Melody Carlson, . . Tyndale, $12.99 (432pp) ISBN 978-0-8423-6848-3
In this sweet, competent happily-ever-after story for the evangelical Christian market, Carlson tells how forgiveness can heal the deepest wounds families inflict on one another. Armando Garcia flees Los Angeles and a past that threatens to destroy him and journeys to Treasure, Ore., a place that seems full of promise. He finds shelter with Dora Chase, an 81-year-old woman recovering from a broken arm who needs help on her neglected farm, and finds he has an aptitude for landscaping and agriculture. Armando creates a beautiful garden in memory of Dora's dead husband, and the two make plans to grow sunflowers for florists. But Dora's son Charles bears a grudge against his mother, and has other ideas for the land—and for her. The wild card in the family feud is Charles's lovely daughter, Olivia, who spirals downward in her addictions. Armando wonders, "Why did life have to be so messy? Why did people with everything going for them throw it all away for nothing? And why did people with nothing throw away what little they had to get what really amounted to nothing?" The story is padded in places, slowing down the pacing, and some characters (such as the one-dimensional Charles) are undeveloped, which lessens the impact of the novel's resolution. Readers will see the romance coming from the earliest pages. Yet Carlson's competent writing, the spiritual journey of Armando and the feisty character of Dora should endear this novel to fans of contemporary Christian novels.
Reviewed on: 12/22/2003