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Review: Gone South by Meg Moseley

Gone South by Meg MoseleyMeg Moseley, whose 2011 debut novel When Sparrows Fall I highly recommend (and reviewed here), has recently published her second novel, Gone South (May 17, 2013, WaterBrook Multnomah). In this tale of southern hospitality gone wrong, a Yankee transplant finds that grudges run deep in seemingly idyllic small-town Alabama.

Summary: Tish McComb thought she knew what her life would look like–marriage and a family in her beloved Michigan. But those dreams were dashed in a tragic accident five years ago, and now the chance to buy her great-great-grandparent’s Civil War-era home in Noble, Alabama seems like the fresh start she needs. But her plans go awry when she discovers that she’s inherited the town’s ill will due to some ancient family history she knew nothing about. Only George Zorbas, the owner of the local antiques store, and Melanie Hamilton, the town’s resident young prodigal, seem willing to give her a chance. As Tish tentatively opens her heart to George and tries to prove herself to the town’s residents, she learns that those who decide to love prodigals have to be willing to get their lives a little messy.

My Review: 4 out of 5 stars. While I wasn’t as immediately captured by the subject matter or characters in this book as I was with the author’s first novel, they grew on me as the book went on. As silly as this sounds, the names “Tish” and “George” aren’t my favorite, so I think that was part of why it took me a bit longer to get inside the characters’ heads and root for their understated, slow-build romance, which takes more of a backseat to Tish’s relationship with her rebellious young housemate, Melanie. The flow of the book was also different from your typical inspirational novel, but once I got into the story that became part of what made the book unique. If you don’t connect immediately with this book, I’d say keep on reading.

My favorite part of the novel was the way that the themes of second chances, mercy, and forgiveness–echoed in the physical world as Tish sets up her 150-year-old home and George indulges his passion for restoring classic cars in the old carriage house on her property–came together towards the end of the story. Tish, who has put so much energy into restoring her reputation in the town and building the fragile beginnings of a relationship with George, has to decide whether to put it all on the line by getting entangled with the fallout of her young friend Melanie’s poor choices. By the potluck dinner in the last scene, Tish has come to be comfortable with the messiness of life lived with others: “Stu’s boys were second and third in line, taking their plates with hands that weren’t exactly clean. That was all right. Kids got dirty. So did prodigals. Sometimes, so did the people who loved them.”

A good summer read by a unique and promising author. Especially recommended for fans of southern romances and inspirational fiction.

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I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah for the purposes of this honest review. Love to read? Have a blog? Become a Blogging for Books reviewer.

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Posted by on July 30, 2013 in Fiction

 

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Review: When Sparrows Fall by Meg Moseley

Freedom. Safety. Love. Miranda vows to reclaim them–for herself, and for her children.
 
From the Publisher:  A widow and mother of six, Miranda Hanford leads a quiet, private life. When the pastor of her close-knit church announces his plans to move the entire congregation to another state, Miranda jumps at the opportunity to dissolve ties with Mason Chandler and his controlling method of ruling his flock. But then Mason threatens to unearth secrets from her past, and Miranda feels trapped, terrified she’ll be unable to protect her children.

College professor Jack Hanford is more than surprised when he gets a call from his estranged sister-in-law’s oldest son, Timothy, informing him that Miranda has taken a serious fall and he has been named legal guardian of her children while she recovers. Quickly charmed by Miranda’s children, Jack brings some much-needed life into the sheltered household. But his constant challenging of the family’s conservative lifestyle makes the recovering mother uneasy and defensive—despite Jack’s unnerving appeal.

As Jack tries to make sense of the mysterious Miranda and the secrets she holds so tightly, Mason’s pressure on her increases. With her emotions stirring and freedom calling, can Miranda find a way to unshackle her family without losing everything?

My Review:  Meg Moseley’s debut novel is a beautiful success!  The characters pull you in from the beginning, especially the children.  As a homeschooling herself mother for over 20 years, Moseley manages to deal with the controversial subject matter of extremely conservative, patriarchal sects without making her characters seem like stereotypes.  Miranda struggles with fear, guilt and how to best protect her children against both a spiritually abusive, overbearing pastor and the truckload of changes her well-intentioned brother-in-law wants to introduce into their  lifestyle.  The story is haunting, the characters beautifully developed and the rolling Georgian mountains so real you can almost feel the mist. The theme is freedom, both from other’s chains and those we put on ourselves. 5 stars!

