feels as if you are floating above them, looking in, carrying bread and cheese in the stinky jails or being inspected by the loose woman the guard employed. Hannah’s desperation and love for her brother conquers the love she has for her church’s rules, yet she does not want to give them up. Would she give them up for love though?

I enjoyed this book of Ms. Mitchell’s, but found it different than her last two books…you are guaranteed when you pick up one of her books to find a book that gives you a unique perspective. You never know what twist awaits you around the bend in the road!
This book was provided free of charge for review from Bethany House Publishers- Martha

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Menu

Wednesday: Sweet and sour chicken, vegetables, rice
Thursday: Skillet chili mac, corn bread

I have no idea about the rest of the week!
Revised…..Here is what we did!
Friday: Chicken noodle soup

Saturday: Leftover chicken noodle soup
Sunday: Mother’s Day- Steak, corn and green salad and fruit salad with chocolate covered strawberries.
Monday: Mexican rice skillet
Tuesday:

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