June 12, 2013

Fresh from the Bookshelf~ When Mockingbirds Sing

I am eager to share with you my latest book review for the book When Mockingbirds Sing by Billy Coffey. Let me start off by admitting that the summary on the back of the book did not make me eager to read the book. It didn’t seem like my style---but I decided to step out of the box and give it a go.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson press as part of the BookSneeze book review bloggers program. All opinions expressed are my own and I was not required to write a positive review. 

One of the first things that intrigued me was the way the chapters were titled. It wasn’t “chapter one” but rather “Saturday: Seven Days before the Carnival”. Without even reading a word of the story, I was immediately sucked in! I started asking myself “What carnival?” And then I started speculating that something must happen at a carnival and eagerly sought references to it from then on as I read. I think this was a genius move by the author and one I’ve never seen before.

The first sentence of the story is ripe with premonition…
"In those long days between the town’s death and its rebirth, everyone had a story of how the magic came to Leah Norcross." (p.1, Coffey)
And from that sentence I decided that this looming carnival must be related to the town’s death and jumped into the story with both feet.

I would best liken the plot of the story to an onion. As the story plays out, more and more layers are shown until you finally get to the climax and then you realize how everything comes together—and yes, as you peel it there will be tears!

The primary plot focuses on the character of Leah Norcross. Leah is a troubled introverted girl with a very strong stutter. As the story opens we meet her father (a psychologist) and mother who have their own marriage demons they are battling which play out in their relationship with Leah. As readers, we get pieces of this shared as we watch the event of Leah’s 9th birthday party play out.

Before the scene is over, we peel back another layer on the “onion”—the closed mindedness of the townspeople of Mattingly who don’t like people from “Away”. There are secrets in this town and they are slow to trust any newcomers.

Our next chapter begins the next day and Leah who, on an easel she received for her birthday, paints a masterpiece—a picture which seems to come alive in its depth and vibrance…something a 9 year old girl should not be able to do. When questioned, she tells her speechless parents that she painted what the Rainbow Man sang to her. Through this painting, we get introduced into another layer of the plot “onion” in the form of Barney, the man who made Leah the easel—and who wins the mega jackpot lottery because of numbers he sees in the painting Leah makes him. And from this point on the story kicks into high gear as it moves ever closer to the looming "Day of the Carnival"!

Through the course of the story we get involved in the lives of the Norcross family, Barney and Mabel Moore, Reverend “Reggie” Goggins and Allie (Leah’s new best friend). The personal faith of each one and the faith of the town of Mattingly is put to the test because of Leah and her Rainbow Man. Like the back cover says, the story makes you question “What marks the boundary between a miracle from God and the imagination of a child?”

You will be sucked into the story if you give it a chance—making predictions about where the plot is going to go—and then be shocked when it takes an unexpected twist. You will see the images in your mind because of the author’s vivid vocabulary and word pictures. And when the story is over, you might be like me and just go “wow.”

Even though When Mockingbirds Sing is considered inspirational fiction, I think that even those who aren’t hot on this genre would still enjoy it because of the richness of the plot. For those who love this genre, I highly recommend it as well as the Reading Group Guide at the back of the book. This book will definitely make you ask questions about your own faith and allow you to ask yourself about your own thoughts on truly walking by faith and not by sight—which is the underlying message of the story.

I review for BookSneeze®


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