The House on Malcolm Street
The blare of a train whistle strikes terror into Leah Breckenridge’s heart, and has done so since she was a little girl. Nightmares of trains bearing down on her have plagued her for as long as she can remember. Even more so since a train took the life of her beloved husband, John, leaving her with a baby son and a six-year old daughter, Eliza. But much too soon, the little trio becomes two as her baby boy loses his life to the influenza.
In the autumn of 1920, Leah is penniless and unable to find work in Missouri. She decides to accept an offer from her late husband’s Aunt Marigold, who runs a boarding house in Illinois. But in order to reach the house on Malcolm Street, she must take the train. The thought fills her with fear, but it’s a better choice than contacting her unloving, mean-spirited father, who always prefers the company of the bottle to that of his wife and daughter.
Leah misses her mother, who journeyed to heaven even before John and the baby. Now it’s just her and Eliza, heading to an unfamiliar place to live with a woman she’s never met. Not long ago, she was a happy wife and mother, living a comfortable life and getting ready to move into their first house. But the train, the evil metal monster that belches steam and screeches like a demon, changes all that. And then there’s God, who simply watches and does nothing to help her. Eliza loves and trusts the Lord with all her heart, despite the loss of her daddy and baby brother. But how can Leah share in her little girl’s faith when God has let her down time and again? Will this trip to Illinois be the lovely adventure Eliza believes it will be, or just another in a series of painful disappointments?
Josiah lives with a burden that bears down on him day after day. With help from Marigold, he found salvation, but he still can’t completely give his biggest burden over to God. He’s comfortable living in the older woman’s boarding house, helping her with chores and going to his railroad job each day…until another broken spirit comes to live in the house. Leah and her little girl are the last thing Josiah needs. Something about the woman brings his own guilt to the forefront and a bit of suspicion along with it. This Leah better not be trying to pull anything over on sweet old Marigold. Josiah soon realizes that Leah’s intentions are sincere, and she is a great help to Marigold, but he still wants nothing to do with her. Marigold, however, believes Josiah and Leah could have a lot to offer each other, if they would let God break through the walls they have put up around their hearts.
Determined to steer clear of each other, Josiah and Leah find themselves thrown together time and again as they strive to help Marigold and some friends in need. As each faces the fears and heartbreaks of their past, they realize they can learn to trust God and open their hearts again.
Leisha Kelly is the author of several bestselling works of historical fiction, including EMMA’S GIFT, JULIA’S HOPE and KATIE’S DREAM. Here, she has written a sweet story with likable characters and a setting as comfortable as a rocking chair. Its Christian messages won’t be missed, as the book is chock full of scripture and faith-related conflicts. At times there was too much introspection and too little dialogue or action, but still it moved at a nice pace and kept the reader involved.
Reviewed by Susan Miura on September 1, 2010