In July, I saw a promotion for the release of Bill Higgs's novel EDEN HILL and the 1950s era car on the cover caught my attention. Further investigation revealed the novel had an early 1960's setting. That was enough to hook me, and I was lucky to find a copy (just being processed) at a library in our system. It was not until I actually had the book in hand and ready to read that I learned that first time novelist Bill Higgs is the husband of Liz Curtis Higgs, one of my favorite authors of both Christian nonfiction and historical fiction!! I have actually heard Liz Curtis Higgs speak and followed her online writings for a while, so I feel like I know a bit about husband Bill. In a nutshell, it meant I was psyched to like this book, and I can honestly say that I did.
Virgil T. Osgood, like many men, has shown his love for his wife and son by being a hard worker. For him, that work is the tiny one pump gas station and garage he has run ever since coming home from the service. When his wife shows him a "romance quiz" from a magazine she's taken from local the beauty shop, Virgil doesn't even know the meaning of some of the words, but he gets the general gist -- wife Mavine is disappointed in him! Somehow he has failed to show her that he loves her. As he begins to unravel just what it is that she expects from him, life throws the couple another curve ball. A ZIPCO full service super station begins building across the street from his simple cement block station. Can Eden Hill support two gas stations? Will the community be loyal to one of their own or be tempted by the penny lower gas prices and the promise of a free coffee mug?
Immediately Mavine fears for the family's future, making Virgil even more unsure of himself. While she hints that Virgil should take some kind of stand against the new station, Virgil's long time mechanic (and sometime barber) insists that he should treat the competition with God's love and kindness, a sentiment that Virgil's preacher Rev. Caudill heartily agrees with. As for the owner of the new Zipco, readers quickly learn that Cornelius Alexander is a young husband who wants a solid future for his wife and baby, and perhaps his dream for that future may have led him to make some unwise choices.
From the movie magazines, Sunday afternoon fishing excursions, and local grocery store that also made fresh bologna sandwiches to Mavine's outrageous gelation creations, this book evokes a feeling of simpler times. Even the sketch of the old fashioned gas pump that begins each chapter tells you are in the 1960's. But the messages of family love, neighborly concern, race equality, and forgiveness of past mistakes is as up to date as any messages can be. Job well done on your first novel, Bill Higgs. I hope that both you and Liz are busy at work on your next novels.