Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Guest Book

The Guest Book
Marybeth Whalen
Published by Zondervan
336 pages
Available on Amazon.com
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview.
4 / 5 cupcakes

Well, what do you know. We have a summer beach read that is actually set at - GET THIS - the beach! Not that The Guest Book wouldn't work at any time of the year, but its arrival this summer fits rather nicely.

Macy is twenty-four, a single mother (the baby daddy hit the road when daughter Emma was an infant), works as a clerk at a grocery store, and basically has her life's gear set on idle. She's in a perpetual state of waiting. She waits for Emma's father to come back (he does, but is that what she wants?), she waits to get over her father's death ten years ago, she waits for middle of the night phone calls from her wayward older brother Max (he needs her to bail him out of one scrape after another), she waits for her mother to heal from grief, and she waits to find out the identity of The Artist.

Ah, The Artist.

He's a boy - or at least, he's frozen as a boy - with whom she began a correspondence of sorts in a beach cottage guest book when she was five. She drew a picture of some shells, and when she returned the following year, the boy had drawn her a picture. They exchange these drawings, along with photos of each other, for nine years. But with the death of Macy's father, going to the beach becomes too difficult for her mother, Max and her. Then Emma came along, and life sort of took off without Macy realizing it.

On the tenth anniversary of her father's death, Macy's mother announces that she has rented the cottage for two weeks. Macy greets the news with joy, if not a teensy bit of ambivalence. The baby daddy is back in her life, and she needs to decide what to do with that, and she's worried about the guest book. What happened to it? Can she find it? What happened to The Artist?

Macy herself is an artist, not that she uses her talents for anything other than painting the windows of the grocery store. But she has an artist's sensibilities, and the romance of reconnecting with the guest book - and The Artist - beckons her. She also finds herself needing to reconnect with God; she loosened that bond after her father died, but now, coming back to the beach house, she feels drawn back to prayer and the Lord. Again, the guest book is like a talisman to her.
After she drew the butterfly shells in the guest book, she'd imagined the other guests who came to the beach house wondering about the little girl who'd drawn the picture. She wondered if they would say her drawing was exceptional. She wanted to do something special for God with her talents, like Daddy had told her to. She wanted to be exceptional.
And so a mystery of sorts unfolds. Who is The Artist? Can she find him when she returns to Sunset Beach? Can she help her mother and her brother? Can she figure out what to do with the Baby Daddy? Can she find romance?

This is a sweet, heartwarming book utterly devoid of any scenes featuring people rocking the headboard. What lovin' is featured is almost chaste. Romance is almost beside the point here, anyway. What drives this book is Macy and her quest to move forward in her life, to get off of idle and be exceptional, even in a small way.

Yes, there is some old time religion here, so all you Bible thumper haters need to move on to another book. God's presence is very strong, whether it's through Macy's prayers or her friendship with a hot looking minister. As she tries to find the answers to her questions, she realizes that she needs God's help. Will you be told to drop to your knees and beg for Jesus? No. But will you maybe think that maybe asking God for guidance couldn't hurt? Perhaps.

If you want a quick, happy little book, this is the one for you. And if you can read it at the beach, all the better.

1 comment:

  1. Search me, Oh my God.
    Know my heart, and know my thoughts.
    Search me high and low.
    ~Travis P Dickerson


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