At first glance, A BEAUTIFUL FALL appears to be that perennial staple of contemporary CBA fiction: the story of a successful young city woman who, in response to some emergency, temporarily returns to the small town where she grew up, only to discover her true home and the love of her life in the town she vowed she'd never see again. Thankfully, Chris Coppernoll handles this staple better than most.
Boston attorney Emma Madison is flying high from a major courtroom victory when she receives the news that her father has suffered a heart attack. Amid predictable objections from her law partners, she takes the next flight to South Carolina, where Noel, her cousin Samantha's too-good-to-be-true son, picks her up at the airport and escorts her to her father's bedside at the hospital.
What makes this especially significant for Emma --- and those she left behind in the small town of Juneberry --- is that this is her first return visit to her hometown in 12 years. For some mysterious reason, Emma had left town without explaining herself, not to her father, not to Samantha, not to her close friend Christina, and most significantly, not to her then-boyfriend Michael.
Her dread is that someone will ask why, and so she treads somewhat cautiously through her first few days back in Juneberry.
When Will Madison makes a swift recovery from his heart attack, Emma's law partners expect her to take the next flight back to Boston, but Emma has other plans --- plans that involve helping her father establish a home office for his own law practice. Helping her with the effort is Michael, the man she walked out on 12 years earlier. The former couple survives the initial awkwardness and ends up working well together in an effort to help Will recover.
Meanwhile, Emma's friends and colleagues in Boston --- in particular a fellow lawyer named Colin, whose interest is personal --- keep after her to return quickly, hinting that her standing in the legal community is in jeopardy. Ten days after she left the city, Emma returns to Boston and the life she thought she wanted.
A BEAUTIFUL FALL is truly one of those heartwarming stories that makes some readers long for a simpler way of life and a return to the small-town values that cities seem to lack. Coppernoll handles that theme in a believable way, avoiding the typical wistfulness that so often overtakes once-powerful women the moment they set foot back in their hometown. Emma maintains a measure of the woman Boston has made of her, even as she recognizes the advantages of small-town living.
Her story becomes intertwined with that of two other couples: Samantha and her husband, Jim, and Christina and her boyfriend, Bo --- Michael's brother and construction company partner. Throughout most of the book, the stories of these secondary characters fit well with the main plot, but later in the book each couple, in addition to Noel, gets their own vignette --- scenes that don't involve the main characters, don't move the story along and seem to be inserted simply to show how good God is. Coppernoll otherwise handles the faith element seamlessly and subtly.
Despite some minor incongruities and a dizzying, whirlwind wrap-up, A BEAUTIFUL FALL is a pleasant and satisfying read. Fans of contemporary Christian fiction will no doubt find this one to their liking.
Reviewed by Marcia Ford on November 13, 2011