Just Shy of Harmony. Philip Gulley. 2002. HarperCollins. 272 pages.
Sam Gardner sat on the porch the Monday after Easter.
Home to Harmony delighted me. It was a story collection with heart. There were stories that made me laugh, smile, and almost cry. Just Shy of Harmony is not a collection of stories; it is a novel set in Harmony. Readers follow this small town from Easter to Easter--the course of one year. There are essentially three or four stories:
The pastor Sam Gardner is having a crisis of faith: he no longer believes in the God he's supposed to preach about. He's realized that he has at least eight of ten signs of depression, and he finds the church much too overwhelming. And those feelings keep him from being able to pray. When he confesses to the elders of the church, they decide to take turns preaching each week. Which is good--the first few weeks--but Sam learns that not everyone has more than one (or two) good sermons in them. Will stepping back from the chaos of the church--the endless meetings, etc.--help him believe in God's goodness again?
Asa and Jessie Peacock won the lottery in Home to Harmony, but they refused to accept the money. In this novel, they struggle with their decision when EVERYTHING goes wrong all at once. If they accept the money, can they use it wisely?
Wayne Fleming has started dating Deena Morrison. But that relationship is threatened by the return of Wayne's wife, Sally. Sally thought she had a very very good reason for leaving Wayne and their kids last year. She wanted to spare them the pain of watching her die. But now she's having second thoughts about that decision, now she wants her family back. The community thinks they know everything about Sally, but what they don't know about her health, well, it surprises almost everyone. Can this community come together to help this family in need?
Dale Hinshaw feels "led" to start a Scripture egg ministry. By feeding chickens small pieces of paper with Bible verses on them, he hopes that the eggs they lay will minister to people, to shock them perhaps, into the faith. But this ministry is just a little too weird for the town to get behind and support.
While I didn't love this book--at least not as much as Home to Harmony--it was a nice read.
© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews