Monday, February 17, 2014

Book Review-Secrets Over Sweet Tea by Denise Hildreth Jones

I don't even know where to begin to tell you how much I enjoyed Secrets Over Sweet Tea.  The beautiful cover art and blurb on the back do not do justice to the story in these pages.  It is beautiful, painful and probably the most real work of fiction that I have ever read.  If you think that you're getting a book of silly chick-lit, you couldn't be more wrong.  Even after reading the first chapter, I wasn't sure what to think of it.  I have read Denise Hildreth Jones before, and I really like her novels.  I think she has a talent for showing life like it is and really making you think, and she can somehow weave a little humor into it, too.
Secrets Over Sweet Tea centers on the lives of three people.  Scarlett Jo Newberry, Grace Shepherd and Zach Craig.  Scarlett Jo is a pastor's wife.  She is loud, slightly tacky and nosy.  Grace Shepherd is a local news anchor who's been in a bad marriage for ten years.  Zach Craig is a divorce attorney.  Even though he sees marriages crumble on a daily basis, he doesn't consider the ramifications of his own extra-marital affair in his own life. 
Zach and Grace are each living a secret life.  They are broken people, who have strayed away from the person they were meant to be.  Zach is controlled by his wife and her mother.  He avoids confrontation, preferring instead to run away from his problems, both figuratively and literally.  Grace's husband has become a drunk who pretends to be a loving husband in public, but behind closed doors refuses to touch her.  Grace and Zach will each realize that life must break before it can be put back together again.
This book is such a good picture of the pain of divorce and adultery, and the beauty of letting God restore us to the way we were meant to be.  Grace's story touched me deeply.  I was surprised that Ms. Hildreth Jones brought out the shame that Grace felt, even though she had done everything in her power to make her marriage work.  I could feel her pain when she saw those around her living happy lives, and feeling that she would never be happy again. 
The characters of this book were so real to me.  Scarlett Jo was uncouth, crazy and loud.  She stuck her nose in everyone else's business, but always with the best motives in mind.  I'm pretty sure I know some people just like her.  She was like the comic-relief in the story, even though she had a painful secret of her own.  The book is set in Tennessee in the summer and it was so real I could almost feel the heat and hear the cicadas.  I wanted to drink a big glass of sweet tea and eat a cranberry almond scone!
If you have been through a divorce or know someone who has, or if you have ever looked at your life and realized how far you are from where you'd like to be, I recommend this book.  As the victim of a divorce herself, Ms. Hildreth Jones paints what I feel is an accurate portrait of life afterwards.  She doesn't shy away from ugliness of it, but she also shows that there is healing, happiness and life after everything has fallen around you.
The message of this book that we have strayed so far from the life God wants us to live, really hit home with me.  I loved the theme of "reclaiming your heart."  Denise Hildreth Jones has written a non-fiction companion to this book with that as the title.  I plan to read it.
I'd like to know if anyone else has read this book and what they thought of it.  Comment and let me know!

Happy reading!

I was given a copy of the book by the publisher in exchange for my review.  All opinions are my own.

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