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Book Review: “Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery” by Amanda Cox

Oh my! What a beautiful story Amanda Cox has written for her sophomore novel. It’s quite remarkable. Set over two different time periods: the present day and the years from 1965 into the 1980s, we meet three generations of Clearwater ladies: Glory Ann (or Nan), her daughter Rosemary and the latter’s daughter, Sarah. Cox weaves a compelling small town story of kept secrets, parental expectations, familial loss and forgiveness through the lives of these strong women. All so alike in many respects but also unique I warmed to each of the three for different reasons.

The three ladies lives pivot around the Old Depot Grocery which Glory Ann ran with her husband and both Rosemary and Sarah grew up working in from an early age. It serves as a physical statement of so much life shared between the three but it also served as a mechanism for the three to ‘hide’ their secrets and ‘hide away’ from the possibilities of doing something different with their lives.

It was powerful reminder of the importance of truth but also unconditional familial love that allows forgiveness and redemption. There’s also a strong side note regarding the difficulty of war vets adjusting back to normal life which I enjoyed reading too.

I appreciated how we saw quiet strength in some of the male characters too. Clarence Clearwater was a superb character demonstrating unconditional love not just to his wife and daughters but the community as well. Clay Ashby also was a beautiful illustration of a man of quiet strength, who didn’t push himself onto Sarah, giving her the time and space she needed to grieve her loss and reconcile her past and future aspirations.

Cox managed the different POVS well and I always felt confident in who’s voice I was reading and the time period each scene/chapter was set.

I’m so looking forward to Cox’s next story. She might have become a ‘must read’ author for me.

I received an early ebook copy as part of Revell Reads blogger program via NetGalley with no expectation of a favourable review.

Book Review: ‘Under the Bayou Moon’ by Valerie Fraser Luesse

This was a charming story of Ellie Fields who leaves her Alabama home to take up a solo teaching position in Bernadette, a small town situated on one of many bayous of the Atchafalaya Delta Basin in Louisiana. Ellie is a fish out of water and perhaps settles in a little too easily for someone who is new to the mixed culture of the area.

I delighted in reading the Cajun history and sampling a small element of its unique and varied culture through Ellie’s eyes. And the bayou, its sounds, smells and sights were a joy to behold. At times, Luesse took my breath away. And then there was the white alligator – the piece de resistance. Oh what a gorgeous creature and what a beautiful connection it had with Raphe who seemed to be the only human it dared to be seen by.

There is so much to like about this story and it was such an easy read even though Luesse often led us in the Cajun dialect and French as well. The plot was quite simple and as another reviewer stated, there were a number of threads that just fizzled out. The romance between Ellie and Raphe was a little unrealistic – full of sweetness but for two who came from such diverse backgrounds didn’t seem to struggle as a couple.

There were some good themes explored: racism, the clashing of multiple cultures, the hardship of poverty but the trauma both Ellie and Raphe experienced either before this story or during it were superficially handled when there was a lot more that could have been explored.

It was a good read and I’m thoroughly pleased to have spent some time Under the Bayou Moon.

I received an early ebook copy from Revell as part of their Revell Reads Program via NetGalley with no expectation of a favourable review.