From the best-selling author of Crossing Oceans comes a heartrending yet uplifting story of friendship and redemption. On the cusp of adulthood, eighteen-year-old Penny Carson is swept off her feet by a handsome farmhand with a confident swagger. Though Trent Taylor seems like Prince Charming and offers an escape from her one-stop-sign town, Penny’s happily-ever-after lasts no longer than their breakneck courtship. Before the ink even dries on their marriage certificate, he hits her for the first time. It isn’t the last, yet the bruises that can’t be seen are the most painful of all.
When Trent is injured in a welding accident and his paycheck stops, he has no choice but to finally allow Penny to take a job cleaning houses. Here she meets two women from very different worlds who will teach her to live and laugh again, and lend her their backbones just long enough for her to find her own.
From page one, Gina Holmes reached in to my chest and gripped my heart in a vise-like grip. To say that this story moved me would be a gross understatement. Like Penny, I was ensnared by Trent’s manipulation and was equally petrified of his Jekyll and Hyde transformations. I commend Gina for not turning him in to the quintessential evil villain; instead she showed us the portrait of a flawed man–a product of his fragmented childhood–who is slave to alcoholism and anger. His fleeting moments of endearment had me clinging to the chance of a “happily ever after,” but, alas, my understanding of that concept was reformed with the shocking conclusion of this story.
Penny’s journey though abuse was never simplified or trivialized. Their is nothing simple about abusive relationships; they are as complex and convoluted as the people in them. Gina essentially performed an autopsy of this marriage to show readers the various levels of disease and the seeds of dysfunction. Like a slow moving cancer, Penny’s identity, freedom, and joy were leeched out of her life and replaced with a hopeless and seemingly meaningless existence. The first person narrative that reads as a memoir was perfectly executed and allowed readers to understand the mind of a victim. It is so easy for us on the outside to say “Just run and leave,” but Penny’s voice revealed the nuanced isolation and attachment to her abuser that I never before fully understood.
Whilst I can not call this a story that I loved (because who can love human suffering?), I can call it a story that I respect and cherish for they way that it spoke to me so profoundly. Penny could be any woman that I pass on the street or greet in the supermarket. She is a master of disguise who has perfected the art of shielding the world from her hurts. Oh that God would open our eyes to see the broken as He did with Fatimah and Callie Mae, two women who exuded Christ’s love in the most unconventional yet necessary way! Amidst the destruction Penny finds the beauty of a new life, purpose and hope through God’s never failing love and strength.
Take a bow Gina Holmes. Brava!
**Disclosure: advanced reader’s copy provided by author for review consideration**