Monday, October 05, 2009
Jennifer Erin Valent's Cottonwood Whispers ~ Reviewed
By Jennifer Erin Valent
Published by Tyndale
“I’ve heard the dead whisper,” so begins the sequel to Jennifer Erin Valent’s award-winning debut novel, Fireflies in December. It’s 1936, and though Jessilyn Lassiter and her best friend Gemma Teague have survived prejudice and heartache in their life-long friendship, this summer threatens to tear them apart yet again. Gemma’s job with the wealthy Hadley family leads to a crush on their youngest son. But Jessilyn’s insistence that he’s no good and that no rich white man would ever truly fall for a poor black girl like Gemma puts them at odds.
Tragedy strikes when Jessilyn’s cherished neighbor girl is hit by car and killed. Things get worse when an elderly friend is falsely accused of the crime, and the only way to clearn his name is to put her family’s livelihood in jeopardy. For Jessilyn, this is a choice too hard to bear and she wonders where to turn for answer, especially when an angry mob threatens vigilante justice.
1937...a year when life was simple and carefree - or so we think? Can you imagine a time in life when you could send your kids walking to a store or to church without you? They did in 1937; Jessilyn and Gemma are best friends that have grown-up quick. Life was simple, but it wasn’t without its own racial tensions, where the rich tried to push around the poor, and a time when people thought they could take justice into their own hands.
Jessilyn says, “Daddy had told me before that sometimes the Lord lets us feel the weight of the world so we figure out how to let him carry it for us.”
I loved the innocence and truth in this story seen through the eyes of young Jessilyn who struggles to know the Lord and have the same relationship with him that her parents and Gemma have.
I was captivated once again by the likeable, fun and life like characters Jennifer Valent, creates. In this sequel, we’ve seen Jessilyn and Gemma as teenagers, both living together but separate because one is white and the other is black.
Jennifer sprinkles sweet innocent moments from childhood and living in a small town, in this story amongst important aspects of becoming a woman and finding true love. Jessilyn tries so hard to get everyone (especially Luke) to view her as a woman, not as a girl. I enjoyed how Jennifer hits this topic head on.
Jessilyn is a feisty and courageous, young white girl full of life, not afraid of telling people what she thinks, and willing to take a stand for what she believes in with her very life. I enjoyed the relationship she has with Gemma, her best friend. Jessilyn learns about growing up the hard way, when Gemma gets very upset with her for not keeping a secret - again. This time it could end their friendship. Jessilyn says this about herself, “I knew from my fingers to my toes that bad things were right around the corner. One more time I’d gone and opened my mouth when I should have kept it sewn up…bad things were in store for my family. Because there was no doubt that I’d brought ruin to us all with my loose lips.”
This sequel can be read as a stand alone story, but rest assured, you’ll want to read the first book to see what these young ones and their families went through. It’s another incredible story you wont’ soon forget. I love Jennifer’s style of writing in the first person through youthful eyes in 1937. I also liked how she tackles really hard to talk about issues. This book was entertaining, fun and down right heart-wrenching in parts. I loved the depths of emotions and issues this story took me. I will definitely want to read more of Jennifer’s books, you will too.
Reviewed by: Nora St. Laurent
Finding Hope Through Fiction