"Divorced, single mother Lisa Hampton is grateful for a fresh start after a humiliating scandal forced her to relocate from Maryland to Ohio. Her biggest issue nowadays is dealing with her rebellious teenage daughter, Chanelle, who is one smart comment away from being toothless!
Other than the stress of dealing with Chanelle, life is perfect. Lisa has a new beau and a steady job that allows her the opportunity to rub shoulders with very wealthy and influential people. She is best friends with Isaac and Olivia Scott, an extremely rich and powerful couple.
When Chanelle accuses the Scotts’ son of rape, Lisa learns how quickly her friends become enemies as Olivia and Isaac use their wealth and power to manipulate justice. The Scotts prove that they are willing to go to extreme lengths to protect their son, even if it means destroying both Lisa and Chanelle in the process."
Genre: Christian | Contemporary | Inspirational
Publisher: Simon and Schuster/Strebor Books
Release Date: April 23, 2013
ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Yolanda Sanders
Yolonda Tonette Sanders took a leap of faith in 2004 when she resigned from her job with the State of Ohio after only three and a half years to focus more on writing. It was a leap that she has never regretted. In 2005, her debut novel, Soul Matters, was published by Walk Worthy Press and Time Warner (now Hachette Book Group). In 2008, her second book, Secrets of a Sinner, was published by Harlequin/Kimani Press. That same year Yolonda started Yo Productions, LLC, a Christian based literary services and theatrical entertainment company, which she used to launch and create her first stage production. The theatrical version of Soul Matters debuted successfully in September 2009 at the Capitol Theatre in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Since then, Strebor Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, is planning to release four of Yolonda’s titles by April 2015. Currently, Yolonda resides in Columbus, Ohio and is the loving wife of David, proud mother of Tre and Tia, and joyful caregiver of her mother, Wilene.
Where is God when life seems to just be a sh** storm with no proverbial or literal light at the end of the tunnel? People have wrestled with this question since Biblical times. Toss in today's issues - drugs, rape, selfishness, power, greed...you name it (really, these are age-old issues) - and you have a mucked up place that desperately calls out for a Savior to set it right. Or in the very least, to walk with us when the sh** hits the fan. But what if those fans keep on coming? And if we feel alone? Where is God then?
"Honey, what's wrong...is it me or the book?" My poor hubby uttered these words upon seeing my devastated face at the end of this book. Not gonna tell you what happened...but suffice to say it made me cry. Twice.
I am a highly empathetic person. Give me a person who is hurting, and I will hurt right along with them. All of the hurting people in this book made my heart ache and desperately want to gather them all in my arms for the biggest hug this world has ever seen. Sanders created characters in this work that wriggle their way into your heartstrings and sit there, daring you to look away, but also daring you to care.
Let's see...where to begin! Well, let's start with the story. Lisa is a woman with a teenage daughter who has pulled some shenanigans that would have landed me six feet under had I pulled them at her age. Lisa is being courted by a pastor, has a mother who disagrees with how she handles Chanell (her daughter), an ex-husband with a past that isn't revealed until nearly the end of the book, and is best friends with the female half of one of the most influential/wealthy couples in the country. This couple happens to have a son named Justin, who Lisa wants to set up with her daughter because he is a "good boy".
This story hooked me right from the get-go simply because it is so real. No, I don't mean it is realistic (but it is that!). I mean it pulls no punches about how ugly things can get when one is trying to muddle their way through existence beside a God who is frustratingly huge, complicated, and hard to even approach understanding. The situations throughout this book are situations that, unfortunately, we all could end up experiencing. A rebellious teenage daughter? Affairs? People so caught up in their own lives they can't focus on others? Drug use? Difficult suitors? Rape? True friendship tested? Suffering at the hands of those who wield lots of money, power, and influence. Check...check...check.... Now, not saying that I've experienced all of this (thank God), but they are things that happen to people every single day in every single country on this planet. Jesus, come quickly!
