As I finished this book, I tried to determine exactly why I liked it so much.
The author is a good – a very good – writer. Her prose could not be called ‘concise’ but she does have an incredible talent for helping the reader to empathise with her characters. Jamie Langston Turner does not write light, frothy fiction. Her writing is serious and thoughtful, exploring the motivations of the human heart. This author exposes the difficulties of life and helps the reader to feel the reality of situations and to immerse themselves within the hardships she portrays.
I really liked the first book in her “Derby” series, called “Suncatchers”. I had never come across such an interesting character as Eldeen Rafferty before in literature (although some of Dickens’ characters come close!)
This book is much more intricate than “Suncatchers”, and takes diligence to work through. There is a reward though, as the reader persists. The questions raised by the main character’s plight do get answered and they are not trite, quick fixes.
Margaret Tuttle has had a hard, tragic life. Her happy childhood with a loving, nurturing mother is replaced by tragedy when her mother dies and Margaret at the age of thirteen is plunged into a world she was neither emotionally nor physically prepared for. Now in her fifties, the reader wonders if she will ever be able to function normally and form healthy relationships.
Enter Birdie Freeman.
“For many years I had used my suffering as a wedge between others and myself. I was excused from the requirement of friendly social interaction because my past had taught me to trust neither God nor man… I knew that my friendship with Birdie would force me to recast my life in drastic ways, in ways that I thought of as disruptive.”
Birdie reaches out to Margaret, their co-workers, and everyone she comes in contact with. The book itself is supposed to be a character study of Birdie written by Margaret but the more we read about Birdie, the more we understand why Margaret reacts the way she does to Birdie’s repeated, unceasing attempts to reach Margaret.
“Don’t you think it’s interesting,” Birdie continued, “that God wanted his people to be happy and even wrote laws requiring them to take rests and have special feasts?”
I could not stop the words which sprang from my mouth. “It appears to me that God put a great deal more thought into providing for the suffering of his creatures than he did for their rejoicing.”
Can Margaret ever have a normal life and find peace and even joy in her daily circumstances? It seems impossible, and yet the reader is not just thrown a bone, a quick happy-ever-after resolution. That is probably what most attracts me to this author; she does not gloss over misfortune, discomfort or tragedy, but neither does she offer quick, pat answers that fail to satisfy.
Even though the vocabulary is challenging at times (I made myself keep a list), and the plot is slow-moving, I found this book to be just as inspiring and thought-provoking as the first one by this author! (and, yes. I will be reading the third book in the “Derby” series!)
“We’re all responsible for how we act, Margaret,” she went on, “and there are a million ways to be mean. We can be mean in big ways by killing people or stealing or cheating, or we can be mean in little ways by being rude and snapping at everybody. A murderer is guilty in a big way, but all of us are guilty when we wrap ourselves up in our own little world and don’t think about how we treat others.”