Monday, October 13, 2014

The Mason Jar by James Russell Lingerfelt

Clayton Fincannon (Finn) and Eden Valmont are both idealistic young adults when they meet at Pepperdine University.  Both have volunteered at orphanages across the world, both value knowledge, and have goals to further their educations in literature and art.  Despite only knowing each other for a few months, they have become inseparable and Finn is not surprised when Eden asks him to accompany her back to Colorado to visit her family.  When she disappears from the campus the following week, leaving behind a note that she does not want Finn to pursue her, he cannot understand what has gone wrong.  As readers we learn about Finn's attempt to overcome his heartbreak the same way that Eden eventually learns -- by reading the book Finn published, a sort of memoir which tells of his decade of philanthropic work in Africa, his close relationship with his aging grandfather, and his continued love for the lost Eden.  A phone call from a former roommate with news about Finn's book and an upcoming college homecoming event propel Eden into facing all she left behind all those years earlier.  While I am accustomed to stories that shift from present time to flashbacks or earlier stories, Lingerfelt's use of the memoir to give us the earlier story is unique.

I have to admit the title The Mason Jar and all those "homey, old -fashioned" connotations we have attached to those simple glass vessels is what drew me to this book. In the end, I am not sure I was satisfied with its purpose in the story.  Finn and his grandfather left letters for each other in a the simple jar, and while those letters are key to underlying themes of the story, I never felt the jar was anything but a writer's device.  And while the character Finn expresses some very valid views on helping third world countries and the benefits of micro-lending throughout the story, I saw Finn and Eden less as fictional characters in a believable love story.  Instead, I began to think I was reading a parable, allegory or moral story.  While I can't give Lingerfelt's debut novel a full 5 star, two thumbs up rating, I see a developing talent and he wisely has woven an intriguing thread of a second novel Alabama Irish into this first book.  I may be curious enough to give that a try.  I received a copy of this title form Litfuse and the publisher for my honest review.

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