Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Perennials by Julie Cantrell

First let me say that Julie Cantrell is a master storyteller. Her novels "Into the Free", and "When Mountains Move", are still at the top of my favorite list. These two novels are the reason I love to read. Writers like Julie have a gift to capture the heart and move the soul. 

I was excited when I first seen Perennials was up for review. I knew I had to read these penned words that stir up a story. 

When I first in the beginning chapter going back to the summer of 1979 in Oxford, Mississippi I set my heart in motion for a fantastic read. 

I love the fact that there are two sisters and their relationship is at center of this story. It is because of their relationship, their rivalry, that these two characters are who they are today. Once so close, feet muddy in the dirty fun of Mississippi, the day arrives when everything changes. One choice, one action, one lie. From there their rivalry grows in this adult creature that divides them. 

Mom and dad are still living in Mississippi. Our main character, Eva, known as Lovey, moves as far away as possible. She makes a new life in Arizona. She leaves behind everything she once was so long ago. Funny how even just a little time of insecurity and sadness can seem like a lifetime. 

Eva is now working in advertising. The lie of so long ago that tore up her life and changed everything is now a natural part of her everyday life at the job. Lying to people to sell. I do love how Cantrell ties in lying. We lie for many reasons and in this novel we see why the heart of these characters lie. Sometimes it is to protect. Sometimes it is to defend. 

The sister of this rivalry, Bitsy, still lives close to mom and dad. She has made a life of perfection for herself. That's the perception she wants to give. It seems these sisters have much between them, but if they could get past the ugly and come together, they could see that their lives are not so different. Reality doesn't always look pretty, but when we have encouragement and support, it makes all the difference. By the end of this story they kind of come to see this.

So, mom and dad are soon to have their fiftieth  wedding anniversary. They are encouraging Eva to return home and help bring this celebration to life. Family first or job first? Family first for Bitsy, but for Eva, she puts herself first. I can understand why she would come to feel this way. She tries everything, but nothing quite ever makes her feel a part of the family. She was always blamed for an accident where all these years the truth has remained hidden. She has spoken the truth, but no one pays attention to her. More infuriating angst against her sister. It breaks my heart that her parents never seen past the lies. They always wanted to bring the family together, but it seemed they wanted to do so without fixing what has been broken for so many years. 

Okay, so Eva goes home and the story continues with this family. So much happens between them. So much goes unspoken. This family is about to face circumstances we never prepare for but always experience. But this family does come to feel a peace that has been missing for so long. 

This is a full circle of a young girl leaving home, setting out on her own, finding herself and living her dream, but always missing a piece of herself. She was homesick and didn't even realize that is what has been missing. But home, once left for so long is never quiet the same when you return. 

Now, if I stopped here I could give this story a five star review. There's so much I loved about this story, but so much that I didn't. First of all, I see this more and more with Thomas Nelson. When I choose a Christian novel I expect, with their tradition and character, to have a faith-based novel. This again is not the case. There is much spirituality, but that is based in Buddhism, and the Buddhist prayer wheel, and her spiritual guide who leads her down these paths to bring life full circle. During one of her walks she even visualizes someone. Mary? This is New Age stuff. I can understand the writer bringing in this to show just how far she has come from the girl she was in Mississippi, but there isn't a faith that she returns to. That's huge for me. 

Her mother loves gardens so they create for her a Mary garden. Even at the end of the novel, where she has returned home and coming back to herself, she is still traveling this Buddhist spiritual walk. Since this isn't mainstream publication and is from Thomas Nelson I expected more. To bring in faith, to share Christ, to return to a faith left would have totally changed this novel for me. 

Again, there is so much to love. I greatly admire Julie Cantrell as a writer. But if you are totally Christian fiction keep in mind this isn't the faith read one expects from Thomas Nelson. It is unlike any other novel this author has penned. Even though I didn't connect to this one I will still wait in anticipation for her next work. And remember, this is only my opinion. You may pick up this novel and love it from front to back. It is my hope that you do!! 

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

Julie Cantrell is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Into the Free, the 2013 Christy Award-winning Book of the Year and recipient of the Mississippi Library Association's Fiction Award. Cantrell has served as editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review and is a recipient of the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship. Her second novel, When Mountains Move, won the 2014 Carol Award for Historical Fiction and, like her debut, was selected for several Top Reads lists. Her third novel, The Feathered Bone, was named Best Read by Library Journal and is currently a finalist for multiple awards, including Southern Book Prize.


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