The Way of Letting Go (review)

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The Way of Letting Go: One Woman's Walk toward ForgivenessThe Way of Letting Go: One Woman’s Walk toward Forgiveness by Wilma Derksen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The abduction of their 13-year-old daughter in November off 1984 shunted Winnipeg residents Cliff and Wilma Derksen onto an unfamiliar and horror-strewn track. The discovery of her body seven months later, bound and frozen, provided closure on one level. She had been murdered. She was never coming home. But that day opened a Pandora’s box of feelings, reactions, learnings, and conclusions about how to deal with the unthinkable crime of the murder of their child. Early on, the Derksens declared their decision to forgive.

In The Way of Letting Go, published in 2017, 32 years after the crime, Wilma Derksen describes what forgiveness has entailed for her. Drawing inspiration from “the Nazarene” and the Sermon on the Mount she tells (in chapters titled, for example: “Letting Go of the Happy Ending,” “Letting Go of Fear,” “Letting Go of my Ego” etc.) incidents that triggered realizations of what she was hanging onto and needed to release. She also analyzes the spiritual and practical implications of these relinquishments.

The triggering incidents she tells help us to put together the Derksen’s story in a puzzle piece way. We also get glimpses of what it was like to be in the spotlight of the victim and involved with the police and justice system of Canada.

The Way of Letting Go not only tells a riveting story but also challenges us to consider (when we’ve been wronged) the difficult, complicated, repetitious (“Seventy times seven”) response of forgiveness. Highly recommended.

This book is part of my own Kindle collection.

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Road to Nowhere (review)

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Road to NowhereRoad to Nowhere by Paul Robertson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Literary, contemporary murder mystery.


Plot in brief:
A proposed highway connecting tony Gold Valley to petrified Wardsville galvanizes Jefferson County residents and has everyone taking sides for and against. Who’s really behind it? How will it impact Wardsville’s quaint image and quainter businesses? Will the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors actually pass it? And who is so determined to have his way, he’s killing people to get it? The board will make their final decision at their December meeting. The telling begins in January.

My favorite thing about the book:
I love the way Robertson tells the story—through the points of view of the six individuals on the Board of Supervisors. I found it a challenging read at first as I jumped from one head to another without even any extra space left in the text to indicate a move. But very quickly I got used to it and really enjoyed the challenge of figuring out through whose eyes I was seeing things moment to moment. The characterization is outstanding.

I also enjoyed the writing, which is funny, observant, clever, and seasoned with generous amounts of homey wisdom. Here’s Wade’s impression of the coffee Rose Esterhouse serves Wade on his visit to the home of board chairman Joe Esterhouse:

“He held the cup up close to his mouth and inhaled enough to get a few drops of the coffee itself.

“He’d had straight-up horseradish that wasn’t this bitter.

“He tried an actual sip. After a cup of this stuff, he’d be out there plowing fields himself, probably with his bare hands. … Taste was not the point—this coffee was kick in the pants to get a person out the door to work” – p. 60 – Kindle Location 407.

Evil, truth, community, relationships (we watch some beautiful interactions between hairdresser Louise and her husband Byron, insurance salesman Randy and his wife Sue-Anne, and farmer Joe and his wife Rose).

Who will enjoy this book:
Observers of human nature as well as readers who enjoy a well-constructed murder mystery. The portrayal of characters is as big a part of this story as the mystery plot. Some call it slow-moving. It may be that but it’s wonderfully insightful. I loved it!

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Trouble In Store (review)

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Trouble in StoreTrouble in Store by Carol Cox

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Melanie Ross is sacked from her job as a governess in Ohio, she decides to take the most appealing option available. She will move to Arizona to collect the belongings of her only relative, deceased cousin George Ross. Maybe her cousin’s friend, Alvin Nelson, will have work for her in the Cedar Ridge Mercantile that he and George owned.

However, when she arrives in Cedar Ridge, she discovers that Alvin has died too. Now his nephew Caleb Nelson, who claims to have inherited the store, feels quite capable of running it by himself, thank you very much!

But Melanie won’t be disposed of easily. She is sure that George meant for her to inherit his share of the business. With experience in shop-keeping and entrepreneurial instinct she is soon making changes in the Cedar Ridge Mercantile that bring in customers, even though Caleb tries more than one ploy to get rid of her.

A string of unwelcome marriage proposals for Melanie along with threatening notes, a dead body on the doorstep, rumors and suspicion concerning the Mercantile and its past and present owners kept me turning pages of this Carol Cox-authored novel even though some of the plot elements didn’t seem realistic. For example, why don’t Caleb and Melanie make more of the threatening notes found in the store? Instead of telling the marshal, they just destroy them. And why don’t they report a mysterious nighttime Mercantile intruder instead of shoving the incident aside as if it hasn’t happened?

Main character Melanie is a feisty, positive, warm though somewhat short-tempered heroine whose courage in the face of a lonely life won my sympathy. Perhaps predictably, widower Caleb and his small son Levi grow increasingly more likeable as the story progresses. I only wish Melanie had shown more warmth toward little Levi. She is quite critical of him, mostly correcting, nudging, and giving him looks—but then, she is a former governess.

Both main characters have a Christian faith. This faith anchors and guides them through hard times and pervades the book, though subtly.

An aspect of the writing I especially enjoyed was the author’s description of the Arizona landscape. Cox is obviously familiar with and loves the setting. Here is Melanie’s first impression of Cedar Ridge:

“Beyond the edge of town lay a vast landscape dotted with the sprawling cedars that must have given the town its name. Farther out, a line of trees bearing darker foliage meandered o(ff ) in an undulating line. And behind those trees hung a backdrop of tawny hills. Some of the pale brown slopes were adorned with more cedars, while others, streaked with pinkish layers, rose up in sheer cli(ff)s surmounted by a ridge of barren rocks. The e(ff)ect was absolutely breathtaking” – Kindle Location 859 (brackets indicate the missing ‘f’s in my review copy Kindle edition).

All in all, Trouble In Store is an entertaining Americana historical with elements of the wild west, mystery, suspense, romance and even a little slapstick—a good choice for a light summer diversion.

I got this book as a gift from publisher Bethany House for the purpose of writing a review. However, the NetGalley ebook version I received was full of typos. It seemed every ‘ff’ and often adjoining letters were missing from words. This led to a lot of guess-work and a bumpy reading experience.

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