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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, August 13, 2010

Hometown Girl by Michele Ashman Bell

Hometown Girl is the second book in the Butterfly Box series by Michele Ashman Bell. The first book, A Modest Proposal, introduces us to a group of friends as they begin to experience changes in their lives that pull them in different directions. Think Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants without the naughty stuff.

Hometown Girl focuses on the life of Jocelyn—an art teacher who has lost a little of her enthusiasm for life and art. Her grandmother passed away several years ago and left her house to Jocelyn. When she learns that the town’s mayor has declared her grandmother’s home a town eye-sore that needs to be fixed at all costs, Jocelyn’s friends convince her to take a leap of faith and move into the home. Jocelyn is looking for a fresh start, but she’s not really sure she has enough faith in herself to make it happen.

I enjoy the characters embodied in the “butterfly girls” and, specifically, getting to know Jocelyn better in Hometown Girl. I could relate to Jocelyn’s dilemma in moving to a new place. Starting over is never easy and circumstances certainly seemed to be stacking up against her. It was frustrating to experience through her eyes and try to understand what I would do in the same situation. Her responses were realistic and heartfelt. Jocelyn was a very well-rounded and relatable character.

On the other hand, even though the move was hard I wish everyone could find a ward like the one that greeted Jocelyn upon her move. What a beautiful example of how the gospel is supposed to work among its people. Sure, there were quirky people there, too. No ward is without them, but the way the ward members responded to each other and to Jocelyn won a place in my heart.

The romance was realistic and not overwhelming to my practical sensibilities. I'm totally in love with Jack. I didn't really know what to make of him at first, just like Jocelyn, but trying to break through his barriers and figure him out was intriguing and rewarding.

I also loved the way Jocelyn was able to find the strength to conquer her fears, past, present and imagined, to create a new life for herself. Hometown Girl offers a fun, fulfilling sense of hope for the reader.

Any sniveling complaints? Well, Michele threw in a tidbit a little more than half-way through that I found interesting and really wanted to get to the bottom of. It really propelled me into “must read” mode with this story. Sadly, it was just set up for the next books. The story of Jocelyn comes to a satisfying conclusion but there are several other aspects that the reader is left to wonder about. This is a perfectly acceptable technique when writing a series. It gives overall plot themes that pull things together very nicely. I just happen to be a little spoiled and like getting all of my information in one place at one time. Now I have to wait for the next book to find out what happens in other facets of the story. Maybe that's it: maybe I'm just impatient. Oh well.

It’s definitely best to get into this book with the knowledge that it’s part of a series. While Hometown Girl can make a satisfying stand-alone read for you, there is just enough dropped in here and there to make you curious about the back story from A Modest Proposal and just as curious about what will come next. Reading these titles really is a series commitment- you won’t be able to just dip in a toe and walk away. That’s both a good thing and a frustrating thing. Great job, Michele, pulling all of it together and making an intriguing series, but I’m still choosing to whine about having to wait for another book to get some more answers. *Sniff*

Oh, and I have to figure out how to get my hands on a moon flower bush. I love the fun little tidbits I get to learn about it books!
Be sure to pop on over to Michele’s blog and get yourself entered to win a $50 gift card- Woohoo!

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