Word travels fast at Patsy Pringle's Just As I Am beauty shop. So when a simple homeless man appears on Steve and Brenda Hansen's doorstep during a thunderstorm, the entire town is set abuzz, especially when Brenda lets him sleep on their porch. But that's not all the neighbors are talking about. Spring may be blooming outdoors, but an icy chill has settled over the Hansens' marriage. Steve is keeping late hours with clients at the country club, and the usually upbeat Brenda is feeling the absence of her husband and her college-age kids.
Relational expert Chapman rewrites his core message in fiction, teaming with
prolific Christian novelist Palmer in this first in a projected tetralogy
highlighting the concepts taught in Chapman's The Four Seasons of a Marriage.
The plot and characters evince Chapman's thesis that marriage is a journey
back and forth through different "seasons," while the neighborhood of Deep
Water Cove and little town of Tranquility, Mo., provide the settings. Five
local women start a club ("TLC") to help one another through problems in their
relationships and their community. In a squeaky-clean nod to Desperate
Housewives, a charming handyman is steaming things up with Brenda Hansen.
Meanwhile, romance is brewing for Patsy Pringle, who runs Just As I Am, a
"faith-based beauty experience." Palmer's descriptions can go over the top;
the obligatory "autumn" character "was a windblown shock of wheat, a ripe
apple hanging heavy on the tree, a mourning dove that gathered her little ones
close about her and cooed in the wind." A homeless, mentally handicapped man
gives Palmer some engaging opportunities to flesh out the other characters as
they respond to his plight. However, the novel's scenes too often conspire to
illustrate a counseling point, and the included study guide reinforces the
idea that this is self-help disguised as fiction. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed