At our little cabin in the northwoods we have a cabin journal in which we capture the special moments of each trip. We encourage others who visit the cabin to write in the journal, too, even the little ones. Sometimes they draw pictures. Throughout the entries there is a kind of back and forth communication, even a little campfire cooking rivalry. If someone else has been at the cabin since we were there last, both my husband and I will check the cabin journal right away after we unpack to read the latest news (which is very silly because we've usually talked to those people directly and already know the important stuff).
In The Guest Book by Marybeth Whalen, young Macy had that same eager anticipation to check the guest book of the beach cottage she and her family rented for their annual vacation. It all started the summer she was five and she, encouraged by her father, drew a picture of some shells in the guest book. The next summer she found another picture had been added by a boy who also left behind a photograph, but not his name. Over the next ten summers drawings went back and forth and a secret friendship was forged. Then when a teenager, Macy received a note that she should go to a particular pier at a certain time and they would finally meet. Instead Macy convinced her mother to leave the beach house early and that they should not return next summer.
Why didn't Macy meet her secret friend? How can an innocent childhood game still affect the now 26 year old woman? The answers to those questions are the heart of Whalen's contemporary novel. For now I will say that Macy, her mother, and her older brother all are emotionally stalled because of the father's death which happened that year when she was 15. Life has gone on, Macy has become a single mother, brother Max has "settled" into a life of partying and destructive behavior, and mom has built a shrine of memories to insulate her. A crack of change appears when mom suggests that once again the whole family travel to the same beach house for two weeks.
Then the first night at the beach, Macy, who has simply buried God with her father, prays a single prayer - that God will finally reveal who the childhood artist is. Seemingly like miracles, three possibilities appear, each interested in the adult Macy, and she in him. But a larger lesson comes with the possibility that none of them is the childhood friend -- the lesson that we all have an Artist to our lives. Do we recognize the strokes of His brush, the shape of His clay? Are we willing to accept his creation within us?
With the side stories of brother Max and mom, this is a book that offers something to more than just young romance readers (although that is still the target audience). This book was published in July and I was given an e-copy for review purposes. All opinions are my own. Secular publishers always seem to have a list of "beach reads" for the summer months. For Christian fiction readers, this title would be a good vacation read. Since it is now Labor Day weekend, I can only hope that maybe you have some late, late summer vacation time for some light, but meaningful reading. If not, perhaps you'll want to read this in the depths of January/February when you can only dream of sand beaches.
If you want to learn more about MaryBeth Whalen, her website includes a blog. I love when authors open their homes and creativity to their readers.