Monday, December 28, 2009

'Cottonwood Whispers' by Jennifer Erin Valent - Book Review

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This very entertaining and page-turning novel is the second by Ms. Valent.  Her first, ‘Fireflies in December,’ won the 2007 Operation First Novel contest as sponsored by the Christian Writers Guild.  This is the sequel to that novel, which I have not read as yet. 

'Cottonwood Whispers,' which has been compared favorably to Harper Lee’s classic, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird,' is set in the South in 1936.  The main storyline centers on best friends Jessilyn Lassiter and Gemma Teague.  Jessie, age 17, and Gemma, age 19, have been friends since they were little girls.  Jessie’s parents brought Gemma into their home after her parents perished in a house fire four years prior to the events of this novel.  The first novel explored race relations and the troubles the Lassiter family endured when they brought in the African-American orphan.  This novel picks up the story of the girls and their lives.

Ms. Valent’s novel transports you to the South during the Depression, complete with vivid descriptions of the landscape, and the dialogue is written very accurately.  She is a native southerner, and does a marvelous job of translating that unique way of life to the reader of this novel.  As a native Michigander, I have visited the South since I was a child and consider it to be my second home – love it!  So this novel is appealing to me for that reason. 

There are some intriguing subplots - including a death and a false accusation – which are handled very expertly by Ms. Valent.  And Jessie still has a crush on her friend Luke Talley, which began in the first novel.  And Luke is finally starting to realize she is no longer a little girl.  Their relationship is sweet and authentic.  I also enjoyed seeing Jessie grow closer to making a decision for the Lord.

I really enjoyed this novel.  I feel as though I missed out by not starting with ‘Fireflies in December,’ so I may have to backtrack and read that one before Ms. Valent brings the characters back to life again.  Her third novel – a continuation of the story of the Gemma and Jessie – is called ‘Catching Moondrops’ and will be released in the Fall of 2010.  I look forward to seeing how the lives of Jessie, Gemma and Luke continue to interact – and where Jessie and Luke’s relationship evolves! 

Please note that Tyndale House has provided a complimentary copy of this book to me for review purposes.

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