Friday, September 5, 2008
Review for "Surprise Packages"
I just had the pleasure of reading the latest book in the series by authors, Nancy Anderson, Lael Littke, and Carroll Hofeling Morris, called“Surprise Packages.” I’d say it’s a cross between Jan Karon’s Mitford Series, and the television series "Desperate Housewives." I have to admit that I would have been able to keep all of the people in this novel in my head better if there had been an accompanying pedigree chart. There is a large cast of characters in the story. Also part of my confusion was due to the fact that I haven’t read the first two books in the series. But when asked for reviewers, I jumped at the chance, simply because I just knew by the title and the cover that it would be a book I would enjoy. Now I have to go back and read the first two so I can catch up.
This is definitely a series for women. It’s the kind of book that makes me so grateful for the women, the “Almost Sisters” I have in my own life. I was the only girl in my family growing up, so I more than others crave relationships with other women who really understand, who accept us as we are, but who help us stretch our limits too. It’s also the kind of book that makes you want to stay in touch, through phone calls, emails, and get-togethers, whatever it takes to stay connected. Reading this book is like sitting down for tea with a cherished friend and having a great conversation.
I don’t like reviews that give away plot lines, but in this book the plot is definitely character driven. The characters are the story. They are your own neighbors, your own family members, and your own best friends. They are YOU! Juneau, Deenie, and Erin deal with marriages, death, wayward children, drug addictions, abusive situations, custody issues, faith, and just about everything else you can think of. There are no easy solutions to the challenges the women face. There are lots of subtle lessons in this book—but the one that stands out to me is that we accept and love people including our children as they are—that the only one we can change is ourselves. It’s the old mote and beam from the teachings of Jesus. One minor thread of the story that I really appreciated was Erin’s ex-husband. He's gay. The way the authors dealt with this was the way I think our Savior would want us to, with unconditional love, tolerance, and forgiveness. One of my complaints about LDS fiction is that it often paints a rosy picture of life—that if you pay your tithing, and get married in the temple, you’ll have a fairy tale life. Another complaint I have is that sometimes all the good guys are LDS and the not so good aren’t. This book doesn’t suffer from that affliction. There is a touching scene where the gay father comes to the missionary farewell of his son. If this issue is something that you don’t want to deal with, don’t worry; it’s dealt with tastefully and honestly.
The strength of this book is its authenticity. Every woman who reads this book will relate to at least one of the women in the book. And even though this book touches on some gritty issues, it certainly isn’t depressing. It’s lively and even upbeat for the most part. This book is published by Deseret Book, so you can get it anywhere LDS books are sold. You can also visit the authors' site.