This final installment of a trilogy, set in Somerville, Kentucky, offers a slice of small-town life.
The narrative follows former flight attendant Annie Taylor and her grandmother Beulah as they prepare for the holidays and Annie’s wedding. There are everyday snags—trying to arrange events around work duties, minor rifts with friends, medical hardships. Everyone knows one another in Somerville. And just about everyone is connected to everyone else, which makes life both familiar and fraught. Beulah’s old friend Betty Gibson tries to steal the community potluck dinner out from under her, and it seems they are done for good until Betty suffers a heart attack and Beulah helps to arrange for her care. Annie’s job at the nursing home is snatched from her, the second one she’s lost in a year. That makes it easier to schedule her wedding to Jake Wilder, her childhood friend, but it also means money will be tighter as he tries to get a farm started while working for the bank. Plans are further complicated when they decide to get married in Italy, where they recently discovered long-lost relatives. Annie’s mother died young, and her father has been mostly absent. Since he lives in Spain, she hopes he’ll make the ceremony, but that seems like a long shot. There are tragedies big and small in Correll’s (Guarded, 2015, etc.) novel. People die; opportunities vanish; old friends argue. But the effective, overarching themes are love and perseverance. Annie and Beulah head the strong, complex cast. Adjusting to adversity with dignity and an open heart, if not always an open mind, Annie recognizes that she will no longer travel the globe once she settles down. An old boyfriend provides a bit of agitation in her decision-making. Beulah, who has enjoyed a fairly settled life, must now meet new family members. She elects to open her home to poor souls with nowhere else to go. Correll displays a talent for evoking all the little details that make this town come alive: relatives who have a cornerstone at the local church and the damage a shepherd’s staff on Beulah’s Nativity set sustains when a feral cat gets loose in the house.
A Southern saga creates a fully realized world with characters who are easy to get to know and root for; it’s a comfortable place worthy of a return trip.