Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories by Celeste Fletcher MaHale

When the Secret to Hummingbird Cake was released I missed the opportunity to review it. The title alone caught my attention. I mean, who doesn't love hummingbird cake? And to put it in the title of a book? Well, I just knew when I seen this title, The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories, it was sure to be a novel to fall in love with. 

McHale writes dialog as if you have a front row seat to every conversation. Through their conversations you come to know the characters. She writes easy. Her words flow. The play of dialog brought me to feel much emotion. I could feel the characters emotion just through the words shared. That's something huge in allowing the reader to connect. 

This story is a beauty. Memories submerged. But before these characters can live fully today they are going to have to allow the past to come full force into memory. This is painful for these characters. What I love is that every character, no matter how much they look like they have it together, has issues. No matter how big or small, every single issue brings these characters to a place where they must choose to let go of the past or continue to hang on tight. 

Another aspect I love is that every character has their own story, their own battle to overcome. Each of their stories comes to life in a way that brings the reader to a place where they can relate. 

I love the relationship between the young women. Three friends who know each other so very well. They cheer one another on and they are there to catch each other when one falls. We see what friendship truly is to be between women. Jacey, Georgie, and Willow, are the friends. Although Jacey is the main character, I found myself truly loving Georgie. Her sense of humor and quick-wit was enchanting. She brought such life to this story. 

Colin is a character that brings depth to the story. He has chosen to be a pastor. He enjoys serving people in communities that truly are in need. He too loves building homes. As we see his character grow it becomes evident that maybe being a pastor isn't where he should be. That choice comes from a past that has brought him great pain. We see Colin struggle with making the right choices. We too see his relationship with his parents bring to light the person he is today. McHale allows us to see this battle taking place within his heart. 

Jacey has been through so much. For many it would have broken them. But, we see her overcome. Through tragedy her life has become entwined with others. Connected in such a powerful way that even the strongest storm couldn't separate them. Three days trying to stay alive on a roof changed her life forever. 

This writer brings us a beautiful story of friendship, love, family, and the connection that we have with others when we allow our hearts to fully feel. No holding back, but giving room for the heart to embrace the past, accept the present, and have hope for the future. 

I cannot wait to read more from this writer. I now know that I am going to have to purchase, The Secret to Hummingbird Cake. If it's anything close to this beautiful story it's a must read! 

Now, for that part of the review that I just don't like. Ugh. Okay, this novel is published by Thomas Nelson, a Christian publisher. When you choose a book by this publisher you expect to read a story wrapped in faith. A story leaving you with the feeling as you have just walked a little closer to the Savior through the stories of the characters you just spent time with. Is God mentioned? Yes. But, I would have to say if I choose this book just on the terms knowing it was published by Thomas Nelson and knowing I would walk away with a strong story of faith I would be very disappointed. If I were to walk down the aisle of my local book store this isn't a selection I would expect to find on the shelf. It is disappointing to see Thomas Nelson move continually further away from publishing 'faith-based' fiction.

With that said, this is a selection I would choose again just for the sheer beauty of the story and the heart of the characters. McHale is truly a gifted with the pen as she weaves a story that is genuine and full of deep emotion. 

This novel was a gift from Thomas Nelson for sharing my review. 

Celeste Fletcher McHale lives on her family farm in Central Louisiana, where she enjoys raising a variety of animals. Her hobbies include writing, football, baseball, and spending much time with her grandchildren. 

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