After becoming pregnant by her abusive ex-boyfriend, 27-year-old Liz Cranmer feels trapped in a prison of shame. Now a single mother she feels like the whole town, especially her church-going parents, view her as a trashy woman with no morals. That’s not how she used to think of herself but — could they all be right? And if they think that, then what does God think of her?
Ginny Jefferies, 53, has hit a few snags of her own in life. Her husband, Stan, barely acknowledges her, her job as the town’s library director has become mundane and stagnant, and her youngest daughter is having some kind of identity crisis. Pile on the return of a former boyfriend and you have the makings of a near-midlife crisis.
Can two women figure out their chaotic, confusing lives together? And how will the men in their lives fit in their journey?
Shorter description: Two women from two different generations form an unlikely friendship to work through their life challenges together.
Beauty From Ashes is the third book in the Spencer Valley Chronicles, and I was very much anticipating it as I loved The Farmer’s Daughter and Harvesting Hope, the first two. And I loved it!
First, let me say I completely loved the relationship between Liz and Ginny. I have friends of all different generations, some older, some a decade younger than me (ugh that hurts to say though lol) and I don’t think friendship needs to be defined by whether someone is of your generation or not. I loved that they so easily became friends, helped each other through some tough moments, and had a genuine, real relationship.
That is one of my favorite things about Lisa’s writing – she has a talent for writing stories that just feel so real, conversations that could be a conversation you have with a friend or neighbor. These relationships, characters, situations, conversations don’t sound fake or weird, like they do in some books I have read. These are people who could be your neighbors, in your community, the policeman that is always friendly, the librarian who doesn’t skip a beat when asked by a child for a book about boogers, and having worked in an elementary school library, I can attest that these sort of questions do come up! And while these characters and situations are very real feeling, there is humor and levity (like the booger scene) as well.
Liz and Ginny are at two very different points in their lives – Liz is just starting her parenting journey, while Ginny’s children are all grown. But both are unsettled, at odds with where they are. Liz feels like she is no good, not a good daughter, mom, or even person. Ginny is wondering what is going on with her marriage, is lonely, and sort of in a rut. The two know each other, as they have relatives married to each other (Liz’s sister and Ginny’s son) so they were not complete strangers but they had never really hung out or talked much beyond that. Their friendship begins one afternoon in the library, when Liz as an exhausted new mother, nods off while reading. Ginny offers to help watch Liz’s new baby, Bella, and from there the two just are off and running. Helping each other, but also having fun as well – like taking an art class together.
Now, the men in their lives…
Matt McGee is the town Golden Boy, the helpful policeman, the considerate gentleman, the good neighbor and friend. Someone who always makes the right choices and does the right thing, who can be counted on in any emergency – like delivering babies on the side of the road type of emergencies. And on top of all that, charming and well..hot. Like maybe you wouldn’t mind being pulled over by him for speeding hot. But Liz is feeling like the town screw-up, and less than, and certainly not feeling good enough for the likes of Matt McGee.
Ginny’s husband Stan is the love of her life, but lately he has been wrapped up in anything but their marriage. She feels lonely and ignored, and there was one particular scene that broke my heart for poor Ginny. Things get a bit more complicated when her old boyfriend arrives back in town, looking quite fit and attractive and most of all, attentive.
Once I started reading this book, I could not put it down. There is so much more than I have mentioned, bad guys and bad situations, impulsive decisions, and of course, romance. I loved this trip back to Spencer Valley and I am looking forward to the next book in the series!
The Spencer Valley Chronicles are all available on Kindle until June 30th, and I highly recommend them all!