Sunday, January 2, 2011

Review: Softly and Tenderly

Maybe it's because Sara Evans (the co-author of Softly and Tenderly) is a country singer ... but this book sure starts out like the stereotypical CW song:  cheatin' men, illegitimate babies, cheatin' women, even the ubiquitous old pickup (actually there are TWO in the book!).  Seriously, this is so replete with cliches, I didn't know if I could get through it.

Basically, Jade Fitzgerald Benson -- a 31-year-old raised in a quirky Iowa family with her own problems finally finds her paradise:  married to the only son of THE family in a Tennessee town, owning two successful retro shops, and loving her life.  But then it all hits the fan and becomes a cliche-laden soap opera.  I really didn't think I'd make it past the first 20 pages or so.

But then the story hooked me ... maybe it was the hippy-mom dying of leukemia and all her quirkiness and love that she shared with all around her ... or maybe it was the character of the mother-in-law who had finally had enough of her cheating husband and went to Iowa with Jade and her dying mother, Beryl ... or maybe it was because the authors worked hard to imbue their story with the Christian faith and the themes of love, faith, hope and trust.  It really did turn into a great story ... nothing super deep or philosophical ... but perfect reading for a couple of afternoons over Christmas break when the house was quiet.

The only issue I have with the book is that it ends abruptly with only one of the plot-lines fully resolved ... all the others are still left up in the air.  Which may be why they do mention a third book (the first book, which I haven't read yet is titled The Sweet By and By  and talks about Jade marrying Max Benson) to be released in 2012.  I hate that!  I don't mind reading series or sequels, but I do think stories should have closure.  But that's just me. 

My "cut to the chase" recommendation?  This is a good read with good characterization and a Christian flavor.  A perfect book for a few days' reading. 

Disclaimer:  I received a review copy of this book from Thomas Nelson's Book Sneeze program.  The above critique is my honest opinion of this work.


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