Saturday, March 22, 2008

COURTING EMMA, by Sharlene MacLaren

Reviewed by Marion Kelley Bullock

It’s 1893 in Little Hickman, Kentucky. Twenty-eight-year-old Emma Browning runs a boarding house full of hooligans—six, to be exact. She’s tough and stubborn. She doesn’t want help from anybody, least of all Preacher Jon Atkins. He sells his house, donates the proceeds for building a church, and moves into the boardinghouse. Emma fears he’ll try to hammer the gospel into her and her boarders. She wants nothing to do with God. She hangs on to a lifetime of bitterness toward her father, the town drunk.

Emma has begun receiving letters from a mysterious someone who knows about her and seems to know secrets about her father’s past. At the same time, she’s flattered and a bit discomfited to receive the attentions of both Jon and Billy Wonder, a suave traveling salesman. She tries to keep her mind off the handsome preacher. Jon finds Emma lovely and fascinating. But he wants to obey the still, small voice of God. He sets out to reach the unreachables. And right alongside that desire is his desperate wanting to court Emma.
Will Emma ever forgive her father? Will she find God’s perfect plan for her life?

Ms. MacLaren’s novel is sweet, but not syrupy. Real honest-to-goodness characters with genuine emotions people its pages. They live and breathe in my mind. I feel as if I might walk down Main Street and encounter some of them. Humor, romance, and mystery team with Christ’s love to make this reading experience one you won’t want to miss.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


By Kim Vogel Sawyer

Reviewed by Marion Kelley Bullock

It’s 1886. Three Irish immigrant siblings are orphaned when their parents die in a tenement fire. Destitute and with no family in New York, they are placed in an orphanage. Eight-year-old Maelle Gallagher determines to keep her younger brother and baby sister with her, but the orphanage decides differently.

The children are placed on an orphan train and sent to Missouri to be adopted. Each child is placed with a different family, but Maelle vows to bring them together again— someday. Seventeen years later, Maelle is still searching. But her hopes and her memories have grown dim. She wonders if she’ll ever find Mattie and Molly.

Kim’s rich and tender story is based on a time in history when orphan trains really did carry homeless children from New York to new beginnings. Maelle’s experiences— some good, some bad— are interwoven with those of her brother and sister. As I read their stories, I felt their anguish, imagined their turmoil, and gloried in their triumphs. I believe you will, too.