Author: Jennifer Erin Valent
Review by Grace Olson
It is with great pleasure and excitement that I review book two in the Calloway Summers series! I loved the first novel in this series, Fireflies in December, and could hardly put it down. Valent’s second novel more than lived up to my expectations, a task for which Valent had her work cut out. She did an excellent job in creating the next chapter of Jessie’s life. I could ramble on and on, but I’ll leave that for further on in the review.
Growing up is never easy, and Jessilyn Lassiter has had her share of troubles, but she has high hopes for this summer of 1936. Four years have passed since the Lassiters took on the bigotry and prejudice of their community, and Jessie is now seventeen years old, practically an adult by her estimation. Jessie hopes to get a job this summer and maybe, maybe finally attract the attention of Luke Talley, but a tragedy shakes the community and sends Jessie’s world into a tailspin. Her life is further complicated as her best friend, Gemma Teague, develops a crush on her employer’s son, a young man Jessie knows is no good. Their friendship becomes strained as Jessie voices her opposition toward the young man and Gemma seems to ignore her advice. Meanwhile, the community grieves and searches for someone to blame for the horrific accident, and an innocent old man is targeted. Once again people’s prejudices swiftly rise to the surface and the community quickly turns ugly. Will Jessie’s friendship with Gemma survive the pressures placed on it? Will justice be done, or will the community’s misconceptions cause an innocent man’s death?
Taken from the back of the book: Swept up into a grown-up world she couldn’t wait to be a part of, Jessilyn searches for answers until the actions of one man show her the beauty of sacrifice and the power of faith.
Valent had an uphill climb ahead of her in this second book of the Calloway Summers series, but she met my expectations and, in fact, exceeded them. As the plot unfolded Cottonwood Whispers captured my full attention.
Once more, Valent brought to life characters that grabbed at my heart strings. Mr. Poe, a central figure in the book, quickly gained a place as one of my favorite characters. At a particularly climactic scene, I was left teary-eyed at his selflessness and sacrifice, something that rarely ever happens to me, be it a book or a movie. Valent also did a good job with the more grown-up Jessie. Though she has changed to an extent, as we all do as we grow older, Jessie also retained the same stubborn personality and qualities that made me love her in Fireflies in December. Valent creates her characters brilliantly, each so real with their individual faults and their admirable qualities.
The beginnings of a romance also take place in this story, something I’m sure will be built on more in the third and final book in the series, Catching Moondrops.
The spiritual theme in Cottonwood Whispers once more makes its point, but avoids coming across in a preachy way. The self-sacrifice and faith the characters display is moving at times, and can be very powerful. Valent deals with difficult issues head-on in a way that doesn’t feel trite or patronizing, making the book’s message all the more powerful.
About the Author
Valent resides in Virginia, where she works as a nanny. Fireflies in December, her first novel in the Calloway Summers series, won the 2007 Operation First Novel contest sponsored by the Christian Writers Guild, as well as winning the 2010 Christy Award. All three books in the Calloway Summers series, Fireflies in December, Cottonwood Whispers and Catching Moondrops, are available for purchase.
Once again, I cannot speak highly enough of Valent’s writing. I have so enjoyed reading her work, that I’m torn between reading the final book in the series as fast as I can, and making it last as long as possible. Valent has a way of reaching your heart with her characters, and I’m greatly looking forward to seeing how she will resolve the series. Cottonwood Whispers is available for check out, download, or paper copy. This book has the ability to be read independently of the first book in this series, but I would highly recommend reading Fireflies in December first to amplify your reading experience.