A young woman with theatrical dreams heads to New York City in the 1950s in this debut Christian novel.
Ann Marie Jernigan grew up in Bonner Valley, Texas. After her graduation from the University of Texas in 1955, she moves to New York to pursue a stage career. She secures a part-time job caring for Sarah Buffington, an elderly woman, in her home. Sarah’s son, Nelson, who employed Ann, is an unlikable man. But Sarah is quite loving toward the caregiver. Through this position, Ann meets Sarah’s grandson Richard and they begin dating, continuing the relationship even when she quits the job to work regularly onstage. After they wed, Sarah cautions Ann that she fears Richard has inherited his father’s worst trait, which she dubs the Buffington Syndrome: “They feel it necessary to control everything and everyone around them, especially their wives and children.” Ann becomes pregnant in 1959 but finds out the child will be born severely neurologically impaired. Richard, never keen on kids, immediately seeks to institutionalize the child rather than have their comfortable life upended, hitting Ann when she pushes to care for the baby. She leaves Richard and eventually moves back to Bonner Valley with her child, Joy. Ann believes Joy is “destined to impact many lives in a way known only by God.” Ann starts over and opens a voice, dance, and theater school, where Joy sits in on classes for the auditory stimulation. Evans acknowledges that Joy’s poignant story was inspired by two family members’ experiences caring for their own impaired children, and the tale skillfully reflects that personal insight into a challenging life. The author’s background as an English teacher also shows in the touching book’s overall quality. Natural dialogue and a fully developed plot arc are deftly executed. The undercurrent of faith that keeps Ann going through a difficult journey will appeal to fans of Christian fiction but is not so strong to dissuade readers with other beliefs.
A moving story of a mother’s devotion to her mentally impaired child, inspired by her faith in God.