Saturday, September 29, 2012

Love Finds You in Sisters, Oregon

by Melody Carlson
I have an attraction for books that mention the Pacific Northwest. Of course it helps that I happen to live in this matchlessly beautiful region, but the region’s states, particularly Washington and Oregon, are rarely mentioned on the radar of national news coverage—and generally very briefly in all the geography textbooks I’ve read or skipped over. And novels authored by people who live in my home place, or novels set in my home place, are even better. This is partially why Love Finds You In Sisters, Oregon, written by Melody Carlson and published by Summerside Press in 2009, appealed to me more of the two books a good friend let me borrow. But of course, the content has to be judged more than the cover, and the basics of this book are the characters, the plot, and the Christian message.
Melody Carlson writes in third person, and her main character is a thirty-two-year-old woman named Hope Bartolli. The point of view of Hope is used in the entirety of the book, which may or may not appeal to some people; this same method is nearly complete in the novel I am writing, though not totally, and I feel that POV switches help in determining who the supporting actors and actresses are in the play of the mind, as well as aiding from boredom. Hope’s character herself is passably well thought out: she often feels guilt for little to no reason, she is quick-tempered, and, in spite of her name, not at all hopeful. Hope’s two sisters, Faith (“Faye”) and Charity (“Cherry”) Lawson, also constitute a very large part of the book: Faye is recovering from a divorce that sent her into an insane, tongue-lashing grief; Cherry is “Little Miss Perfect” who appears to have a wonderful family, a beautiful house, et cetera. And then there’s Lewis Garson, the handsome attorney for Hope’s recently deceased grandmother Nona.
The three sisters, named after the Sisters mountains (Faith, Hope, and Charity), suffer from a less-than-thriving relationship. Faye is six years older than Hope, lived in Seattle, Washington, and just lately moved back to Sisters in hopes of a fresh start, with her son Monroe. Grieved and angered by her husband’s affair and the whole divorce process, she lashes out at Hope when her younger sister tries to help with her “rebelling” son. Cherry and Hope’s relationship has been strained at best since Hope broke up with Drew Lawson in high school, and Cherry proceeded to “steal” him, marrying him right outside of graduation. The situation grows even more awkward after loving Nona’s death: Cherry, who helped her in her later years, believes she deserves some of the enormous amount of money stowed in Nona’s bank account, even though Hope was the supposed “favorite” granddaughter. But Hope, instead, gets everything—the house, the near million-dollar fortune . . . all on the clause that she agrees to stay for a full year in Nona’s house and care for Nona’s dog, Andy. With the proceedings comes a friendship with handsome, six-foot-four, yummy-eyed Lewis Garson, who has dramatically changed from the shy “nerd” he was in high school. Unfortunately, Hope’s crush is uncertain, as she continues to see Lewis and Charity together, and wonders over their having an affair. But Lewis really isn’t the type of guy to do that . . . right? And then of course there’s Brian, her new contractor who’s working on Nona’s house. . . . Add to this Monroe’s annoyance over his mother’s craziness and Charity’s daughter Avery’s sweet wish to help her aunt (but Cherry’s catty disapproval), and Sisters becomes a sisterly feud.
And what about the Christian message of this book? There’s just something about professed Christian authoresses. A Christian romance, even a Christian romantic suspense. They are often written badly, and sometimes portray little of the faith. While I leave you to draw your opinions over how well this novel is written, I can say wholeheartedly that in reading this book you could forget God existed . . . except, of course, for the times He suddenly crops up and you remember. Hope recalls that when she was little, God was her best friend, but she got older and the relationship went south. Readers, don’t you believe that our relationship with Christ should only grow stronger as we grow older, instead of languishing? Besides this fact, she seems to come back to God, praying and “trusting” Him, and of course Jesus always welcomes a truly repentant sinner back with open arms, but there is no word or illusion about Hope’s repentance. Besides this, there are affairs and divorces left (on Faith’s side) and right (on Cherry’s side). (Of course, the affairs are certainly not condoned, and the divorces are viewed as . . . well . . . about like any lukewarm family views them. . . .) Add to that the fact that Miss Carlson seems to fully accept the cultural norm of girls living with their guys prior to marriage, and you have a “Christian” novel that doesn’t really qualify as Christian in my eyes . . . unless you put it in quotation marks, as I did.
Basically, the characters, the plot, and the faith tell the story of any book. In fact, I used pretty much the same thesis for my review on Jane Eyre. Characters are meant to be friends who can be viewed, or imagined, as real; Carlson partially accomplished that. The plot of this book, while less of a romance than others, was actually fairly good, but its resolve? Well, I’ll leave you to find that out. The faith could not be considered truly born-again Christian. Love Finds You In Sisters, Oregon is not the best book I have ever read. But is it the worst? Certainly not! If you want a book that you don’t really have to think about while you’re reading, go ahead and borrow it from somebody. But please use caution with your money; this one doesn’t appear to be worth it.


  1. Finally found this, Hannah!! Your design is perfect for fall!!

    You should think about adding a Google Freind Connect "box," as that makes it easier for people to keep connected with your posts.

    I'll definantly be a loyal follower, as books are a major part of me. :) I love the way you wrote this, it will be interesting to finally be reading some of your writing!!


    1. Thanks for the compliment on the design, although I love what Britt ended up doing to it :) I did, amazingly, figure out the GFC box. I'm horrid at figuring things out.

      I hope you've liked some of the excerpts from my book that I've posted :) I should be putting more of those up soon.

  2. I Love your review! Definatly wish more "Christian" love stories had more of a Christian message. BTW love the design too :)

    1. Thanks, Emmy! It must be extremely hard to incorporate Christian messages into books . . . in fact, I have trouble with it too. But this book had barely enough to *qualify* as Christian. It wasn't really; all it did was mention God and church a few times.


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