Sarah Loudin Thomas. A Tapestry of Secrets. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2016. See here to buy the book.
A Tapestry of Secrets is mostly set in 2008, but it occasionally is set in 1948. The settings are Virginia and West Virginia.
In 2008, there is Ella. Ella has been dating Max, a cold shark of a lawyer. But she is thinking of breaking up with Max and has other suitors: Richard, who is a local pastor, and Seth, who does not have much of a family of his own and thus hangs around Ella’s family.
Perla is Ella’s grandmother and has had a stroke. Perla’s daughter Sadie is curious about who her (Sadie’s) father is, knowing Perla’s husband is not her biological father. Perla would like to say something but is inhibited in her speech on account of her stroke. The flashbacks to 1948 concern Perla’s secret and what made her feel the guilt that she has been carrying for years.
Also in 2008, some developers are planning to tear down Richard’s church, which has nostalgic value for Ella.
I had difficulty feeling connected to any of the characters. Maybe that was because a lot was going on and not enough time was spent going into depth on aspects on their personalities. Or perhaps Sarah Loudin Thomas’ style was too indirect for my taste. In her “Acknowledgements,” for instance, she says “If I did it well, the credit is entirely vertical.” That is her way of giving glory to God for her obedience, but, after reading that, I thought “Huh?” And that reminded me: I had a similar reaction throughout my reading of the book. “Huh?”
Amazon says that this is Book 3 of The Appalachian Blessings Series. That could be my problem: In reading A Tapestry of Secrets, I was jumping into the middle of the story without really knowing the characters. Yet, in reading summaries of the previous two books, I wonder if that was the problem. The first book was set in the distant past. (But I did recognize the name Casewell in reading a review of the first book, for it occurs in the third book.) The second book focused on other characters.
The book somewhat reminded me of the movie Steel Magnolias, but not so much in terms of the plot or specific characters. A Tapestry of Secrets reminded me of Steel Magnolias in that it had characters chatting about the mundane aspects of life, as if they were of great importance. Plus, a lot is going on. Some may prefer a book that is more linear and organized; others may think that the structure in A Tapestry of Secrets is truer to real life, which often is disorganized.
My reaction to the book is rather subjective, and someone else may read this book and have a different reaction. In terms of what Thomas could have done better, two things come to mind. First, the cover of the book could have said that this was part of a series. Second, the book could have specifically identified when it was narrating Perla’s past. At first, the book did that, but just once. Clearly identifying the time and setting of each part of the book can allow confused readers, like myself, to go back and reread parts and thus gain a clearer understanding.
My initial plan was to give this book two stars, but I give it three because it did have quite a few profound theological and religious discussions. Richard talks about how the church need not fear the destruction of its building, for the building is not what is important. Ella has thoughts about how Jesus experienced stress before his death, even though he believed that God would raise him from the dead. Keith (who was involved in the development project) gives a little speech about how the church welcomed him, and that was heartwarming.
The scenes in which characters think about the past were also insightful, and they made the characters look more vulnerable and real than the narrative itself did. Here, I am not speaking about Perla’s 1948 story, but rather such scenes as the ones about how characters met and married, and what kept them together.
I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.