As a divorced mother of one young adult daughter, and as a Christian, Jenna has never felt like she could "serve" with abandon in her church. It was as though the past were ever clinging to her, and she wielded a neon sign above her forehead displaying the fact that, yes, she was a believer, and yes, she was the unwilling party to a divorce. The fact that her family pretty much disowned Jenna after the breakup never helped this single mom overcome this stigma of shameful silence. But after her brother's injury and subsequent sentence to a wheelchair, Jenna put aside all personal grievances and moved to Dallas to be close at hand and help out. Her sister-in-law, Sue, was grateful, and the two women grew intimate --- exactly what each needed.
So when the offer was made for Jenna to travel to Venice, Italy, to cook for a small group of men on a spiritual retreat, Jenna's first thought ran to Sue. Who better than Sue to share an adventure with? Who better to invite away for a short space of healing, closure and new beginnings? Setting aside any traveling trepidations, they are ready for God to bring some new revelations to their smarting souls.
Arriving in Venice, Jenna and Sue are alternately surprised and delighted by the warmness of the Italian culture and their gracious hosts. The city itself, ancient and full of history, invites both women to drink in the atmosphere, the food and the beauty, and look beyond their previously smallish worlds. As Jenna and Sue learn to make the rounds of buying, preparing and serving the missionary men, they discover connections from years' past that will alter their future. For all concerned, this brief pause in their schedules ushers in God's renewal of strength and purpose and helps them all to realign their once-dim spiritual markers.
Though their time is short, each moment seems filled with explosive bits of emotion and poignancy. These women find a way to counter all the pain of the past as they divulge feelings and hurts and reach out in fresh ways. Observing their emotional journey is a singular joy in itself as the writer demonstrates how God can and does work for his children's best, over the balance of time. Looking back, both characters see the faithfulness of God at work in their pasts, and this alone brings them fortitude to face current challenges with hope and perseverance. Much like life, this
As always, author Robin Jones Gunn knows how to communicate just the right amount of balance between fun-loving and soul-searching dialogue among her characters. Readers will especially enjoy the brief yet accurate glimpses into the history of Venice and its people.
Reviewed by Michelle Howe on May 1, 2006