WEDDING RING by Emilie Richards is a story that is in essence a
tribute to the strength of women, the importance of family and the
desire to keep family traditions. The title refers to the name of
one of the many quilts that have been created by Helen Henry, the
matriarch of a family that is slowly drifting apart due to
generation gaps and misunderstandings among the three women.
But the main reason for the family problems could be attributed to
the untimely death of the youngest member of the family, a death
that had occurred three years earlier. Tessa MacCrae lost her only
child Kayley to a drunk driver three years ago. Kayley was only
five. Not only has the death put a strain on her marriage, it has
also forced Tessa to shut down her emotions completely, not
allowing anyone to see that she is hurt by the death of her
daughter. She tries her best to erase any evidence that her
daughter had existed, to the dismay of everyone around her.
As the novel opens, Tessa and her mother Nancy are trying to gain
entry into Helen's home in Toms Brook, Virginia, in the heart of
the Shenandoah Valley. And it is not a pretty sight. It is hot and
humid outside, and Helen is doing her best to deter her daughter
and granddaughter from coming in the house. She throws things out
her window, such as pieces of clothing, in the hopes that she can
scare her family away. Helen fears they are coming to take her
away, and she refuses to leave her family home.
What Tessa finds, and Nancy has already feared, is that Helen is
now living the life of a pack rat, and it is a classic case. There
is no room in the house for anyone to walk, let alone live. It is
literally a fire hazard. Rodents and insects live with Helen.
Stacks of newspapers and boxes and all sorts of other things fill
each room from floor to ceiling, and it's now up to Nancy and Tessa
to clean the place up and determine whether Helen can live on her
own. Nancy and Tessa's mission is to spend the summer months with
Helen, while helping to clean up the house and decide at the end of
the summer whether to let Helen stay on her own or move her to a
While the three women are living together and getting the house
slowly back into shape, Tessa finds quilts that were stored away.
She never had an interest in the quilts, but Nancy and Helen know
that there is a story behind each one. As they look at each quilt,
the stories of their past come rushing out. Helen bares her soul
(an act that this crotchety old woman has never done before) and
tells the other two women the story of her childhood, the poverty
that was her life, and the love of her life that was her husband,
Fate Henry. In turn, Nancy talks about her childhood, her hatred of
being poor and wishing she could be swept away by a wealthy
gentleman, which indeed did happen, by her husband Billy. Her
story, like her mother's, was not a fairy tale but one of struggle
and hardship. Through these stories, each woman gains an
understanding of her own mother, bringing the three of them closer
While Tessa learns the story of her mother and grandmother, she
herself must deal with her own tragedy and repair the marriage that
she is about to lose. When her husband Mack informs her that the
man who killed their daughter, Robert Owens, has been let out of
jail early for good behavior, Tessa goes into a rage and decides to
take the law into her own hands. This behavior helps to drive the
two even further apart, as their marriage is already on shaky
ground. Mack's involvement with a support group has introduced to
him a younger woman who he has discovered feelings for, and Tessa
finds herself pushing away from Mack, no matter how much he begs
her to stay.
WEDDING RING is the first of a trilogy of books based on life in
the poverty-stricken Shenandoah Valley. The Shenandoah Album
trilogy is off to a great start with this novel, filled with richly
drawn characters and stories that will warm the heart. If this book
is any indication, the next two installments will be winners.
WEDDING RING comes highly recommended.
Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton (Ratmammy@lofton.org) on January 24, 2011