Anyways, this story is incredible. The characters are incredible. Real people struggling with real life situations, struggling to make sense of it all in the light of a real God who supposedly loves them and has their best interests at heart. This is a Christian Contemporary novel. Sanders doesn't dance around the faith-based nature of this work, and for this I will always adore this book. You see, I'm a Christian who is rather stubborn about adhering to my faith. In fact, I work in a church with kiddos and their families directing a ministry program. I see a lot of faith based literature and in my experience, faith based fiction generally falls into one of two traps. Either it is so goofy and hokey that it is incapable of exploring real faith based situations in a way that makes sense to real people struggling in real-life situations where love and grace need to abound, or it is so focused on proving its damn point that it loses itself in theological jargon, argumentation, rhetoric, etc that the story suffers. This book bites its thumb at both of those traps. : ) I enjoy having a book that I can now point to as not only good literature, but also a good stab at theodicy and that is theologically sound. Yay! My Christmas wish for this year fulfilled.
I was hooked from the beginning. I was hooked through the middle. I was hooked right up until the last page (though those last 20ish pages made me cry twice). Sanders is a superb writer who really knows how to keep her readers reading. The storyline is engaging and contains things to which most people can relate at least to some degree. We are told there are key things that have happened and are happening in characters lives which are not revealed until most of the way through the book (sure, maybe a way to keep interest high, but it worked). Stereotypes are challenged and stretched.
Ah, but that is part of why I love this work so much! Stereotypes are challenged and stretched! Let me tell you what I mean:
- Myth: If people are Christians and believe fully in God while trusting Him, nothing bad will ever happen. Truth: time and chance happen to us all, good and bad things rain down upon the righteous and unrighteous alike. Sanders writes to the truth behind this myth.
- Myth: People who live in ghettos are thugs. Truth: some people live in ghettos are thugs, but so are some rich people. The fact is that some of those who live in ghetto circumstances have simply had life kick their teeth in, and they are only human...it is up to God to have the superpowers. ANOTHER TRUTH: God loves us all desperately, thug or not. Sanders writes to the truth behind this myth.
- Myth: if you are church leadership, you must have a perfect track record. Truth: those in church leadership are just as broken and bruised as everyone else. Sanders writes to the truth behind this myth. (heck, take me out of church leadership if we have to be perfect. Only God is perfect, and he's kind of got this whole unfair omnipotent advantage.)
Let's see, what else.....not much else, other than to say that any book that can make me cry for a legit reason (powerfully identifying with the characters), is theologically sound, wrestles with real people who have real issues, and is grammatically nearly spotless is a good book in my opinion. READ THIS BOOK!!
Oh, one last thing. Had to make sure I covered something about the writing style itself, as it is rather unique. Sanders does not stay in one persons point of view. Rather, she bounces around and writes from the POV of many characters. While this may sound disjointed, it really is not. The entire work is very coherent, consistent, and flows incredibly well. READ IT!! Tell me if it makes you cry too.
The Bugly (bad/ugly)
The only things that really bothered me in this work revolved around how characters responded to certain things...particularly Lisa. I have no bones to pick about grammar, plot flow, or any of the other things that I generally nitpick about. Rather, it bothers me how quick Lisa's relationship with her suitor flies, how non-emotional she was during the horrific scene at the end, etc. People's actions bother me here...but they bother me in real life too.
Perhaps characters blend into each other a little bit? But only a little bit, not enough to make the "Despicable Me" type minion in my brain who job is to pay attention to this issue raise a red flag.
Overall, this is one of my new top favorite books, right up there along with LOTR, anything by Dr. Seuss, and Summer of the Monkeys. It is fabulous for all of the reasons listed above. The fact that my sticky note of nit picks barely had anything on it surprised me, as I am a very picky reader. I keep sitting here, trying to think of things to flesh out the Bugly section here, and trying not to get bothered by the fact that I honestly can't think of anything.
By the way - God is right beside you during any sh** storm that comes your way. He cries, hurts, and loves with you.
Overall, I give this book a 10 out of 10 rating.
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