Tag Archives: family conflict

Still Waters

STILL WATERS

by LINDSEY P. BRACKETT

easystreet DEBUT AUTHOR

 

Firefly Southern Fiction (Sept, 2017)
Paperback: 274 pages
ISBN: 978-1946016232
Genre: WOMEN’S FICTION/CHRISTIAN FAITH
Review Source: Purchase

★★★★☆

I am a Yankee transplant who has lived over 30 years in the South – long enough to appreciate that religion is wrapped around everything and prayer is served with every meal. On the night of September 11, 2017, Hurricane Irma was screaming around my mountainside home. She had already cut the power to the house and I found myself reaching for something to read. I remembered I had a debut novel written by a local author on my Kindle. I lit my oil lamp and I read Still Waters while monster trees were crashing all around my home and I feared for my life. It proved to be a good choice on a bad night.

I was thrown off-guard by the cover of Still Waters – the image of a loving couple embracing on a beach. I was right to assume the book has the central love story – the typical story filled with conflict and tension that ends with happily ever after. But there is so much more – family dysfunction, friends, healing faith in God, forgiveness, and the final mystery – death.

Still Waters depicts humanity in all its imperfections and insecurities. We mere mortal humans are gifted with free will and will freely make both good and bad life decisions; but we do not have to be defined by our mistakes. The free will that allowed us to falter also allows us to pick ourselves up and begin again.

Cora Anne, now an adult, was scarred by a terrible decision she made as a child that resulted in the drowning death of a family friend. Unable to forgive herself, she now lives an unfulfilled life always running from the memory that follows her like a shadow. Choosing to see herself as unworthy of love and attention, she shields herself from the affection and joys of life by deflecting and rejecting the things in life that would make her whole. Looking inward, has also kept her from seeing the humanity and needs of those that love her.

Cor has just graduated from college and has been wait-listed for her graduate program in the fall. Her grandmother, Annie (Nan) has requested she spend the summer on Edisto Island helping her restore the family’s ocean-front cottage in preparation for an upcoming family reunion.  Edisto Island, the scene of her worst nightmare. The last place on earth she wants to spend the summer. Reluctantly she agrees to return to the island to help.

ghost on beach frameMy favorite character is Grandma Nan. This feisty lady is dying but no one knows it. She has set the stage to reunite the fractured family and to bring them home in time to spend her final days surrounded by those she loves. The gruesome scenes of facing cancer head-on are tempered with Nan’s acceptance and readiness to join her beloved Thornton in the afterlife.

The setting of Edisto Island and the ocean are key to the novel. The ocean within each person, the rolling emotions, are calmed by the healing nature of the slow paced life on the island and the unencumbered solitude of Botany Bay. In Still Waters, Ms. Brackett hits the bulls-eye describing the restorative and spiritual nature of the natural world.

I encourage all lovers of Clean Reads and Christian Fiction to take the long slow ride onto Edisto Island where life travels on “island time”.

She closed her eyes and let the wind and the salt and the gray-green surf loosen the burdens she’d carried so long. Here, on this haunted strip of beach, she listened for forgiveness, and she let the surety that her life was bigger than one choice made twelve years ago settle into her soul.

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Finding Hope

finding hope cover

 

Finding Hope
by Colleen Nelson

★★★☆☆

Sand running through My Fingers.
Fluid.
I lost you in the cracks. I keep digging.
But you are too
Far
Gone.

Dundurn Press, 2016
ARC e-Reader (978-1-45973-247-6)
Paperback: 232 pages (978-1-45973-245-2)
Genre: Young Adult/ Fiction / Drug Abuse / Bullying/ Sexual Abuse

Finding Hope tackles some heady subjects that would have been almost unimaginable when this dusty old librarian was an adolescent.  That is not to say that drug abuse, sex abuse, violence and bullying are new to the adolescent scene. it was just not discussed and in my oblivious youth not on my radar.  As sex abuse has soiled our faith in those that care for our children’s minds and souls we sometimes overlook the deep reach of each vile act.  As is the case far too often in the real world, society and families fail their children by failing to recognize the trauma developing, failing to seek justice and mental health care when identified.

This story begins with the older brother, Eric, at age 17, a star hockey player and model student.  Popular and one of the “in-crowd”; expected to have a bright promising future.  His younger sister Hope does not have the limelight at school and feels left behind in her brother’s shadow at home.  She is bullied and an outsider.  Eric and Hope despite their differences of age and social development share a very close relationship probably born more out of a sense of isolation and lonesomeness at home.

Without explanation Eric begins to fall apart. The bottom drops out when his personality changes, he withdraws from academics and sports, and develops an insatiable meth addiction. His step-father is deeply affected by  his collpase and bans him from the home in an act of tough love.  Eric’s mother is unable to completely turn her back on her son but supports the father’s decision in order to maintain “family harmony”.  Keeping to the objective of YA fiction, the story is narrated in Hope’s and Eric’s voices.  Adult dialogue is more directive,angry and accusatory than engaging, interested and supportive.  The parents, more concerned about themselves, are not responsive to their children and their issues; highly deficient parenting skills.

Hope is trapped between parents and Eric.  She doesn’t condone his addiction and behavior.  She feels that there is still hope for Eric and his future.  She sacrifices her own babysitting money to give Eric money and supplies thus hoping to keep to continued contact with her brother.  It might have deepened Hope’s character more if there had been more dialogue within the home at this point in the story.  The step-father’s role in the story is handled by just not including him in the dialogue.  I would like to see him developed a little more.

Her mother recognizes that Hope is in an unhealthy environment at home and enrolls her in a private school. Hope is not wild about going to a boarding school as it would make it impossible to help Eric but it would give her a chance to have a fresh start socially and get her out of the pressure cooker home.

As the story spirals on, Hope and Eric struggle to find themselves amid a toxic world without any sense of security or sense of direction. We eventually learn the background on Eric’s decline and we watch Hope agonize and suffer terribly at the hands of a trio of classmates before reaching deep inside to identity her own strength and moral compass.

One particular passage with Eric touched me deeply.

“What are you doing?” Like a keening animal, she’d asked that question too many times.  When I came home hyped on meth, when I raged in my room for no reason that she understood…when I stole her bank card.

I never answered her  Not with the truth anyway…”What are you doing, Mom?” I should have fired back. Letting me go off with a hockey coach we barely knew, letting him drive me and stay in hotels with me…” Hot anger pulsed through me.

One of the strongest features of the story is Hope’s poignant poetry. I found Hope’s poetry very emotional and revealing. I read that the author reduced the story through numerous edits; perhaps just a little more attention should have been spent on developing each child’s life before Eric’s collapse.  Additionally I felt the failure of the school and community network was not explored adequately.

The concluding chapters are moving, dramatic and riveting. And the ending is satisfying yet acknowledges healing a fractured life leaves scars and cracks that can be forgiven but not easily forgotten.

I would not hesitate to suggest or recommend to interested in young adults.  I don’t think it is a story that expands the genre to include adult interest.

An advance reader copy was provided free of charge by Dundurn Press via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

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