Thursday, July 7, 2016

An Open Book: Sunflowers in a Hurricane

I haven't been doing a whole lot of blogging lately (which you may or may not have noticed, depending on how often you stop by this little old blog of mine); but a bookworm's got to talk books.  She's just got to.  And what better way to do that than to link up with Carolyn Astfalk et. al. for An Open Book discussion?
So books...books.  Let's see, what have I read lately?  Hmmm...

I did finish this one (at 30,000 feet, because that's where I spend half my life).  I had started it back before the June link-up and mentioned it there, because I thought it was going to be amazing; but I didn't end up enjoying it as much as I thought I would.
I loved the WWII-era parts of this novel that goes back and forth in time between the 1940's and the present, the well-rounded and very believable characters, and the engaging writing style of this talented author.  I didn't like the way-too-detailed descriptions of intimate scenes--that always ends up turning me off.  And there is one particularly disturbing scene involving a sexual assault.  So I can't in good conscience give this book a big thumb's up.  But I admit that it kept me turning the pages, because I had to see how it all turned out.

So I did read that one book.  But aside from not blogging much in recent weeks, I haven't been reading much either.  I have a list of books as long as my arm that I'd like to get to (Anne of Green Gables--how in the world did I grow up without ever having read that one, even once?  I started it while out visiting our oldest son's family earlier in the summer, and after sampling 40 pages of my daughter-in-law's copy, I knew I needed to get my hands on that whole series of novels by Lucy Maud Montgomery, which I have no doubt are destined to end up on my "favorite books of all time" list); but the list of those I've actually read is very short.


There is one book that I'd like to tell you about, a wholesome work of Catholic fiction that I think you'll really enjoy.  Although it has only recently appeared in print, I had the rare privilege of reading it months ago, while it was still in manuscript form, and giving feedback to the author (who has become an online friend of mine over the past few years).  Here is the Amazon review I wrote for that recently published novel:

I was honored to receive a pre-publication copy of Anne Faye’s latest novel, Sunflowers in a Hurricane.  Having read—and very much enjoyed---The Rose Ring, I was quite excited to read the latest offering by this talented author of Catholic women’s fiction.  Sunflowers in a Hurricane is a short novel, at about 50,000 words; but it is by no means short on substance.  If you are able to clear your calendar for an afternoon, you could devour it in one sitting—which is exactly what I did!  I dare say you won’t be able to put it down once you start it.
There's my endorsement on the cover!
As I was reading along, I could clearly picture every scene of this sweet and uplifting novel, and the thought occurred to me more than once that it would make an excellent Hallmark channel movie.  Faye has woven a compelling tale here, with engaging characters whose flaws and struggles are so painfully real that any reader can relate to them.

George is an elderly gentleman who still misses the beloved wife he lost tragically during childbirth when they were both very young.  Long ago, he was also forced to make a decision no one should ever have to make, and he’s had to live with the consequences of that heart-rending decision every day since.  Cheryl is a bitter single mother who has been raising a teenage daughter on her own, far from the town where she grew up.  When her estranged mother dies, Cheryl returns to her hometown to take care of her mother’s affairs and is ultimately forced to confront her own mistake-filled past.  Cheryl’s daughter Ruth is a confused and mildly rebellious thirteen-year-old who didn’t want to move away from the only home she’d ever known, has never met her father, and can’t understand why her mother won’t allow her to even talk to boys.  She develops her first crush, and becomes intrigued by her late grandmother’s kindly next-door-neighbor, George.

George and Ruth develop an unlikely friendship, which leads to some wonderful developments—not only for the two of them, but for other characters in the story as well.

The writer’s tools of first person point of view and time shifting are deftly employed by Faye in this novel.  Each chapter is told from the first person perspective of one of the three main characters, so the reader is able to really get inside the heads of George, Cheryl, and Ruth and see what makes them tick.  Aside from changing speakers, the story also bounces back and forth in time, from 1935, to 1972, to 1986, and back to 1935 again, which allows the reader to experience all the events that drive the plot right along with the characters who are experiencing them.

While Sunflowers in a Hurricane clearly illustrates the sad reality that life here on earth is filled with trials and tribulations, with loneliness and sadness, with tragedies and tough choices, it is ultimately a story about faith, hope, and love. It is a story about sin, yes, but also redemption.  It is a story about the healing power of forgiveness.  As a Catholic, I was especially touched by the way George’s deep faith—his daily Mass routine, for instance—influences his young friend.  But a reader of any faith should appreciate the positive messages conveyed in this book.

In a nutshell, Sunflowers in a Hurricane is a wholesome and inspiring novel, one that I highly recommend for teens and adults alike.

Okay, that's it for me.  Now head on over to the An Open Book link-up, to find out which books everyone's noses are in this summer (and maybe discover your next great beach read!).


  1. Argh you've left me hanging, I want to know what decision it was that George made....

  2. I finished Sunflowers in a Hurricane this summer and couldn't agree more! It was a delightful and insightful quick read.

  3. I enjoyed Sunflowers in a Hurricane as well! And Anne of Green Gables - somehow I've never read it either, but for the last few weeks I've been driving around with the audiobook version in my car thinking that I'd listen to it with the kids. Must get to that! Thanks for linking up!

  4. This is going on my list to read!