by Nancy Anderson, Lael Littke, and Carroll Hofeling Moriss
I’ve been reading LDS fiction for a long time; at least since I joined the church in the 1970s. The novels of Shirley Sealey were my first introduction to Mormon fiction. Although I loved them at them time, I can certainly see how far the genre has come in the past thirty years. Stories are more complex, situations more realistic, and the authors themselves work hard to hone their craft and bring us novels we can be proud to say we read.
Although I have loved many of the novels I’ve read along the way, I’ve begun to feel more recently that many of the books are no longer about me—often about younger women still looking for their eternal mate. I enjoy those stories, just as I like the crop of mystery, historical, and even fantasy I’ve read recently.
When I agreed to do this review as part of a blog tour, I had no idea that I would be in for such a treat. Surprise Packages was indeed my surprise. With characters that are older—although the photo on the front cover still depict women that are not as old as the ones I see in the story—at last, a Mormon women’s novel that speaks to me.
Characters Juneau, Willadene, and Erin—three women who met fifteen years ago at Education Week—were first introduced in Almost Sisters, supported each other in Three Tickets to Peoria, and remain supportive to each other despite the miles of difference here in book three of The Company of Good Women trilogy.
I wish I’d known about the series with enough time to read all three because there were times in my reading that I realized I didn’t know a character or her history well enough to feel supported in the reading, but overall, I enjoyed this novel and shared so much in common with its characters.
One part that especially spoke to me was in chapter eight, when Erin takes a serious fall. She had the felling she should make the climb (just I like I had a feeling about moving my foot to hit that rock), and her question rang true to me: “How are we supposed to tell which of the fleeting feeling and random thoughts we have every day are worth paying attention to?” Like Erin, I’d be more likely to respond in the right way if I could see a neon sign. But the Lord doesn’t work that way, and that message is easier to take when delivered through the pages of a well-written novel like Surprise Packages.
Told through three unique voices, each woman has a story that is interesting and filled with challenge. Willadene—known as Deenie—has recently moved to Florida and wonders if the move to a new place should also be a call for her to improve herself; Juneau’s feeling of guilt must be faced when a childhood secret resurfaces; and Erin takes another chance with love—with unexpected results.
Although not always together, these women keep in close contact, giving support whenever needed, and wondering how they will have changed from their first meeting to now when they reunite.
I’ll admit that time got away from me and I haven’t finished the novel yet, but the first half has been so good that I know I will, maybe yet today. In the meantime, I’m posting my blog tour entry on time and waiting for answers to some interview questions I sent the authors. Check back in sometime this next week as I may have more to share with you about the book or its authors. In the meantime, I’m outta here—time to go read a few more chapters on a lazy Sunday afternoon.