Lenore has a toddler-age son, Scott, and she is still waiting for Daniel, Scott’s father, to marry her. When she presses him and he hesitates too long, she decides she can no longer wait… and so she leaves. The amazing thing is that Daniel lets Lenore walk away with their son and does nothing about it.
Do such men exist? (oh yeah!) In this story, it’s going to be a long hard road for both of them. Lenore is suddenly left with the responsibility to find a new home, a job, and a way to take care of their young son. When she comes across a neighbor willing to help and he in turn points her to his church family, she is (understandably) cautious.
“Lenore raised her eyebrows. She had never known church people to be empathetic. Mostly they had seemed to want to get her to do something, be something, or believe something. None had been curious, at least about her.”
However, as Lenore tests the waters and begins to get her feet up under her, realizing she can survive with the help of these unknown well-meaning Christians, she begins to have hope once again: “Yesterday she had been lying in the bed, too sad to move, and here she was – employed, her dark apartment feeling more like a home, cupboards full, son happy and loved. She saw again how one thing could lead to another and how much could depend on just one person’s actions… She felt as if a life was being offered to her, held out in the same hand that had misted this evening, had set those mountains in place, had carved the channel for the bay beneath her.”
When Daniel reappears in her life, there is no quick all-is-well-lets-be-happy-now solution: “She wondered if forgiveness was more like peeling an onion than breaking an egg. That had been top-layer forgiveness. This would be deep forgiveness, boring down to the bedrock, to the taproot, to the core of who she was and what Daniel had done.”
Daniel has his own journey to make as he finds success, loses it, and finds it again. It took me a long time to empathise with Daniel Monroe’s character and understand his selfishness! It is obvious that Daniel’s life goals do not include simply a home and family, and he continually wants more. But as he begins to hit the reality of the baggage that ‘success’ brings, there is a lot for him to question. Daniel in desperation starts to question his motives, and he remembers his childhood growing up in a coal mining community. Could there be more to life than material possessions and the acclaim of a fickle crowd? “He lay there in the borrowed bed and thought of his uncle George, his cousins. The mundane work they did. The small acts of faithfulness they performed every day – getting up, going to work, coming home, playing with their children, listening to their stories, going to bed. Then getting up to do it again.”
As other reviewers have mentioned there are lots of references to Christianity, but this novel is done in a fresh, personal way, without seeming contrived or ‘preachy’. Rather, the author works through the lives of each character and their heart issues, probing, examining, and illustrating to the reader the real-life struggles that sometimes have no easy answers. Scott goes through a period of teen rebellion. Some of the characters struggle with substance abuse, promiscuity (not graphic), and life-threatening illnesses. And yet the author holds out that even in the midst of tragedy, there is hope.
Can it be possible that even our failures can be used and redeemed in our lives? “Too much of a coincidence to be believed, and yet it was exactly the way God worked. She had seen it happen again and again. He wove lives together and apart, bringing one home, taking one away, working His tapestry, creating His picture from the raw mistakes and false starts of their lives.”
I read this somewhat lengthy (400 pages!) novel in just over two days, as I just couldn’t put it down. Reading this book has made me grateful. Thankful that I have a home and family, that I have never been abandoned, had to raise my children on my own, or (knock on wood) suffered through cancer surgery. And thankful that, even in the darkest places, there is a road back.