In her author’s notes, Nancy Moser quotes a phrase that embodies the recurring theme in this inspirational story: Characters live to be noticed; people with character notice how they live. As the tale unfolds, her characters become people of character who graciously hold up a mirror for us to reflect on our own foibles. Revealing the masks we wear and the roles we play in order to protect ourselves from the judgment of others often keep us from being the real person we were created to be.
Patti McCoy, a naïve resort worker, is on trial, accused of killing her boyfriend, Brett Lerner, an arrogant opportunist who had his share of dark secrets. As Patti proclaims her innocence, a jury is empanelled, and we are introduced to four of them, each with a unique interest in the case and each with a lesson to learn about his or her own character. Each one has flaws that many of us struggle with. Among the demons of Ken Doolittle, a former golf pro, are pride, lust and fear. Deidre Kelly, the wife of a prominent pediatric surgeon, wears the mask of a perfect society wife and mother while living in fear that her past will be discovered. Abigail Buchanan is a lovely actress who, at age 77, still longs for fame and fortune. And Bobby Mann, a father of two who works three jobs to provide for his family, is filled with self-doubt and fear, and refuses to accept the faith that his wife holds out to him.
The author deftly moves among these characters and their stories while providing interaction during the jury deliberations. Each one is clearly defined and easy to follow in short, fast-moving chapters. As the secrets and character flaws of each are revealed, the themes of hope and redemption recur, sometimes offered by friends and relatives, and sometimes by the testimony of wise pastors. The mother-in-law who provides love and stability, the wife whose faith encourages and never waivers, the soft, still voice of God whispering words of hope, the son with AIDS who has been changed by God’s love, all hold up the mirror to the characters and to us. Though the Biblical message of salvation is clear, it is never contrived nor does it distract from the story.
It is exciting to discover yet another “Faithful Writer” who is talented, timely and witty without resorting to the more graphic and gritty style of fiction. I am eager to read Nancy Moser’s Sister Circle series, three books about a widow who is forced to open her Victorian home to boarders. Sounds like it will be full of possibilities!
Reviewed by Maggie Harding on January 1, 2008