Monday, April 28, 2014
Miss Brenda and the Loveladies: A Heartwarming True Story of Grace, God, and Gumption by Brenda Spahn and Irene Zutell
Inspirational nonfiction is a title easily and sometimes frivolously assigned to many memoirs, including Christian memoirs, but there is NO other way to describe Brenda Spahn's book about establishing Lovelady Center, currently the largest and most successful nonprofit transitional center for women in the US. It all began in 2002 when Brenda and her daughter were ALMOST sent to prison on a tax evasion charge (I am leaving the details to Brenda to explain when you read the book. She does a superior job of creating the drama around the charges). When case is closed, Brenda feels a big change. The trappings of money, success, designer clothes and bags no longer appeal to her. Her heart leads her to help the women of Alabama's prison system. She volunteers at work release center, sharing the gospel and praying one on one with the women. When she learns two thirds of all inmates in Alabama will return to prison within five years of release, Brenda realized that the women needed a program that would help them change their lives after release -- a place where they would find hope, direction, and faith. She clearly saw that the few that were lucky enough to be placed in half-way houses didn't do any better than those who were just released with a bus ticket back to their last address.
Bolstered with her faith that God was leading her, Brenda charges ahead and convinces the Alabama prison system to release to her seven parolees from Tutwiler, the notorious Alabama Woman's Prison.
She converts her Hob Hill mansion into a warm, inviting home, unlike any place these women have lived. But within minutes of arriving, the group led by tough, loud Shay have scared everyone, including Brenda. The supervisor, cook, and driver hired by Brenda all walk out, leaving "do-gooder" Brenda and her daughter Melinda alone with the group. A tour of the bedrooms with REAL mattresses, followed by a nerve wracking trip to Walmart for "undies" opens a slight window of opportunity. as the parolees start to settle in. As Brenda and several of the women themselves share the stories of the months that follow, readers will hopefully see God's healing hand at work. Like Brenda, perhaps we can put away our quick judgments and see these women as God's beloved children, deserving of grace and forgiveness.
Once I started Miss Brenda and the Loveladies I could not put the book down. It was more exciting and compelling than any fiction book I've read in months, and it certainly tops my list of nonfiction books for 2014. This success story (although I am sure that there continue to be women who arrive at the center who fail to turn their lives around) needs to be in the limelight. I hope a quality film producer chooses Brenda and the Loveladies as a project. As Brenda reveals her own financial and family struggles, it is clear again that God does not choose the perfect to carry out his work, nor does he lay a problem-free path ahead of his followers. Brenda Spahn and Irene Zutell, you've done a great job of telling this story, and I sincerely hope the book's success helps the foundation grow and succeed. Keep changing lives one by one. I received a copy of this book from BLOGGING FOR BOOKS for review purposes. All opinions are mine.