Book Review: Things Left Unspoken

Things Left unspokenOne of the unexpected blessings of blogging about books is that every now and then I hear from an author. Eva Marie Everson commented on my earlier review of one of the Potluck Club books and e-mailed me a while back to offer to send me a copy of her new book if  I would like to review it. Of course I jumped at the chance!

In Things Left Unspoken by Eva Marie Everson, Jo-Lynn Hunter has come home to Cottonwood, Georgia, for the funeral of her great-uncle Jim, who had been like a grandfather to her. She discovers while there that a company wants to revitalize the town, “bringing it back to its former glory,” renovating or replacing old buildings, bringing in new businesses, etc., and they want to use Aunt Stella’s house as a museum.  Unhappy in her marriage and on indefinite leave from her job as an interior decorator, Jo-Lynn accepts her great-aunt’s invitation to stay and renovate her home. But as she digs into the work, she begins to uncover clues to more than one old family secret, and sightings of strange men leaving the barn at night and increasingly serious acts of vandalism indicate that someone wants those secrets to remain unknown.

Some parts of Aunt Stella’s story are told in a series of flashbacks, so the reader is in on it early on, but the rest is uncovered in Jo-Lynn’s research along the way. J0-Lynn has to wrestle with the state of her marriage and the consequences of her agreement with her husband not to have children as well as the realization that Uncle Jim might not have been the kind of man she thought he was.

This book took me back to my younger days with my great-Aunt Jewel. I was not as close to her as Jo-Lynn is with Stella, but the setting, the relationships, the vivid immersion into old Southern culture was much the same and brought back warm memories. As a reader I liked being in on the one secret, wondering how or if it would come to light, while being in on Jo-Lynn’s other discoveries along the way. I really liked how the book ended, which was a little different from where I thought it was going.

As a Christian, my only quibble is with Jo-Lynn’s thoughts about her relationship with God. When she says she knows God personally and has gone to church all her life, on first reading it sounded to me like she was basing her relationship with God on her church attendance rather than on faith. But looking back over that section again, I can see that the church attendance was part of her life of faith and not necessarily the basis of it. In the parts of the South I have lived in, people are prone to believe they are Christians because of such things rather than having a personal relationship with God based on faith, so I might be more sensitive to that than other readers. I don’t think every book of Christian fiction necessarily has to spell out the full plan of salvation, but I do like for any mention of it to be crystal clear.

Eva Marie’s own Southern heritage gives the book its authentic ring, and while the story is not from her own family, it is based on an old home of her great-grandparents. The theme of renovation touches many levels. I enjoyed the story very much.

(This review will be linked to Semicolon’s Saturday Review of books.)

10 thoughts on “Book Review: Things Left Unspoken

  1. One of the things I really like about Christian fiction is knowing I won’t come up against language, gore or thinly-disguised porn. One of the things I dislike about Christian fiction is the all too common realization that the book is a thinly veiled tract leading me to salvation. I purchased the book looking for a story, not doctrine. I must say, that doesn’t happen as often as it used to and this book sounds like it has a lot more to it, but your review has left me wondering at the purpose of this book.

    I

    • I don’t think a work of fiction should read like a tract, even a thinly veiled one, but I do think it should be doctrinally correct. I’ve found all kinds of weird theological aberrations in Christian fiction that I can exercise discernment about but which I’m hesitant to recommend to others.

      That isn’t the case with this book. On rereading the paragraph I mentioned, Jo-Lynn does talk about knowing God personally. It was just that it was in connection with going to church, and of course one can go to church for years and not be a Christian, but I don’t think the author meant she thought she was a Christian because she went to church. That’s just how it hit me at first, probably colored by my experiences here with people thinking they are Christians just because they’ve been brought up in a Christian culture.

      And though this is Christian fiction and most of the characters are Christian in some sense of the term, the author doesn’t beat anyone over the head with it. The characters are real and believable. Some of them even seem like some of my relatives. 🙂

      The purpose of the book? Well one theme outstanding to me was something like “the truth will out” and that secrets have consequences even if they remain secret. And, as I mentioned, renovation: Jo-Lynn and her husband have things they need to work out, Jo-Lynn had some personal issues to work out, the keepers of one of the secrets settle some issues between them.

      • I think I have all my radar on alert for fraud. I am glad this book has a plot other than salvation. Having just finished a book — I won’t name it because I won’t plug it — that actually switched from story telling to urging the reader to profess her sins (yes, gender specific) and repent her immorality or forever burn in hell. I picked the book up at a secondhand store. I don’t remember the publisher but it wasn’t a well-known name. St. Something Something.

        Sorry to have knee jerked on your blog. ( I sent the book out in the rubish and it was taken away on Saturday.)

  2. I don’t think a work of fiction should read like a tract, even a thinly veiled one, but I do think it should be doctrinally correct. I’ve found all kinds of weird theological aberrations in Christian fiction that I can exercise discernment about but which I’m hesitant to recommend to others.

    That isn’t the case with this book. On rereading the paragraph I mentioned, Jo-Lynn does talk about knowing God personally. It was just that it was in connection with going to church, and of course one can go to church for years and not be a Christian, but I don’t think the author meant she thought she was a Christian because she went to church. That’s just how it hit me at first, probably colored by my experiences here with people thinking they are Christians just because they’ve been brought up in a Christian culture.

    And though this is Christian fiction and most of the characters are Christian in some sense of the term, the author doesn’t beat anyone over the head with it. The characters are real and believable. Some of them even seem like some of my relatives. 🙂

    The purpose of the book? Well one theme outstanding to me was something like “the truth will out” and that secrets have consequences even if they remain secret. And, as I mentioned, renovation: Jo-Lynn and her husband have things they need to work out, Jo-Lynn had some personal issues to work out, the keepers of one of the secrets settle some issues between them.

  3. I have just finished reading her latest Potluck book as well as the cookbook. I’ll be posting my reviews the 27th of this month. I like her writing, and I enjoyed both books.

  4. I have read some really really poooooor Christian fiction… the kind where there is barely a story surrounding the plug for Christianity! I don’t appreciate that kind of book either… but I do LOVE a well told story about Christian people! This sounds like it is probably that kind of story — and when I finish the backlog that appeared in my mail last week, I will probably try this one! As a matter of fact, I’ll go put it in my Amazon cart so I don’t forget it! 🙂

  5. Pingback: Saturday Review of Books: September 26, 2009 : Semicolon

I love hearing from you. I've had to turn on comment moderation. Comments will appear here after I see and approve them.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.