cover image Simple Gifts

Simple Gifts

Lori Copeland, Author . Zondervan $12.99 (333p) ISBN 978-0-310

In this enjoyable inspirational romance, Copeland shows the talent that has sold more than three million copies of her books. Marlene Queens returns to her childhood small town of Parnass Springs, Mo., to help wrap up an aged aunt's affairs. Her kinsfolk are "nuttier than a Payday candy bar," especially her 92-year-old Aunt Ingrid, who's involved in a hilarious running dispute with her ex-husband's widow over where his amputated foot should be buried. Copeland's characters are more intriguing than the standard faith fiction fodder: Marlene is the child of two mentally challenged parents, her father is dead, and she's never met her mother. As the plot unfolds, Marlene's former pastor's penchant for wild inventions enlivens the story. His son, Marlene's childhood sweetheart (now conveniently widowed), is waiting for Marlene to come clean about her past and resume their former relationship. The dialogue is snappy and often humorous, and Copeland has a flair for fresh descriptions ("dealing with Ingrid was like getting a caramel stuck in your back teeth"). Although some plot elements are a stretch, especially the longevity of Marlene's secret or a contrived disaster that brings things to a climax, readers will find this novel of much higher quality than the usual inspirational romance. (May)