Jan. 8th, 2019

 When You Look At Me

I've noticed that my favorite contemporary stories tend to have characters with great pain in their lives. Perhaps a few secrets hidden off to the side, too. I believe it's because they call out to me in the pain I have known, in the heartbreak and loss and things you can't just say out loud in front of everyone. In stories like this, it's the vulnerability and the hope that dares to shine through that gives me joy and leaves my heart feeling stronger for having spent time with these fictional people.

"It's the ones with the bruises and scars that have the most amazing potential for greatness."
Seven months previously Julia was the victim of date rape and is now preparing for the arrival of a baby who was the result of the attack. Her friends have mostly retreated, unsure of how to relate to Julia as a single mom and even doubting her claims on the baby's parentage. Thankfully she has a large and loving family to support her, and she keeps her days full with running her bakery and getting her great-aunt's home ready to sell.

"...Sometimes God uses what we least expect to bring us what we need the most."
Henry traveled to Appalachia to hear local flavor as he prepares to compose the score for an upcoming movie. This quiet British fellow is rather knocked off his feet by the loud and friendly country folk he meets - as well as the kind and gentle pregnant woman from whom he is renting a room. While his high society mother has always chided Henry for being an introvert, when he's around Julia they find deep ways to communicate, including through their shared love of music.

Julia's heart has been badly wounded, she carries haunting memories that make her hesitate at even the thought of a relationship, and she is dealing with the challenges of single motherhood. It doesn't seem like the right time to become romantically involved, yet there's something about Henry that draws her. Could God bring something beautiful out of the shattered pieces of her heart?

I loved how gently this novel dealt with several different heart-wrenching issues. Things like going to counseling were portrayed in a positive light. There is a whole cast of colorful side characters, but it's the soft hues of gentleness emanating from Julia and Henry that truly light up the story. This novel is a gem and proves that the best things in life are never easy, but God makes a way through rough paths, even if the destination is not what we ever expected.

Running along the deep emotional themes is a historic mystery in need of solving, and the most adorable meet cute I've ever read. There's lots to love here!



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