Covenant Communications, 2007
It took me several weeks to read this novel. In my busy life I read a few pages here and there. One day while we were shopping my wife got a hold of this book. After she read the first dozen pages she said, “I can’t put this book down – how come it is taking you so long to read it?” This was my wife’s way of saying “Hurry up and finish so I can read this book.”
The novel starts out with a riveting 1640 prologue. Patience and her husband are living in a remote area of New England. On a cold winter night Indians attack their home. Patience’s flight for safety into the snow is a captivating read.
In Chapter One we meet 21st century Bethany Carlisle. One the day Bethany receives her doctorate she receives an e-mail that her grandmother – her only living relative - has died. Bethany is the sole heir to her grandmother’s estate, well sort of. The estate is administered by Joseph, her grandmother’s attorney. Bethany had come to see Joseph as an older brother. Now as administrator of the will, Bethany follows Joseph’s counsel with only a few questions.
The first request / suggestion / demand (Bethany is not sure which it is) is for her to move out to a small cabin in Maine that her grandmother had purchased for her. From this remote beautiful setting, Bethany could work on writing her novel.
Joseph became a frequent visitor to “the hut”. Was there a blossoming romance or was Joseph trying to control her life for other reasons? Bethany’s concerns deepen as she continually reflects on the last phone call from her boy friend Peter. He tells her that for her safety he has to disappear for a while. She is in grave danger and she should trust no one – not even those who appear trustworthy.
The question of who to trust weaves through the book. Is Joseph trying to scam Bethany out of her estate? He discourages her from obsessing over her book. Why? Who had sabotaged her car? Was it the friendly neighbors who had taken Bethany under their wing? Where was Peter? Why hadn’t he called her? Was her university friend Kim part of the conspiracy?
The author creates such a current of distrust and suspicion that I was not sure until the very end of the book who could be trusted.
While I enjoyed the novel – there is one aspect that bogged my reading. I felt that too much attention and detail went into describing the renovations and living quarters that Bethany lived in. As a reader, if the plot doesn’t move fast, I lose interest. Some of the detailed descriptions used throughout the book could have been tightened up to make the creative suspense of the plot flow faster. If I had not been reading this book for a book review – I might have put it aside and let it gather dust. HOWEVER, I am grateful that I read the book – it provided suspense and insights into human nature.
Another issue that Bethany deals with throughout the book is her unorthodox relationship with her grandmother. Bethany’s parents died when she was young. Though grandmother had full custody, Bethany spent very little time with her. Instead Bethany was in boarding schools and away at university. Despite the fact that Bethany was looked after financially, she felt a lack of emotional connection – even a rejection by this grandmother. With her sudden passing, Bethany struggled knowing she could never understand why she had been raised in such an unemotional way. Bethany’s anxiety became more acute as Joseph and others describe her grandmother as a caring, loving person. Why hadn’t Bethany been the recipient of that needed love?
Towards the end of the novel Bethany explains her frustration to someone who had known Grandmother Amelia for decades. His response to Bethany’s frustration can be good advice to all of us as we interact and relate to people. “You and I know a completely different Amelia. You see her as an unemotional eccentric old woman. I remember her as a talented vivacious, passionate woman.” When Bethany asks how she could learn who her grandmother really is, the friend gives advice that we could all use. “Get to know more about her [Grandmother Amelia]. Think about her complete life, not just your relationship with her…None of us are the same people we were ten years ago. In fact we are not the people we will be ten years from now.” (page 282-283). The ideas expressed here by Bethany’s friend can be used by all of us when we have family members and friends that we don’t understand.