THE SILVER SUITCASE, Terrie Todd's first novel, was a finalist in the 2011 and 2012 Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest. Many of us may have read shorter pieces by this Canadian author, as she has written several pieces for THE CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL books. I love it when I discover a new author that I am going want to return to, and Terrie Todd certainly fills the bill.
The book opens with a prologue that captured my "grandmotherly" heart. "1981 - Benita Gladstone's best friend would soon turn sixty years old. Which might not be remarkable if Benita weren't ten." Who could this be, except Benita's Gram, the lady whose has shared her home with Benita and her mother. Now that the pair finally have a place of their own, Gram's house is still where Benita feels safest and most loved. As I said, that granddaughter-grandmother bond was enough to draw me into the story. For the rest of the book, twin stories alternate. In Manitoba, late winter 2006, Benita, now married and a mother herself, is trying to cope with a rough patch of life.
Her husband has lost his job and the bills are mounting as the family tries to survive on her part time job. When her grandmother Cornelia dies, Benita, crushed by grief and anxiety, finds solace in the silver suitcase her grandmother has left her. Inside she finds diaries dating from the 1930's when Cornie was a young teen, reeling with grief from her own mother's death. Touched by Gram's stories of growing up on an isolated farm during the Depression, Benita reads on, only to discover a secret that her Grandmother kept all the way to the grave.
The truth of that secret leads the way for Benita to find healing in her own life. Modern readers may question that Cornelia would keep this particular secret even into her senior years, that she never demanded or sought what her heart would have loved to have. But I believe her story probably happened more than we can know. It was a pain that she kept to herself and instead sought a life that served others. The epilogue depicts several strangers finding scattered pages of the diaries, reading the contents which just happen to deliver a poignant message for each reader. I've read review criticizing this ending, but I think it offers a symbolic lesson for all of us. None of us really knows the impact that our words and actions can have on others. Those of us who believe that God has a plan for our lives, we hope that something we say or do will be as powerful as Cornelia's effect on Benita and on those random strangers. Little may we realize that words or actions long forgotten or discarded may be the moments God has chosen to make memorable and significant to others. I enjoyed the Canadian setting of this novel, the spiritual transformation of the wounded and bitter Cornelia, and the touch of small miracles that ended the book. Despite my lengthy to-read list and the growing pile of books on my reading table, I will be searching for a copy of Todd's second book MAGGIE'S WAR.