Monday, June 8, 2020

Book Review: The Undoing of Saint Silvanus by Beth Moore

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus
Author:  Beth Moore
Publisher:  Tyndale House (2016)
480 pages
Genre:  Christian Fiction, Contemporary

Jillian Slater hasn't had any contact with her dad since she was six years old.  She and her mother found it easiest to just pretend he didn't exist.  But when she receives a voice mail from a woman who works for her grandmother telling her that her father was found dead, she feels strangely compelled to go to his private burial.  

When she arrives in New Orleans, she finds that her grandmother lives in an old church that has been converted to apartments.  She also finds that her grandmother, Olivia, had no idea she had been contacted.  Adella, the woman who has worked for her grandmother for years, took it upon herself to contact Jillian.  Olivia is cold and unemotional toward Jillian.  The situation is awkward and uncomfortable.   Jillian is not sure she is wanted there, but stays for the burial.  

After returning to California, she discovers that her live-in boyfriend is having an affair with a co-worker.  She is not sure what to do or where to go.  Going to her mother is not an option because she would try to convince her that she should do whatever it takes to stay with her boyfriend, because he is wealthy and knows all the right people.  But Jillian has had a feeling for some time that things weren't right between them.  The only place she can think to go is back to New Orleans.  She begs Adella to let her stay with her family just for a few days until she can find somewhere else to stay.  When Adella lets Olivia know that her granddaughter is back in town, Olivia insists that she stay in the empty room that once belonged to her father.  As Jillian has no other options, she agrees to stay temporarily.  Will Olivia warm up to her granddaughter?  Can Jillian get back on her feet?

This is a story of second chances and of breaking down the barriers we use to protect ourselves from hurt.  It is about the importance of having a place to belong.  It is about how we are never too old to change.

The cast of characters that lives at Saint Sans, the church converted to apartments, is a lot of fun.  David is a single man who teaches music to high school students.  He is always trying to cheer someone up and usually fixes a meal to bring everyone together.  Caryn is a medical student who spends most of her free time studying, but joins the other residents for meals and whatever else might be going on.   Mrs. Winsee has never been diagnosed with Alzheimer's or even dementia, but seems to still be living during the time her husband was alive.  She often talks to him as if he were still there.  Clementine, the cat, loves Mrs. Winsee and often curls up with her.  Olivia seems to be all business, but underneath has a tender heart.  She truly cares for all of the residents of her building.  

My favorite character is Adella, the house manager.  She comes to Saint Sans everyday, but has a husband and sons of her own.  She is hilarious and the epitome of a southern woman.  She is constantly walking a fine line between doing what she thinks is best and upsetting Olivia.  She often has trouble taming her tongue, but instantly feels regret when she has overstepped her bounds.  If you are familiar with Beth Moore, you will recognize her sense of humor in Adella.  

There is also a mystery and suspense element to the story.  Not long after Jillian arrives in New Orleans, the police inform Olivia that her son was murdered.  The autopsy revealed he had been stabbed.  On top of that, someone has been leaving creepy notes around Saint Sans.  

This was an enjoyable story and quite suspenseful in parts.  My only complaint is that it was too long.  In the acknowledgments, Beth Moore says, 

"Someone needs to pin a gold medal on Kathy Olson, my editor for this project.  Because I wrote the manuscript in edges of time over several years, I paid no attention to its length.  By the time I handed it over to Tyndale, it was a whopping 160,000 words.  It fell to Kathy to trim this baby down by tens of thousands of words, and she did so with tremendous care."

So, I guess it could have been a lot longer.  Even so, it was an enjoyable read.

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