There is something magical about our memories of summer vacations. As a boy growing up in the '60s, Sam Tibbits loved those family excursions to Piddock Beach, Oregon, where he explored the sand and the sea. On the beach, Sam met Aubrey McCart, a local girl who became his childhood confidante and later his first kiss. Aubrey enjoyed being with Sam because she could tell him anything and he accepted her unconditionally. Her father, Walt McCart, ran a boat business in Piddock Beach and was much more interested in his oldest son, Kenneth, than his daughter. When Kenneth was killed in the Vietnam War, McCart moved the family away. One summer day Sam arrived to see Aubrey, but she was gone, and the family left no forwarding address.
Now fast-forward years later. Sam Tibbits has become the pastor of Covenant Heights Community Church in Iowa. His younger sister, Brenda, lives nearby and struggles with her teenage son, Hunter --- particularly after the death of her husband. Pastor Tibbits attends a meeting of the elders and is given a "forced" sabbatical. Sam takes the opportunity to drive with Hunter back to the vacation place of his childhood, Piddock Beach. Maybe he can find his flagging faith and his missing childhood love.
In the missing years, Aubrey marries Gary, an alcoholic who has been in and out of rehab treatment centers without permanent life change. The couple appears to be headed off on a separate trip, leaving their three children in the care of Aunt Emily. Instead, Gary checks into another rehab center and Aubrey travels alone to Piddock Beach for the memories. After checking into her cabin on the beach, Aubrey notices a familiar-looking man with a teenager who is strumming a guitar. The two childhood friends reconnect for a few days. As they revisit old haunts, Sam and Aubrey teach Hunter about life near the ocean. This restored friendship and their conversation help heal the relationship barrier between Hunter and his Uncle Sam when they each verbalize their loss of a friend and a father. But can Sam and Aubrey make peace with their lives without overstepping their moral boundaries?
Bestselling author Deborah Bedford has brought readers a sense-filled reading experience. The details of the beach life are so realistic you can practically smell the salt water and feel the sand, and almost every reader will be able to identify with and relate to the character struggles.
Beyond the romance and friendship of this novel, readers also will identify with Sam's spiritual search for a restored faith in God. During his return to Piddock Beach, Sam walks past a church and decides to enter. Without even hearing about Sam's struggles, the pastor, Solomon, provides Sam with just the right nudge for his life of faith. "You must remember," Solomon said when Sam opened the massive door to leave, "that you are not called to fix people. You are called to love them. And sometimes that is the more difficult job."
The eloquent words from Bedford will touch the senses and heart of readers no matter where they are in their own spiritual life. I found REMEMBER ME to be a valuable reading experience.
Reviewed by W. Terry Whalin on November 15, 2005