Tuesday, July 6, 2010

‘Lonestar Homecoming’ by Colleen Coble – Book Review

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One of my favorite authors is Colleen Coble. Her latest novel, ‘Lonestar Homecoming,’ is another terrific book by this wonderful lady.

Here is the synopsis of this terrific and heartwarming novel:

For most, it’s the safest place on earth. For Gracie, it’s the last place she wants to be…and the one place she must return.
With nothing but five dollars and the wedding dress she’s wearing, Gracie Lister flees with her daughter by train to West Texas, to the town she ran away from so long ago. There they find refuge in the home of Michael Wayne – devoted single father, seasoned soldier – who gives Gracie a job caring for his two children and the hiding place she needs from her former fiancé.
Michael and Gracie aren’t looking for love, but it finds them right away. And then trouble comes to call in the form of Gracie’s ex-fiancé who is now on the FBI’s most-wanted list. Together, Michael and Gracie must find the strength they need to protect their newly forged family.

Here is the biography for this favored author of mine:

RITA finalist Colleen Coble lives with her husband, Dave , in Indiana. She is the best-selling author of Lonestar Sanctuary, Lonestar Secrets, The Lightkeeper’s Daughter, the Rock Harbor Series, the Aloha Reef Series, and two Women of Faith Fiction selections: Alaska Twilight and Midnight Sea.

In ‘Lonestar Homecoming,’ Gracie is rescued from a dangerous relationship/situation by Michael Wayne in the Alpine, Texas train station. He bought lunch for her and her young daughter, Hope; he purchased a new outfit for Gracie, whose wedding dress needed to go; and he also offered them a place to stay for as long as needed. She considers him to be her angel/knight in shining armor; she has never been treated with such unconditional grace.

Eventually, Michael decides that Gracie is the perfect candidate to be the caretaker for his two children, daughter Jordan, age eight, and son Evan, age six. The children, whose mother (divorced from Michael) had recently been killed in an accident, needed lots of security and lots of loving comfort.

An interesting aspect of this story is that Gracie has a condition called synesthesia, is a neurologically-based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People with synesthesia, known as synesthetes, often see colors when they hear sounds, for instance. Here is Grace describing what she experiences as she looks at Michael:

Gracie watched him as he stood with his shoulders squared in his army dress blues. The sun shone through the window onto his tanned face. She guessed him to be in his early thirties. Soldiers inspired an innate sense of trust in her, probably from having grown up near a military base. His voice looked like ocean waves, blue with whitecaps that rolled to the shore. What would he say if she told him that? She rarely spoke of her synesthesia. (pp. 13-14)

And here is Gracie explaining her condition to Michael:

“I have something called synesthesia. Have you ever heard of it? The word means ‘joined sensation.’”
He shook his head, but he took on a more alert expression. “Is it a disability?”
“No, no, nothing like that. I consider it an asset. It’s another layer of senses. Studies show many babies and children have the ability to taste or see sounds.”
“You’re kidding! What does taste sound like?”
She decided not to get into specifics. “It might be how some metaphors came into being. Such as the night being like black velvet. The simile combines sight and touch.”
“So what so you see and taste?”
“All of us are different. I see shapes and colors when I hear music. And I sometimes taste sounds.” P. 40)

As time went on, Michael and Gracie realized they had very different philosophies on parenting. Here is an encounter when one of the three children spilled paint on the wooden floor in Jordan’s bedroom, and no one would own up to admitting to spilling it:

As soon as the girls were out the door, Michael folded his arms over his chest. “They needed to admit who did it.”
Gracie sat back on her haunches. “It was clearly an accident, Michael. None of them did it on purpose. Punishment should be given for defiance, not for spilling something.” He blinked, and his mouth sagged. He said nothing, but she could see the wheels turning in his head.
“My dad sent me to my room whenever I spilled my milk,” he said, frowning.
“Children who are shamed for things they can’t control grow up resentful and uncertain,” she said. “If you’d told them not to lift the can and they did it anyway, then spilled it, it would be a different story.”
“Maybe they did.”
She shook her head. “The can was in the same place. One of them accidentally kicked it over. It wasn’t deliberate.”
“I really don’t get it,” he said. “They should be more careful.”
“They’re children. Children make mistakes. Would you want to be punished for a mistake?”
“No,” he admitted. “But I think we should own up to it when we make a mistake and not try to hide it.”
“I see what you’re saying. A good compromise would be to tell them no one will be punished but you want to know what happened.”
His expression softened. “You’re good for me, Gracie. And for them. You can tell I know more about soldiering than I do about raising kids.” (pp. 47-48)

