Wednesday, June 16, 2010

‘Heading Home’ by Renée Riva – Book Review

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There are few things in life better than reading a book that draws you in and draws you back as quickly as life allows you in order to keep reading. ‘Heading Home’ by Renée Riva is just such a book

Here is the synopsis of this book:

Eight year is a long time – from saying good-bye as kids to saying hello as adults.
She’s back! For eight long years, A.J. Degulio has been itching to get back to Indian Island, her beloved dog, Sailor, and her childhood friend, Danny Morgan. It’s home. But a lot has changed. Sailor moves slower, Danny has grown into a six-foot-something good-lookin’ cowboy… and A.J. has a promise to keep… which doesn’t include Danny. When Danny hears of her plans, he’s shocked and hurt. But he cares too much to stand in the way of what she really wants.
What’s a girl to do? A.J. isn’t sure how to fulfill her promise without losing Danny. She works every angle possible to keep her promise and her cowboy. But Danny has plans of his own. Will they be able to work it out? It will take compromise, laughter, and a lot of love before Danny and A.J. figure out that home is more than a place on the map. It’s a place in 
the heart.

And here is the video trailer for this delightful book:

Here is the biography of this author:

Renée Riva has been writing humorous stories ever since she won her first writing contest in second grade. A former greeting card verse writer and popular speaker, Renée is the author of Saving Sailor, Taking Tuscany, and two children’s books. She and her husband reside in Washington State with their three daughters and a menagerie of pets.

I loved the story in the ‘After Words’ section of the book in which Renée shares the story of her meeting of Bear and their subsequent marriage. I would love to read the whole story someday!

This book, set in 1976, is set on Indian Island, Washington. A.J. is just returning home after being in Tuscany, Italy, living with her family in an old castle. This is A.J. reaction to seeing Danny again:

Wiping away my tears, my eyes come to focus on the face I’ve so longed to see – besides Sailor’s. Oh … my … gosh. This is not the Danny I remember. Before me stands a towering six-foot-somethin’ sandy-blond, sun-bronzed cowboy – a perfect cross between the Duke and Little Joe Cartwright. When we’re within arms’ reach of each other, we both just stop. Eight years is a long time – from saying good-bye as kids to saying hello as adults. (p. 17)  

Renée’s writing style – and therefore A.J.’s speaking style – is so fun and light-hearted! Danny is testing out the idea of running a Christian summer camp on Indian Island (with a cowboys and Indians theme). After A.J. dropped the bombshell that she is thinking about becoming a nun, to fulfill a promise to God in the only way she knew how, Danny went ahead and hired an assistant. Here A.J. explains that Danny and his summer camp assistant will definitely need a chaperone:

When [the tug’s] close enough to make out who’s who, I notice the Indian squaw is in my chair. At least they have a boatload of kids with them this time. Danny should not be left alone with someone like her. He’s too naïve to know the games women like her can play. It’s the same old “let me be your Indian princess camp helper” game. I’m on to you, Indian squaw. Someone needs to look out for him! (p. 39)

Here’s another choice piece of comedy. A.J.’s grandma allows her drive her 1960 Studebaker.  Here A.J. describes how people must interpret her comings-and-goings, and how much she misses her family (comedy and tragedy are perfect partners):

Puttering down Main Street in this red and white jalopy draws some interesting stares from the town folk. Hi, y’all. I’m A.J., just rolling through town inside a peppermint twist. It reminds me of the looks I got with Daddy when practice-driving the old Fiat in the hills of Tuscany. Of course that drew looks of panic rather than curiosity – people fearing for their lives. A sudden pang of loneliness comes over me and I find myself missing my family and relatives. Going to being surrounded by lots of family to being alone is quite a change. I used to wish I were an only child – now I’m starting to appreciate belonging to a big family. Especially when they’re gone. (p. 57)

A.J. gets a kick out of speaking in a Southern accent; hence, the “hi, y’all” part of her explanation. Funny for me, this Michigander, who also loves to speak in a Southern accent on occasion (I think I’m a Southerner at heart!)!

A.J.’s grandma doesn’t agree with her decision to pursue the life of a nun, particularly in light of Danny’s interest in her:

‘Mamma mia, Angelina.” She looks me right in the eye. “Let me put it to you like this. I know Danny Morgan better than you think I do. I’mma old, but I’mma pretty smart for an old gal. If you have a man like Danny Morgan, who loves God, loves you, and is interested in serving God with you, then all I can say is: Angelina Degulio, what’sa matter you?”

I love that!

A.J. decides she needs to investigate the option of becoming a nun or a sister, so she decides to attend a retreat given by the Sisters of Our Lady of the Lake. She visits Saddlemyer’s Dime Store to pick up some items to take with her for the weekend. Wonder of wonders, Danny shows up:

          “Are you … looking for something?”
“Yeah, you.” His eyes melt right into mine. “May I … have this dance?” he asks, softly.
I look around. “Here?”
“Uh … okay.” I lift my arms, still clutching the toothpaste.
Danny gently removes the toothpaste from my hands, set it on the shelf, and takes my hands in his. He never once takes his eyes off mine. We’re dancing through the aisles of the dime store to the words Darlin’, save the last dance for me, but the last thing I can hear is everything my grandma said to me a half hour ago. (pp. 72-73)

Is that sweet or what?!  

Back to the comical side of the book, A.J. reflects on her childhood – and provides a glimpse for where she may have gotten her sense of humor:

Sailor and I are spending a quiet Saturday morning in front of old Western movies. A much-missed tradition from long ago. Indian Islands and Westerns have always gone together. Shirley Temple Theatre was always a favorite I rarely missed. I had to keep the volume down on Shirley when Mama was in the cabin. I can still hear her yelling from the kitchen, “If I have to listen to that kid sing ‘Animal Crackers in My Soup’ one more time, I’m going to flip that channel and bring her little tap shoes to a screeching halt! For the love of Pete, who puts animal crackers in soup anyway?”
I’ve never heard anyone but Mama call Shirley on that one. (p. 118)

Nor had I! When I read that, I burst out in laughter!

A.J. figured out that the nunnery is not the place where God would have her. The ending is adorable; Italian, Greek, and Southern families are lots of fun!  And the very last page will warm anyone’s heart!

I absolutely loved this book; this is a terrific summer read! A.J. Degulio is adorable; this character has a lot of life!! Although this is Book Three in the ‘Indian Island Trilogy,’ I hope that Renée’s intention is to keep writing books about A.J. and Danny for years to come, following their loving adventures! I loved this one, and hope to go back and read the first two!

You can order this book here.

This book was published by David C. Cook and provided by B & B Media Group for review purposes.


Renee Riva said...

Hi Andrea,

Thank you SO much for this wonderful review of my book! It just warmed my heart to read it. :O)
If you'd like to read about another A.J.-like character, FARLEY'S FIVE-and-DIME just released. It's a 1950's waltz down memory lane. And only 99 cents on amazon right now.
Thanks Again!
Renee Riva

Loren said...

I have this book prior to this on my Kindle and need to read it so I can read this one! I received it free as I saw it posted on a blog one day! This brought it back to my mind! I have read soooo many favorable reviews on this author! I look forward to reading them!

Love and blessings

Andrea Schultz said...

Hi Renee -
Thanks so much for coming by and commenting - and for the kind words! You are a truly gifted writer - and guessing that you're a fun person to boot! Thanks for the heads up on 'Farley's Five & Dime'; it sounds adorable!

Hi Loren -
Hope you enjoy the other book! Wish I would have known about the Kindle download - this one was just too good to not read the others!

Blessings -


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