One 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.)