In her first novel, Abersold, who co-pastors an Alabama church with her husband, shows Christian prayer and faith at work in a small Missouri town.
In this folksy story that starts in 1959, widowed preacher Esther “Essie” Cox loves the Lord, her nondenominational congregation and her teenage daughter, Ruth “Ruthie” Ann. Sweet-voiced, class valedictorian Ruthie brings both grief and joy to her protective mother. After Ruthie, who has never been kissed, sneaks out with friends and meets slightly older Buddy, “feelings she never realized she could feel” sweep over her. “God or no God, I plan to spend the rest of my life with Buddy Nelson,” she resolves. “He and I will leave this God-forsaken place together and find true happiness.” Buddy, a self-described drifter, wants nothing to do with churches after growing up with his preacher father, a “hell fire and brimstone” guy who stole offerings to buy booze. Buddy plans to return to his hometown of St. Louis soon; “Women,” he says, “you can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them.” Ruthie’s rebellion brings Essie grief that threatens to return her to the depression and floor-sobbing fits she suffered after Samuel—her husband and Ruthie’s father—died. Warm support from church members, including Sister Blue, Aunt Minnie and abused Susie Falcon, whose husband, Mike, wants Essie out of the pulpit, bring solace to Essie, as does her growing friendship with devout widower David Fisher. Prayers rise from almost every page as characters ask Jesus for help, and in response, the Lord speaks directly to them. Aunt Minnie reveals that Jesus told her, “Ruthie has chosen her will over His perfect will,” but she is still “a child of God” and “we must praise Him until He brings our Ruthie home.” Essie follows this advice and finds peace. Other romances, some surprising, blossom near the story’s end, but the final story remains to be told in future books in the series. As Christian romance, the book extends charity, love and forgiveness without stooping to vulgar sensationalism; think 50 tasteful shades of love. The story succeeds in portraying what the author imagines to be a simpler, cleaner life back in 1959, which may be too vanilla for some readers.
A gentle romance peppered with homespun expressions of faith in action, which will satisfy readers who trust in the Lord.