Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Review: SNOW FENCE ROAD by Phyllis Edgerly Ring

A village on the coast of Maine holds painful secrets—
the kind only the miracle of new love can heal.

Tormented by her fiancĂ©’s death, Tess Johansen escapes to the only place that can still comfort her—the Spinnaker Inn in coastal Maine. Here in this place by the sea she feels close enough to the man she lost to numb the pain, if not the guilt.

For local craftsman, Evan Marston, the ramshackle inn serves only as a grim reminder of the accident that shattered his life and killed the woman he once loved. But while the Spinnaker’s walls may hold guilt and grief and suspicion, they might also house a bright new spark.

Drawn together by a love they never expected, Tess and Evan begin to unravel the mysteries of their pasts and question the miracle at work in their wounded hearts—until one fateful evening along a snow fence road …

Phyllis Edgerly Ring
Phyllis Edgerly Ring's current novel project follows the lives of three women during the second world war in Germany. Her fiction and nonfiction aim to explore the noblest possibilities in the human heart. She is also author of Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details, and co-author of the soon-to-be released With Thine Own Eyes from George Ronald Publisher. Mother of two, she has worked as editor, nurse, tour guide and conference program director, taught English to kindergartners in China, and served as instructor for the Long Ridge Writer’s Group. Her articles and essays have appeared in Christian Science Monitor, Ms., Writer’s Digest and Yankee magazines.
Visit her blog, Leaf of the Tree, at http://phyllisedgerlyring.wordpress.com.

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Guest Post

In my teens, I worked with people nearing the end of life and learned that what we care about most in the end is what relationships teach us about the power of giving and receiving love. I’ve been absorbed in the mystery of this ever since.

I sketched down Snow Fence Road in my 30s after a vivid dream about the trauma that shatters its hero’s life. I spent the next 20 years writing nonfiction and doing other things until I discovered fiction was still calling. When I revisited the manuscript in my 50s, I’d discovered, as Eleanor Roosevelt noted, that fiction is so interesting to those who “really like to study people” because “the author can really tell the truth without humiliating (her)self.” Or at least dare to try.

If relationships are the gold on life’s path, fiction is all about them. There are the ones the characters reveal to you, and the one you develop with them – and yourself – as you write. Then there’s the one that readers have with them. Hearing that characters remain with readers afterward is an unexpected gift, though the only reason this book exists is that the characters stayed with me for so long, reflecting what I was learning about giving and receiving love.

While its category is romance, it probably seems a whole other country from what many perceive romance to be today. It’s a love story, and about relationship, but I’m always most interested in what transcends the impermanent. I love what sounds inner notes of emotional recognition, what helps hearts open, and heal, and reach the potential for which they’re created.

As a love story, Snow Fence Road aims at more emotional and spiritual themes because in the many wounded hearts I’ve encountered, no amount of physical love or attraction ever healed or helped them trust again, but real love did. Real, lasting love requires accepting, and sharing, vulnerability, an eternal kind of beauty. This story also explores the weight of secrets -- why we keep them, when they drain our life away; when there isn’t even need to, though shame and guilt often tell us otherwise. We learn to keep secrets to avoid vulnerability then never get to know what real intimacy is.

My current novel in progress follows similar themes. Set partly in wartime Germany, it explores the effects of secrets, of courageous action -- even when it might seem like the opposite -- and the importance of believing enough in goodness to find the will to outlast injustice, and horror.

Having spent early life as a rootless military kid, I find that place becomes a living part of story, for me. When readers say Snow Fence Road feels like a novel of Maine, like an actual visit, I’m grateful because it’s a place I love so much, one that’s always felt like a “fully-developed character”, to me. Small-town life there, as in the story, is human-scale, the one that helps us learn the most when our lives intersect with others.

Writing fiction and nonfiction as I do, I can’t help being pulled in different directions but I find the unifying theme is always the same: the increase and advance of the love that transcends everything, and brings us home to our own hearts.


He sensed the presence standing directly beside him in the dark. Tess was weaving back and forth, her features intermittently visible in the moonlight that had begun to gleam through the window. Her expression was dazed, yet more conscious than a sleepwalker’s.
Evan worried she’d suddenly fall, or that his presence might startle or agitate her. Did she know he was there? Had she even seen him today?
“Are you ... all right?” he asked as he slid slowly into a sitting position.
“I can’t sleep.” Her voice, barely audible, was flat.
As though the words had tapped the last of her reserves, she slumped and Evan knew she was going to fall. As he moved to intercept her, the only way to avoid the edge of the coffee table was to close his arms around her and guide her down until she landed beside him. Her head lolled as she came to rest against him, sliding down onto his chest until he reached to cradle it gently and move it back onto his left shoulder.
Evan struggled to sit upright but it was impossible. He sat wondering what to do as the moonlight shed soft pools of light on her pale skin and dark hair. He had no idea which room was hers and she certainly wouldn’t be able to tell him.
She shivered with little gusts of tears that trailed off as she slipped into sleep then startled out of it like a restless child. He decided the best thing was to remain still until she fell asleep then find a way to disengage and let her rest here.
Instinctively, he stroked her hair, which seemed to have a quieting effect. “It’s all right,” he murmured. “You’ll get through this. Even if you can’t believe it now.
“Just rest,” he urged softly. “There’s nothing you could have done differently. Let sleep take you away for a while.”
As he said these things, he felt a sense of peace he dimly remembered but would never have anticipated. In the days after his accident, there had been no one to console him and, perhaps worse, no one to console. This, he realized, is part of how people get through loss, though each goes through the needle’s eye of grief alone. It was that great loneliness that had made him want to die or, more exactly, struggle to find the will to live—made life itself seem like the worst of punishments. It was odd to suddenly feel so close to that again when he’d worked hard to distance himself from it. She lay heavy against him now. In a little while, he’d probably be able to disentangle himself without disturbing her. But for now, there really wasn’t any hurry. The unexpected peace of this contact seemed to hold him in place.

Here he was with the last thing in the world he’d have ever expected—a pleasantly warm, fragrantly scented, and distinctly female body wrapped in his arms. You just never knew what you were waking up to some days.
My Review

"A village on the coast of Maine holds painful secrets—the kind only the miracle of new love can heal." SNOW FENCE ROAD by Phyllis Edgerly Ring

Tess Johansen returns to a small town on the coast of Maine after the devastating death of her fiance'. She uses the money he left for her to invest in the Spinnaker Inn, becoming a co-owner with her good friend, Claire, who keeps a watchful eye over the young woman. Tess throws herself in the daily running of the inn where she works herself into exhaustion hoping the hard work will ease her pain and guilt. 

Tess runs into Evan Marston, who is harboring his own guilty secrets. As SNOW FENCE ROAD unfolds, we find that their secrets aren't the only secrets in this little coastal town, and Tess unknowingly sets the change in motion for all. 

I enjoyed the author's descriptions of life at the inn and Maine has also been on my list of places to visit. SNOW FENCE ROAD has brought that to-do to the top of my list. Phyllis Ring did a wonderful job depicting life in the small town with her descriptions of the houses and stores and landscapes. 

There were a number of grammatical errors and at times, I found the story a little cryptic, as though I had been dropped into the middle of conversations. SNOW FENCE ROAD was fast-paced and when it slowed down, I found myself enjoying it. I liked Tess and Evan and throughout the book rooted for them, hoping for their healing and love to take place. 

I did enjoy the book, despite the grammatical errors and cryptic conversations, which I think may be the author's writing style. I am giving the book 4 stars. 

Purchase Snow Fence Road on Amazon

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