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I'm a writer and library worker who wears many hats. I believe a good book and a good piece of chocolate are the keys to a happy life.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Heaven Scent by Rebecca Talley

Heaven Scent by Rebecca Talley is a very sweet story about a young girl’s journey toward forgiveness. It has elements of a conversion story but speaks of a specific portion of that conversion rather than an entire change of heart and seemingly miraculous resolution of everybody’s problems. I appreciated that about Heaven Scent’s message.

This tends to be a high emotion story, and I found myself feeling those emotions sometimes seemed a bit forced. Not all of us react in the same way to a set of words or events, and that presents a challenge for the author. Using just the right words to portray feeling and have it effect the reader in the manner you intend is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult skills to master. Even with the few stumbles in realism that I experienced, I think Rebecca Talley does very well for her first novel.

One example that was interesting to me was the fact that the climax of Heaven Scent came a little later than I expected. I had an idea of where the story was headed, but it wasn’t exactly found in the “middle” of the book. I suspect this happened because the author was being very careful with her set up; making sure the reader had a good grasp on the main character’s feelings and positions. It did end up working for me in the end. At first, I thought the main character was being a little over-dramatic, and wanted to kick Liza for her anger and whining. Then I remembered she was teenager and it became easier to take it in stride as the story progressed. But by the time things really started to get complicated in the story, I had come to empathize with Liza more than I was able to at the beginning. Like Liza, I eventually found myself ready to kick her dad, rather than her.

Within Heaven Scent, Liza goes through a series of changes in her life: some good, some heartbreaking, but in the process of these whirlwind changes that are out of her control, Liza still has choices. She still has to decide what her reactions will be to every challenge, and like many of us, what our heart and our mind tell us don’t always agree. Hurt and grief leave their mark on us, even when we think we’ve moved beyond something. For Liza, the changes she needs to make in order to let her pain and anger go are far from easy, many of us would do no better than she was. She built her barriers so tall and thick that it took divine intervention in order for her to find ways to tear them back down. I appreciate the fact that even at this point it was not easy for Liza. It was not an instantaneous, “Oh, well, I’d better shape up then” reaction, it was still a process of choices and growth.

Many of us will not have the same types of experiences that Liza did in order to help her overcome her difficulties, but I hope the true message the reader gets from her story is that no matter how it is accomplished there are those in heaven who are rooting for our success and doing all that is in their power to help you with your path, without taking away your agency. Heavenly Father does not expect overnight conversions and perfection from His children, he expects us to find truth and peace in our lives, and then work toward keeping them a little more each day. With that in mind Liza’s journey is very similar to each of ours. It’s worth a peek at Heaven Scent in order to just remind yourself that life is a journey we’re all trying to get through the best we can.

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