I’ve seen many blog posts recommending Irene Hannon, so when One Perfect Spring came through on a Kindle sale, I got it. Hannon is most known for mysteries, but has written a few contemporary romance novels, this being one of them.
The story opens with workaholic Keith Watson sifting through requests for his boss’s McMillan Charitable Foundation to find the best two or three he could recommend. Among them he finds a handwritten note from an eleven year old girl named Haley asking for the firm’s help for her neighbor. Haley had seen Mr. McMillan’s picture in the newspaper and was told by her mom that he “did nice things for people.” Her neighbor was seeking for a son she had given up for adoption, and Haley wanted Mr. Macmillan to help her. Keith places the note on the reject pile to be sent a standard letter. But his boss finds the note and wants Keith to follow up on it. He sees in Keith a younger version of himself and wants to help him avoid the mistakes he made in putting his work first place for too much of his life. Keith is less than thrilled, but follows through.
The neighbor in question is Maureen Chandler, a college professor. She had just been through cancer treatments that seemed to be successful so far, but the bout caused her to reflect. She had given up her son twenty-two years ago and kept him a secret. Now she wants to make a connection and try to find some closure.
Keith’s pursuit leads him not only to Maureen, but her neighbor, Haley’s mother, Claire Summers. Claire is a single mom who bought a fixer-upper house and is trying to take one project at a time as the budget allows, doing much of the work herself to save money. Keith and Claire don’t hit it off at first, but Maureen and David MacMillan do.
While Keith works on Maureen’s case, some of each character’s past and issues are revealed. They have to learn that dealing with the past and forgiveness are necessary parts of preparing for a future, that learning to trust again is possible but takes time, and that giving a person another chance is necessary.
I enjoyed the story very much. But one aspect of Hannon’s writing grated on me after a bit.
“Mmm. Cream cheese…sweet, smooth, and yummy. Kind of like the man who’d brought it.”
“The effort to eradicate [the paint] chafed her skin, leaving an angry red blemish. Kind of like the lingering blemish left on her heart…”
“[The chair] must be stronger than it looked. Kind of like the owner of this house.”
“She transferred the [hot] dish to the table as fast as she could, touching it as briefly as possible. Kind of like the way she’d handled the events that had gotten her into a mess…Like the hot casserole, her story had the power to burn.”
“[The race] was neck and neck, making the outcome hard to predict. Kind of like the outcome of her relationship with Keith.”
There are half a dozen or so of these “kind of like” comparisons, and many more that don’t use that exact phrasing (“She picked up his glass, swirling the ice that was quickly melting in the heat of the house. Warmth could melt so many things. Including hearts.” “She swiped up a stray drip of mustard left from their dinner, the cheerful hue reminding her of Haley’s comment about Keith brightening up their house.” “It was only a room. But could it symbolize more?”) The first time, I thought, “She didn’t just do that, did she?” Symbolism is a great literary device, but it’s usually much more subtle than that. I don’t think many people see that many connections or object lessons throughout life.
But I am hoping that this isn’t characteristic of Hannon’s writing, and I liked the story well enough to seek out another of her books. In fact, the preview of one of her mysteries at the end of this book hooked me in enough to want to find out what happened.
If you like clean (except for one inexplicit yet to me kind of tacky reference) Christian fiction where characters are realistically flawed, yet learn and grow through the story, you would probably like this book.
(Sharing at Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)