Jamie Langston Turner,
No Dark Valley
(Bethany House, 2004)

The story is about a not-so-young woman who attends her grandmother's funeral in a small southern U.S. town. Going back to this place and seeing her relatives starts a chain reaction of memories and revelations that are part of a life she's trying to forget ever existed. Actually, it's stronger than that. She hates the life she's had. At 36, she feels hard done by.

She drops her boyfriend and, though she does enjoy her job at an art gallery, she doesn't like cats, or babies. She finds herself thinking about her new next-door neighbour, but she's really very rude to him. I found her rudeness, her lack of intelligent reasoning when it came to religion and her un-Christian thoughts of everyone around her too extreme. It was more than just moodiness and unhappiness; I thought her reactions were more those of a disturbed person. It turns out that she had been through a traumatic experience that eats away at her everyday.

This book is based on a wonderful premise, and though it's got an obvious southern charm it does move too slowly for my liking. It took a long time to go through the first 99 pages and for the most part it was just background information. Throughout the book, the action takes place mainly inside the two main characters' heads. Well, it's not action exactly, but we're privy to many thoughts and plans and musings of their everyday life. Characters are introduced and described to a T in an imaginative way, but some are never heard from again and I missed the purpose of their visit.

Because I don't have the specific religious background that the author seems to be aiming at for her readers, and because Celia doesn't want to have it either, many of the hymn references that are thematic to the book were wasted on me. However, Celia is an interesting character, and Bruce, the main heartthrob, is a person I wanted to get to know. There's a wonderful bunch of dialogue in the 38th chapter, where Bruce and Celia get a chance to show their true spirits.

The main character spent one Sunday watching Pride & Prejudice three times. If you can relate to that, maybe you'll relate to this book, but mainly, I was put off by the time it took me to wade through the daily clutter of the characters' lives.

by Virginia MacIsaac
1 April 2006

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