She wished she could go back and change things…but live doesn’t give do-overs. Could anything but good-byes be waiting on the other side of Sweetwater Gap?
Josie Mitchell’s sister Laurel thinks she’s come home to pitch in with the apple harvest and save the family orchard. Her brother-in-law Nate thinks she’s there to talk the overworked, very pregnant Laurel into finally selling the family business. The orchard’s new manager Grady Mackenzie just thinks she’s trouble with a capital T. They’re all right…and all wrong. Because no one really knows what drove Josie from home in the first place. Why she’s never come home before, even for her own father’s funeral. Why she pushes herself so hard…and what she’s running from. And nobody, not even Josie, is prepared for the surprising new fruit she’ll find on her last trip home.
Denise Hunter has been one of my favorite authors ever since I first read Dancing with Fireflies, so as soon as I found an empty spot on my blog calendar, I hurried to fill it with one of her books. Once again, I wasn’t disappointed, as Sweetwater Gap has become one of my favorite novels. I cannot help but be drawn in whenever a book’s description makes it apparent that the story is full of secrets, just as this one does, so as soon as I picked it out to read and review this month, I couldn’t wait to read it. Happily, it more than met my expectations, just going to show I did well in picking Denise as one of my favorite authors. She weaved such a poignant tale of secrets, past hurts, and regrets that made me want to weep for many of the characters, especially Josie.
Josie is so full of pain. I almost couldn’t stand it, especially as I got deeper into the story and learned why, and realized that some of it was self-inflicted, although she wouldn’t have known it. With so much heartache from her past, and even some that had begun when she was only a child, I almost couldn’t tell where the pain stopped and where Josie began. I cannot tell you just how sorry I felt for her, just how much I wish things had been different—someone had told her the truth and helped her to realize she was worth more than she thought—although it wouldn’t have been much of a story if someone had. Denise did a wonderful job of slowly bringing Josie’s secrets, her inner torment, to light for us readers while still having it remain unknown to the other characters, which made it easy to sympathize with Josie when her family unknowingly touched on a sore spot in her life.
While many different elements play into my love for this book, the main point is the way the story ends. Though I don’t want to spoil anything for you, I will say that it is written perfectly, and reminds me of Dancing with Fireflies in a way. Obviously the same events do not occur, but Denise brings everything to a head, has something suspenseful happen, and then resolve the whole conflict in a way that is reminiscent of Dancing with Fireflies. I love the way an ending like that pulls you in, almost convincing you that maybe there won’t be a ‘happily ever after’, right before making everything just the way it should be. It is the opposite of predictable.
Can I take another moment to dwell on how wonderfully heartwarming this story was? I have not read a novel that touched my heart more. The hurts these characters face are real, and completely believable, especially with the way Denise slowly brought them to light while giving you little glimpses into the hearts of those who carried them. As I got deeper and deeper into the story, I realized more and more just how realistic—and possible—Josie’s heartbreak was, and it caused every decision she made to make perfect sense. And, unlike many other romances, the hurt and fears that made Josie and Grady reluctant to give in to their growing feelings for one another never once felt forced, but rather played in perfectly to their stories and were perfectly valid reasons that anyone would face today.
Denise did a wonderful job of weaving the characters’ heartbreaking pasts into a story that not only held your interest all through the conflict, but left you blessed as you made your way to the resolution, ending the book with peace and redemption. I cannot help but give such a touching, faith-filled tale all five bookshelves, and say that I would recommend it to absolutely anyone, but especially someone who likes to be reminded of the goodness of God. This story really blessed my heart, as I am sure it will bless yours as well.
You can purchase a copy of this wonderful novel here.
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All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Denise Hunter and Thomas Nelson.