Review

Five Miles South of Peculiar

by Angela Hunt

When three sisters and one battered-soul pastor find their lives entwined on a grand Florida estate, they begin to see themselves and each other from a new perspective. Secrets, scarred hearts and hurtful memories give way to self-discovery as each takes a journey down an unexpected path. Award-winning author Angela Hunt brings us FIVE MILES SOUTH OF PECULIAR to small town Florida, where God takes four people with broken dreams and shows them the healing power of grace and the miracles that happen when you change trajectory.

"FIVE MILES SOUTH OF PECULIAR is a beautifully written story that will grip your heart and keep you reading “just one more chapter” until the end. It’s the kind of novel I call “the whole package” because it offers everything from realistic dialogue and an engaging plot to lovely imagery and characters so real they leap from the page."

Darlene Caldwell has lived in her twin sister’s shadow since Carlene’s angelic voice was discovered when both were just children. Soon after Darlene first wowed her family and community, she began to get all the attention. Even their mother was so occupied with Darlene’s budding career; she seldom had time for Carlene and little sister Nolie. Later, when Darlene married Carlene’s ex–boyfriend, she spent her married life believing her husband’s true love would always be her twin. But Carlene had no interest in sticking around town or getting married. She headed for New York and became a Broadway star, while Darlene stayed behind to run Sycamores, the estate bestowed on them by their grandfather.

In a shrewd legal move, their grandfather had arranged for Sycamores to belong to the Caldwell family for 50 years after his death. Only six years remains before Sycamores becomes county property. This poses no problem for the theatrically and financially successful Carlene, but for Darlene and Nolie, a future without Sycamores is a frightening thing.

Darlene and Nolie have no idea that Carlene is facing her own fears about the future. The Broadway singer’s throat surgery did not achieve the expected results. After months of healing and waiting, Carlene realizes her singing days may be over. When she receives an invitation from the Mayor of Peculiar to attend a 50th birthday party for herself and her sister, she accepts, hoping for a respite from her troubles and a chance to rekindle her sister relationships. She arrives at the party, warmly welcomed by the town that considers her their claim to fame, and lovingly greeted by Nolie. While Darlene initially graces her with a smile and hug, it is soon clear that the division between them remains wide and deep.

Nolie has no issues with Carlene, having been so young when her big sister left. But Nolie is haunted by a humiliating past that keeps her firmly tied to Sycamores and Peculiar. Getting left at the altar, while the whole town looked on, was the last straw for a girl who had grown up with a slight learning disability that had eaten away at her self-confidence until it was nothing more than rubble. Her world revolves around creating beautiful hand-made aprons, tending her gardens and caring for her dogs. Until Pastor Erik Payne arrives.

Like the Caldwell sisters, Erik is struggling with broken dreams and a battered heart. His marriage went bad soon after he got the calling to ministry. Being a pastor’s wife did not bode well with Mrs. Payne, who filed for divorce. Erik loved serving the Lord as a pastor, but the church felt that a divorced pastor was a bad example for the flock. Divorced and jobless, Erik heads for Sycamores on the advice of a friend. Since the Caldwell women need a handyman, they set him up in the guesthouse, unaware that God is about to send all four of them on a life-changing journey.

FIVE MILES SOUTH OF PECULIAR is a beautifully written story that will grip your heart and keep you reading “just one more chapter” until the end. It’s the kind of novel I call “the whole package” because it offers everything from realistic dialogue and an engaging plot to lovely imagery and characters so real they leap from the page. Author Angela Hunt surely proves again that she deserves her award-winning title and spot on the New York Times Bestseller list. This is a great book to share with Christian and non-Christian friends and family.

Reviewed by Susan Miura on July 18, 2012

Five Miles South of Peculiar
by Angela Hunt