I’ve been driving for years and years (just how many will remain a secret), and I actually learned to drive on an old stick shift farm truck without any of the gears marked, very different than driving a comfortable mini-van or sedan with a backup camera and all the newest gadgets. But both of these experiences would be totally different than driving a semi-truck loaded to its limits. These unique forms of driving draw a strong analogy between the steps and methods of writing fiction versus nonfiction. Knowing that nonfiction has the background of facts and truth (let’s hope), I can understand how two authors can work together to present those facts to a reading audience. Perhaps one does more of the research and outlining, while the other puts the ideas into organized, readable prose. However, I have never been able to understand how two authors can collaborate to write one complete story, and actually you don’t see that happening too often. I did read about two Christian authors who alternated writing chapters once they had the main characters decided upon. The resulting book was a surprise for both of them. I’m not sure how Sheila Walsh and Cindy Martinusen-Coloma divided their writing tasks when compiling Sweet Sanctuary, but the result is a warm contemporary story that will appeal to fans of Karen Kingsbury and other authors of family stories. Sheila Walsh is known for being part of the Women of Faith ministry and has authored other books. Cindy Martinusen-Coloma has been writing since the late 90s and has made a name writing Christian YA novels with strong female characters. This dual effort is probably just the first of many because I could easily see the village of Cottage Cove “birthing” some additional stories and romance. In fact this story of Wren and her young, musically endowed son Charles ends with signs that more could follow.
As the story begins, Wren has settled into life at Cottage Cove in the keeper’s cottage at the old beach house her mother owns. A single mother, Wren loves her life as one of the town’s librarians, but is contemplating another move if Charles is accepted at an elite Boston music school. Very quickly four other significant crises come Wren’s way: 1. She learns that somehow her son and her ex-husband, who abandoned them when Charlie was three months old, have made contact. 2. Her 90 year old grandmother arrives unexpectedly; demanding a birthday bash which Wren’s siblings will be expected to attend – siblings that have been estranged for years. 3. The library, like libraries everywhere, is struggling with the realities of budget cuts and technological changes. How can Wren adapt? 4. The last problem? Of course, it will be romance, despite Wren's claims that she is happy in her single life.
This title offers no surprises in plot or romance; they will develop as expected. However, the side stories make time spent with this book worthwhile. Charles, who just last year was the new kid, wonders how he can become part of the larger, more popular fifth grade crowd without hurting the feelings of his first friend, a young boy with a sensory disorder (somewhat like autism). This side story adds depth and sensitivity to the whole book, as does the arrival of Wren’s 15 year old defiant, authority resenting nephew. I immediately loved Charles and could sense the strong parent-child bond there, but it was also so clear how easily a young child can come under negative influences without a parent recognizing it. Sweet Sanctuary could be dismissed as a light, fast read, but you really should stop along the way and consider the consequences that silence, guilt, and secrets caused in this story. Walsh and Martinusen-Coloma would want you to, at the same time you witness the great power of forgiveness, change, and new beginnings.
I received a digital advanced copy of this book, but I was not required or expected to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed are my own.