Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Grace-filled Tuesdays (Book Club "Meeting" #4): Rings 'n Things

Well, it's Tuesday, so it's that time again: time for tome talk.  (Alliteration: always awesome, anytime.)

For those of you who haven't read Erin's Ring, I thought I'd entice you to think about reading this work of YA Catholic fiction by sharing links to a recent review by my writer/blogger friend, Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur--whom I've only met on-line, but with whom I've been corresponding for several years now.  Patrice posted her review on the book's Amazon page, and that's always so helpful; but she also posted it on her Spiritual Woman and Today's Catholic Homeschooling blogs.  I am especially thankful that she shared Erin's Ring with her homeschooling audience, under the headings of English, History, Social Studies, Reading, Grade 6, Grade 7, Grade 8, and High School.  My publisher, Cheryl Dickow at Bezalel Books, feels strongly that it would be a good addition to Catholic classrooms, and I am pleased that Patrice concurs. (Patrice was also very generous when I contacted her in 2013 with a review request for Finding Grace; if  you're up for it, you can read that review here.)  Hey, maybe clicking on links isn't really your thang.  If so, here you go--Patrice's review of Erin's Ring, copied and pasted just for you.  With artfully placed vine images before and after to separate it from the rest of the post.
Erin’s Ring

Written By: Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur - Feb• 22•15
Erin’s Ring
by Laura H. Pearl
Waterford, MI: Bezalel Books, 2014

Erin’s Ring by Laura H. Pearl is a delightful Catholic young adult novel. Molly McCormick is the new girl in Dover, New Hampshire. An 8th grader, she is the oldest of six children with one more on the way. Her father is a pilot based at Logan airport while her mother cares for their bustling brood. Theresa Grant’s parents are separated, torn apart after the death of their younger child. She lives a lonely pain-filled life. Yet, she and Molly soon become friends, bonding in a library one day.

Molly found an Claddagh ring in the dirt outside her parish Church and is eager to find out who it belonged to. She shares her quest with Theresa and with the help of a friendly librarian, begin delving into the Irish history of Dover.

Interwoven is the tale of Ann O’Brien who came to Dover from Ireland in 1827 to work at the Cocheco Mill.

This tale is great for middle-school or older girls. Even as an adult, I eagerly read it. Perfect for anyone who enjoys history and light romance. Teaches much about life in the mills for Irish immigrants and the struggle to have Catholic places of worship. A great treat!
Isn't that a kind and thoughtful review?  Now while I figure out how exactly I'm really supposed to be conducting this book club (do I assign a certain number of chapters of one of the books and then at the next meeting discuss a particular theme or plot twist?  Is that how it's done?  Or are you okay with the sort of haphazard way I've been running these meetings?), perhaps you could get yourself a copy of one or the other of my novels (or..both?  Why not!).  If you haven't read them yet, that is.

Anyway, I've decided that since I've introduced you to Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur, I'm going to take this opportunity to tell you about her debut novel, The Rose Ring--for which she used a pen name, Anne Faye.  Recently in the Catholic blogging world, there was a movement to "hashtag show us your list"--that is, to list Catholic-friendly novels that are decidedly NOT the least bit like 50 Shades of Grey--a movement which sprang to life right around the time that the movie adapted from the appalling bestselling trilogy of books came to a theater near you.  I hadn't read Faye's The Rose Ring when I made my list--but if I had, I would have added it.
If you're looking for a sweet and satisfying romance--between characters who are human and real and make mistakes, but are searching for truth and forgiveness and true love--then this book is for you.

I was sent a copy of The Rose Ring in exchange for an honest review, and when the package came in the mail I was so excited to open it and dive right into the book.  After all, the story revolves around a beautiful gold ring with a mysterious past, and a search for its original owner.  (Sound familiar?!)  And this book is part historical fiction: it goes back and forth in time--from the present day, when Julia Manning, a quiet book store employee, finds an old ring in a box that belonged to her grandmother; to the 1940's, when Elizabeth Phelps, now an elderly dementia patient, was given one just like it by a young man who left her to fight in WWII.  (I think Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur/Anne Faye and I are writing soul mates, I truly do!  And you'll have to read Erin's Ring to fully understand why I say that.)

The Rose Ring is a quick read, at 168 pages; however, don't let the length fool you.  There is so much packed into this novel: the heroism of ordinary human beings is on display, as well as the human propensity to sin that causes such agony and sadness in relationships--and these opposing sides of man's nature are handled with gentleness and dignity by the author.  But here's what you won't find in The Rose Ring: those inappropriate, overly descriptive scenes of physical intimacy that litter the pages of so many works of contemporary romantic fiction.

Faye's characters have made huge mistakes in their lives, and have lived to regret them deeply and painfully.  Both Julia and Elizabeth are tormented by their pasts and feel utterly betrayed by the men they loved and trusted. I won't tell you how Julia has been hurt, or what she ultimately chooses to do when the man who broke her heart suddenly comes back on the scene--because I don't want to spoil it for you, in case you decide to get your hands on a copy.  I won't tell you if Elizabeth's fiancé ever returned from the war, for the same reason.  But I will tell you that this wonderful novel poignantly and beautifully illustrates that no matter how unforgiveable our actions might seem, there is hope for forgiveness, redemption, and peace.  There is hope for true love--not the stuff of your typical secular romance novels, but the kind of sacrificial love that mirrors Christ's love for us. 

The Rose Ring is an inspirational romance novel--it's engaging, thought-provoking, and hope-filled.  As an added bonus, it's got that WWII-era historical fiction component that I can never resist.  And best of all, it's clean enough for your middle school-aged daughter.  In fact, the two of you could curl up on the couch and read it together.  Thumb's up on this one.

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