Michael was a Christ follower; Gracie thought God had given up on her. Michael was a good influence on her in that aspect of her life. Here are Gracie’s thoughts as the group went out on a canoe trip:

Every time the canoe rocked, Gracie was sure they’d end up in the water, but Michael handled the canoe with expertise. The kids sat quietly and watched the towering walls of Santa Elena Canyon glide by. The pink, blue-gray, and tan walls stretched from the river to the heavens. It was a place one could almost hear the whispers of God.
Gracie shook off the thought. Over five years ago, she’d come to grips with the realization that God was through with her, so why was she dwelling on him again? The problem was this solitude. She missed the hustle and bustle of the city and the demands of her job to keep her regrets at bay. (p. 54)

As things progress, Michael realized the best solution for his children would be for him and Gracie to be married, and for all of the children to have two parents – both legally and emotionally. They did marry, and the children were adopted by their new step-parents. Gracie begins to think about the possibility that perhaps God is in the midst of this blessing in her life; she is moving closer to a relationship with Him:

She watched Michael’s face as he grabbed a stack of plates. He was such a wonderful man who always wanted to do the right thing. Even if she was normally a bad judge of character, she knew she wasn’t wrong about him. She wished she could believe that God cared so much about her that he was responsible for bringing her into her new husband’s loving embrace. (p. 225)

As Gracie moves closer to a restoration of her faith, this conversation with Michael reveals truth to her. The exchange begins with Michael:

          “Why do we need people when we have God?”
Her eyes widened, then shuttered. When her nod finally came, it was reluctant. “God lets bad things happen sometimes.”
Her mother again [Gracie’s mother had been killed in a horse accident]. Everything went back to that, “I know, honey. He does, and we don’t always understand it. But we can choose how we respond to the challenges that come - with fear or without. I choose faith.”
Her lips trembled when she pressed them together. “I want to choose faith, but I don’t deserve it.”
He shook her gently. “Gracie, Gracie, you’ve got to face your father and go on. As long as you have that cloud over your head, you’re never going to let go of fear. You’ve been running for years. From yourself, from God. Isn’t it time you faced your problems and solved them?” (pp. 229-230)

God continued to pursue Gracie; she finally decides to let Him have His way with her:

Could God really forgive her? The reality sank in with a gentle breeze through the window.
He’d never left her. She was the one who left him. He was waiting in the same place where she’d turned and walked away. The tears came faster now, obscuring her vision, clogging her throat. The steering wheel was her only support, and she collapsed against it.
“I want to move back to you. Show me how,” she choked out. Though she lay still against the wheel, her head spun, faster and faster, as though she sailed through time and space. Gradually, her panting stilled, her pulse slowed, her vision cleared. Warmth enveloped her as though someone held her in his arms, safer than she’d ever been.
God was here, right here. Closing her eyes, she unburdened herself on the Lord. All the vile, selfish things she’d done over the past years flooded into her memory, and she confessed them all. With each one behind her, it was as though she floated higher and higher above the seat grounding her in place.  When she opened her eyes, she was clean. And she couldn’t stop smiling.
Returning to God had been so easy. Why had she turned it into a mountain when it was only a groundhog hill? Clean. She was clean. The shame, the knowledge of how she’d disappointed God, was washed away. God had never let go of her, though she’d ignored his gentle promptings. (p. 251)

I pray that these precious words reach many people, and they realize that God is waiting for them with open arms to return to them; He is a God of love and forgiveness, not punishment.

I have read several books by Colleen: ‘Abomination,’ ‘Anathema,’ ‘Without A Trace' (Rock Harbor Series # 1), ‘Beyond A Doubt' (Rock Harbor Series #2), ‘Into the Deep' (Rock Harbor Series #3) and her last book, ‘The Lightkeeper’s Daughter’ (you can read my review here). I was highly entertained by all of them, and loved this one as well. I can’t define exactly what it is that I love about Colleen’s writing, but she has ‘it’; her writing is terrific and her stories compelling! And I love how she includes biblical truths in an entertaining story; that’s always a good quality to have a in a book!

You can order the book here.

This book was provided to me by Thomas Nelson Publishers for review purposes.


hsmomma said...

Colleen Coble is my absolute favorite author! Her books always engage me from page one. I loved this entire series!

Andrea Schultz said...

Hi HS Momma -
She's terrific, isn't she? I have never failed to enjoy one of her books!

Colleen Coble said...

Wow, I think this is the most comprehensive review I've ever read. Thanks, Andrea! Good to pop in and say hello to all of you. :-)

Andrea Schultz said...

Hi Colleen -
Thanks for coming by; we (me and the readers) always love to have you!
You already know how much I love your work! Always looking forward to the next one!
Blessings -

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