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Posted by on June 2, 2011 in Fiction

 

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Author Spotlight: Francine Rivers

I was first introduced to Francine Rivers sometime in high school when I received the Mark of the Lion series for Christmas.  Many years later she is still #1 in my list of favorite authors.  So, to honor an author who has never written a book I don’t love, here are Francine’s 11 full-length novels for your perusal.  All deserve a spot on your bookshelf!

Redeeming Love – Originally published in 1991, Redeeming Love is having its 20th birthday this year. This is the first novel written after the author had become a Christian and she considers it her statement of faith.  Inspired by the biblical story of Hosea and Gomer and set in California during the Gold Rush, it follows a prostitute named Angel and the farmer who is determined to show her unconditional love.  It is a journey from shattered innocence, abuse, unspeakable brokenness and finally, healing.  Called the best Christian novel of all time by many, it stands out for its unflinching portrayal of brokenness and of unrelenting love.

The Mark of the Lion series: A Voice in the Wind (1), Echo in the Darkness (2), As Sure as the Dawn (3) – These were the first ones I read and still my favorites.  The story of a first century Hebrew slave girl, Hadassah, who could be my favorite character in all of Rivers’ books.  After surviving the massacre of her family and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, Hadassah is captured and sold to a well-to-do merchant’s family. The narrative is centered on an ill-fated romance between Hadassah and Marcus, the brother of her owner and a handsome aristocrat. Amidst Rome’s decline and the decadence of a civilization on the verge of self-destruction, Hadassah may have to choose between hiding who she is and losing all she holds dear.

The Scarlet Thread – The story of two women, centuries apart, who are joined through a tattered journal as they contend with God, husbands, and even themselves.  Though the women are separated by time and circumstance, one contemporary, one crossing American on the Oregon Trail, many of the issues and problems they face are remarkably similar. 

Leota’s Garden – A story of second chances and new life where there was only weeds. Once Leota’s garden was a place of beauty, where her flowers bloomed and hoped thrived. Now, eighty-four year old Leota Reinhardt is alone, her garden in ruins. All of her efforts to reconcile with her adult children have been fruitless. Then God brings a wind of change through unlikely means: one, a college student who thinks he has all the answers; the other, the granddaughter Leota never hoped to know. But can the devastation wrought by keeping painful family secrets be repaired before she runs out of time? 

And the Shofar Blew – A young pastor thinks he has what it takes to grow his struggling congregation into a success–but at what cost?  His wife struggles between trying to be supportive and being honest that something is deeply wrong.  While at times this book seemed to fall into stereotypes, the story of the wife especially was honest, engaging and empathetic.

The Atonement Child – Also up there with my favorites.  A young woman who thought she had her life unfolding just as she’d wanted suddenly finds her world shattered and herself pregnant, the result of a rape.  Can anything good come of such a horrible situation?  This book is beautiful in every way.  It explores the many people and perspectives involved in the abortion issue, is honest about the pain and brokenness, and shows the beauty that can be when we allow room for redemption.

The Last Sin Eater – Set in Appalachia in the 1850s, this is the story of a community committed to its myth of a human “sin eater” who absolves the dead of their sins, and the ten-year-old child who shows them the truth.  The fascinating part about this story is that it is based on an actual historical custom. According to Rivers, sin eating was practiced in England, the lowlands of Scotland, and the Welsh border district in the early nineteenth century, and carried over by immigrants into the remote areas of the Appalachian Mountains. The sin eater was a person who was paid a small fee or given food to take upon himself the sins of the deceased. Often the sin eaters were tricked into it, and then they were locked into a life as an outcast. This is sitting on my nightstand and is the final Francine Rivers book I have to read, so I’ll let you know how it turns out!

Her Mother’s Hope (Marta’s Legacy, Vol. 1) and Her Daughter’s Dream (Vol. 2) – a family saga spanning a century, the Marta’s Legacy series begins just before the first world war in Switzerland and follows four generations across Europe to Canada and America, finally landing in California.  Based on the author’s own family history, it examines the powerful relationship between mothers and daughters, and the hurt and misunderstandings that threaten to separate them.  I love books (and series) that keep you busy for a while, so these two thick hardcovers were deeply enjoyable!  I don’t always like the way generational family sagas make you switch attention and loyalties from one character to another when you’re not always ready to do so. But even so, these books were incredibly adept at showing how misunderstandings and different perspectives cause rifts between generations, and how we understand ourselves and our own actions so well while completely misjudging those around us.  A worthy read!

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2011 in Author Spotlight, Fiction

 

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