Book Write-Up: A Chance at Forever, by Melissa Jagears

Melissa Jagears.  A Chance at Forever.  Bethany House, 2018.  See here to buy the book.

A Chance at Forever is the third book in Melissa Jagear’s “Teaville Moral Society” series.  The series is about a moral society in Teaville, Kansas.  The society attempts to help the community.  This third book is set in the early twentieth century.

The book has familiar characters from the first two books of the series.  Nicholas Lowe, the wealthy philanthropist, is back, along with his wife Lydia.  Both are continuing their efforts to help prostitutes find a new and better life.  I have not read the second book of the series, but I can see from the description that it focused on David Kingsman and Evelyn Wisely.  They have cameos in the third book.  My impression in reading the third book is that it contained other characters whose stories were told in the second one (i.e., Caroline, Franklin, etc.).  While that led to some confusion on my part (which is my fault, for not having read the second book), the third book was still enjoyable.

One of the principal characters of the third book is Mercy McLain.  She has a deformed arm, so she depends on her brother, Timothy, and his wife, Patricia.  Timothy and Patricia run an orphanage house, under the authority of Nicholas Lowe and a board.  Timothy and Patricia have their flaws: Timothy secretly goes to the red-light district to drink and to sleep with prostitutes, and Patricia sleeps all day.  But, of course, they are on their best behavior when Nicholas Lowe is around!

Aaron Firebrook applies to teach at the orphanage, and he receives work as its gardener.  Mercy has very unpleasant memories about Aaron because he taunted and bullied her, and others children, when they were younger.  Aaron was coping at the time with abuse that he experienced.  After that time, Aaron became a Christian under the influence of a mild-mannered pastor, and he is now seeking to apologize and make restitution towards those he hurt.  One of his victims suggested that he become a teacher to protect children from bullies, and that is why he applied to teach at the orphanage.  A prominent aspect of this book is Aaron’s efforts at repentance and his attempts to address the negative consequences of his past misdeeds, including Mercy’s struggles to forgive and to trust him.  Add to this the consideration that Aaron is attracted to Mercy, and long has been.

Other events occur in this book, as well.  There is a child at the orphanage, Jimmy, who is a troublemaker, and Aaron tries to mentor him, as a former troublemaker himself.  Aaron is seeking to adopt a little boy, the son of one of the people he tormented in his youth.  The portly flour-mill owner, Henri Beauchamp, is romantically pursuing a servant at the orphanage, Caroline O’Conner, and he brings her an infant from her prostitute sister, Moira.  The orphanage is planning to conduct an auction so that a gifted little boy and his brother can make better lives for themselves, and a wealthy donor is upset when she learns that former women of ill repute work for the orphanage.

There was a lot going on in this book, but that made the book interesting rather than confusing, as the characters coped with continual challenges.  One can identify with the characters, or at least empathize with them, on some level: Aaron’s sorrow over his past sins and his efforts, sometimes unsuccessful, to change; Timothy’s unhappiness in his marriage; Patricia’s coping with her husband because at least their current job gives them a comfortable life; Mercy’s feelings of helplessness.  One character, who will be nameless in this review, looked like he would be a bad character, which was difficult for me, since he was sweet and lovable; but he turned out to be a good character.  The book got heavily into people’s conflicting thoughts and feelings, such that they seemed real.

My favorite part of the book was when Aaron and Mercy are discussing Ephesians 4:22-24, which is about putting off the old self with its deceitful practices and putting on the new self, as one is renewed.  Aaron has recently had a relapse of anger, and he is disappointed at his lack of success at putting off the old self.  Mercy tells him that the Christian life is about God creating the new self in him, as he renews his mind.  This was a little surprising, since Mercy, although she could be heroic, did not seem to be that religious earlier in the book.  Still, her advice was edifying.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  My review is honest.


About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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