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This was just the sort of book I needed: fluffy yet meaningful, silly yet sweet, and full of drama that took me away from the drama in my own life.
This is a very . . . busy book. There are three main characters, all of whom have their own lives to live and storylines unique from each other. They're all brought together, in a roundabout way, by a church fire from before the start of the book that stole huge chunks of each of their lives: Lydia's husband, Jess' aunt who raised her, and Liz's church community. It was very interesting to watch them all pick up the pieces, struggling in different ways as they each began to heal and move forward from the tragedy.
But to be honest, I wish the focus had stayed on grieving and moving on and all that sort of stuff. As it went along, other storylines began to be thrown in that I didn't find nearly as interesting. Each woman gets a love interest of sorts, and of varying seriousness. I thought Lydia's potential connection with her neighbor, a very nice single man, was nice. It's not given much attention, and for good reason–she's still processing through her husband's death from the fire. I appreciated that a door was opened for her in the future, but that things were pushed so quickly that Lydia would have seemed callous about her first husband. As for Jess, hers was definitely my second favorite of the three romantic storylines. I liked Derek, Jess's childhood best friend who moves back to Sugarcreek and wants to strike up the same easy friendship they used to have. The cynical side of me thinks that he's a little too perfect, and that Jess sure gets flushed and self-conscious an awful lot around him for an old childhood friendship, and that if they were really so perfect for each other they would have figured this out long before they got to their mid-thirties. But, hey, why be critical when you can enjoy yourself instead? If I let myself ignore those things, then I can see Jess and Derek's rekindled relationship for what it is: a sweet love story about childhood best friends who were always meant for each other.
As for the third romantic storyline, I have to say that I didn't much like Liz's. Her love interest, Daniel, is just as pseudo-perfect as Derek but doesn't have a sweet backstory to excuse away that fact. He's the repairman who agrees to fix Liz's kitchen ceiling (because apparently this woman is so helpless without a man in her life that she didn't notice the ceiling was literally about to collapse? Huh?). They strike up a friendship, pour their hearts out to each other over plaster of paris, and proceed to go through a dramatic series of "will they or won't they" that was too much for my stomach. I wound up flipping through a lot of their scenes, because they just felt forced and didn't interest me the way the rest of the book did.
Oh, and I can't discuss this much but the book also includes some interesting themes about both gender roles in marriage and childhood sexual assault. I'm not sure that I exactly agree with how the former was addressed, but I thought the latter was handled very delicately.
Anyway, this is getting rather long so I'll wrap it up. If you're interested, the publisher also sent me the link to some goodies related to the book that you can check out. Here they are:
· Random Acts of Kindness Cards
· Amish Friendship Bread Recipe
· Lemon Bars Recipe
· Shepherd’s Pie Recipe
· White Chocolate Chex Crunch Recipe
· Blank Recipe Card
· Blog Post
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.