Monday, June 20, 2011

♥♥♥♥♥: Homefires by Emily Sue Harvey

Release Date: June 7th, 2011
Publisher: The Story Plant 
Page Count: 451
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher, via Pump Up Your Book Promotions, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you both!)

Homefires is set in the Deep South’s Bible-belt on the eve of unprecedented moral changes. It is the story of Janeece and Kirk Crenshaw, a couple married just after their high school graduation who set out to make a life for themselves. It is a life marked by surprises, none more dramatic than when Kirk receives his “high-calling” and becomes a pastor. It is a life marked by tragedy, the most heart-rending of which is the death of one of their children. And it is a life marked by challenges: to their church, to their community, and most decidedly to their marriage. And as the fullness of time makes its impact on their union, Kirk and Janeece must face the question of whether they have gone as far as they can together.

Filled with the rich emotions and evocative characters that readers have come to expect from Emily Sue Harvey, and reminiscent of the work of Jan Karon and Anne Rivers Siddons, Homefires is a poignant and compelling novel that will steal readers' hearts.
What Stephanie Thinks: While I can tell Emily Sue Harvey carefully emplaces lots of sentiment into each word she writes, her overall complacent tone makes her novels difficult to enjoy. If Homefires was the first book written by her I had read, I wouldn't be saying this. In fact, I would be willing to give her another chance. But Homefires is her second chance. The first chance started with Song of Renewal, which I reviewed back in January. It was written to be a heartwarming story, but I personally could not feel the "heartwarming" part.

Back to Homefires, though. As a whole, it's a sweet, wholesome Christian novel that follows the romance, as well as the times and troubles of Janeece and Kirk Crenshaw. There are a few elements that tasted unfit for my palate, however:

1. A self-absorbed cast. Every character in this book makes me cringe. They all align on extreme ends of personality spectrums. Some characters are too nasty, some are too saccharine, some are too shell-shocked, to realistically imagine. But each of them has one thing in common: they think their way is the best way, and though it isn't said aloud, it's evident they would all refuse any other way but their own. The most naïve, and consequently, most annoying, is Janeece, who of course, narrates the story. Some characters, I feel like I could tolerate; Kirk, for example. He may not be the ideal husband, but even with his flaws, he seems genuine and charismatic. Unfortunately, Homefires is not told from Kirk's point of view; it's told from Janeece's. 

2. Superiority from the author. I know most writers have the right to consider their work the best work, but is it necessary to bring it into the text? When Janeece speaks, she speaks condescendingly, as if everything she has to say is the most important, and most fulfilling. I would not mind this if Janeece and Harvey really were as profound as they think they are.

3. No structured expression in plot. The book isn't arduous, in terms of conventions. In fact, Harvey's style reads very smooth and the only complaint I have about it, is that it is drawn out to cover 451 pages. However, nothing actually happens in the story. Sure, little mishaps and small delights scatter all throughout the novel, but, aside from Harvey's point that family and love will always prevail, I get no satisfaction out of reading this book.

I have one more thing to criticize (or, if you look at it sardonically, you could say poke fun at). Homefires ruined italics for me. Do authors have no shame in written structural conduct? Italics in prose can only be properly used for emphasis (provided, you don't count book titles, thoughts, foreign words, definitions, et cetera). There is no point in using italics if you are going to italicize every other word. Not only does it get annoying for me as a reader, but it's also displaces all the emphasis that should be put in a sentence, which weakens the writing on so many levels. Do I make myself clear?

Stephanie Loves: "I knew [Kirk] would quit smoking if he could. When he could. And I knew that just as he wasn't perfect, neither was I. I knew by now there was no Knight in shining armor." This is probably a slap of reality for Janeece—one she has to make a point by using three italicized words with. Arguably, those few sentences were probably light on italics, compared to other passages throughout the novel.

Radical Rating: 5 hearts: Doesn't particularly light any of my fires; I feel indifferent about this book. ♥♥♥♥♥