Rorey’s Secret is the fourth of Leisha Kelly’s series about the Wortham family, set during and just after the Depression. The fourth through sixth books are called the Country Road Chronicles and take place a few years after the first three, when the Wortham children are teenagers.
This book begins with mom Julia Wortham in the kitchen preparing a birthday dinner for one of their neighbor boys. The Hammond family lost their mother at the beginning of the second book. Their father, George, had not coped well at first, but seemed stable now. Several of the Hammond’s ten children are over visiting the Worthams at any given time. The youngest is trying to help Julia fry chicken, and making a mess. Just as another Hammond child tries to bring newborn kittens in the house, the oldest drives up with his wife in labor and very active toddler diving in Julia’s cabinets because he likes the bang all the pans make as they fall out. As Julia’s husband and son come in from working, Julia sends them off for the doctor.
But the doctor can’t be reached, and Julia reluctantly plays midwife. Somehow after several hours, the baby is born, everyone’s fed, and several of the Hammond family go home.
As Julia and her husband, Samuel, prepare to drop into bed, they notice a strange glow in the distance: a fire over at the Hammonds’. Sam and his son and daughter drive over to help: Julia stays behind because the new mother and baby are still at her house for the night.
Sarah, the Wortham’s daughter, tries to keep the younger Hammond children safely away from the barn’s flames, but ten-year-old Bertie dashes away into the barn out of concern for the calves. Sarah alerts her father, who runs after Bertie to bring him out. Then the roof caves in.
Both Bertie and Sam are pulled to safety, but both are injured, Sam seriously. His son takes both of them back to the Wortham’s house and goes to try to find the doctor again. Julia, worried sick, tries to help them the best she can.
Inexplicably, several of the Hammonds blame middle son Franky for the fire. In the previous books there has been a subplot involving him. He seems to have a learning disability: he can’t learn to read no matter how much he wants to. He can do math in his head, but not on paper. Of course, not much was known about such then, and his schoolmates and even his father think he’s stupid. Franky is also the most dreamy, sensitive, and spiritual of the bunch. If he had started the fire, he’d be the first to own up to it. There also seems to be some tension between Franky and his teenage sister, Rorey, but neither will open up about it.
Rorey, for her part, is being cagey and aloof. The bulk of the book focuses on the tension between Rorey, Franky, and the rest of the two families as the cope with the aftermath of the fire. When Rorey tells a part of her secret to Sarah, then Sarah’s in a quandary as to whether to keep her promise not to tell.
The point of view rotates from chapter to chapter between Julia, Sarah, and Franky. I could identify a lot with Julia, worrying about her husband, feeling overwhelmed with all the people and issues, wanting to set things straight between Franky and his father. She struggles to trust God and seek wisdom. But she makes a good point here:
Somewhere I’d heard that the first time a young person does something really bad, a significant bit of their future and the choices they make rest upon the kind of response they get. I prayed our response to Rorey would be what she needed (p. 229).
I loved the first couple of books in the series. All the chaos in the beginning of this one nearly made my head spin. Still, life is like that sometimes, and that’s one of the hardest times to maintain trust in the Lord. I liked the way this one worked out in the end and what everyone learned along the way.