Monday, August 24, 2015

REVIEW: Then Came Heaven by LaVyrle Spencer

Then Came Heaven
by LaVyrle Spencer

Publisher: Putnam Adult
Page Count: 332
Release Date: December 8, 1997
Format: Mass Market Paperback

How got: personal library; gotten via BookMooch

First attention getter: description and author


From GoodReads:

Can love survive a shattering loss? A grief-stricken widower learns to open his heart again in LaVyrle Spencer's touching and emotionally charged new novel.

Late summer, Browerville, Minnesota, 1950: Life is just about perfect for Eddie Olczak. A devoted husband and father, a man of unshakable faith, he derives intense pleasure from the life he's built with his beloved wife, Krystyna, and their two daughters, and is the dedicated handyman for St. Joseph's, the Catholic church that is the cornerstone of Browerville life. But when a tragic accident cuts Krystyna's life short, Eddie is sure his heart is broken forever. Krystyna was everything to him--his true companion. As friends and relatives rally around the family in the dark days and weeks that follow, there is one person who is unable to express what the loss of Krystyna means to her.

Sister Regina, the girls' teacher at St. Joseph's school, has always felt a special affinity for the family. Yet her religious vows prevent her from becoming too close to them, even in their time of need. In the past, Sister Regina had bristled under the constraints of the order, but always reaffirmed her commitment through prayer and contemplation. Now the strict rules of the Benedictine sisterhood, which once gave her life a sense of meaning, chafe at her more insistently. Time passes, and Sister Regina and Eddie Olczak continue to cross paths. Deep inside, they realize there is something between them--more than a kinship, a connection that somehow goes beyond their shared love of Krystyna and the girls. Thrilled--and secretly frightened--they both must summon the courage to look within their hearts and make their own choices. Powerful, moving, and deeply affecting, Then Came Heaven is a celebration of love and tenderness, a book LaVyrle Spencer's fans are sure to cherish long after the last page is turned.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 4

This final work of Spencer’s definitely reads different than her normal, gentler and more settled than dramatic and emotional, liked I’ve been used to from her. Not really a bad thing but I think I missed that high dramatic content from this “good-bye” book from her.

I liked the characters well enough. The leads were thoroughly portrayed and three-dimensional. I liked how Spencer went into detail on how Eddie dealt with his grief over his sudden loss and his struggle to cope with suddenly being a single parent. Regina’s struggle with her vocation and her quiet rebellion were vividly portrayed as well.

Their relationship was sweet and very gentle. There is no sudden upheaval or “lighting out of the sky” attraction. Their realization that they are feeling more for each other than parent/teacher and friends was a tender slide into being. The whole forbidden “loving a nun” thing never really came into being like I was expecting. Yet, there was some repercussions but nothing I would expect from such a situation. Still, a very loving romance.

The author put a lot of effort into setting and overall atmosphere than usual. The setting of small town 1950s Americana almost becomes a character itself. The reader gets a real sense for how close knit a community this little town is: everyone knows everyone, doors stay unlocked, children are looked after communally, and people pitch in like crazy when a sudden tragedy strikes.

It’s this setting where things go a smidge downhill for this book. I think the author spent so much time establishing the setting and telling the story of the community itself, that she lost the sense for Eddie and Regina. Their story got lost in the shuffle of community, and I was sad for that loss. Maybe it was because this was the author’s last book and was based on her hometown, she was trying to give it homage. I don’t know. Still a bummer…

For a last hurrah, this book lacked a bit. The main relationship and the characters were sweet and engaging. The story of a community in tragedy, banding together to support one of its own, was also uplifting. But the balance between the romance and this secondary story was out of whack. The romance got lost in the shuffle sometimes and that frustrated me. Not a bad book, but not the author’s best, either.


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  2. I remember this one. Nuns falling in love? You mean, they're actual people? It was an instant pull because I grew up in a Catholic school run by nuns. You're right that it's a tender romance, and I also felt it was a little overshadowed by community reaction. However, I wanted an insider's view into the woman behind the habit and what happened when she left the order. I was completely fascinated.

    1. LOL I did find that inner window into a nunnery and their lives fascinating, too. I was surprised at how the Church handled it, both helping and hindering future prospects. A good book overall. I look forward to indulging in more of her stuff. :)

  3. Lavyrle Spencer is one of my all-time favorite authors. I discovered her shortly before she retired from writing. I stumbled upon That Camden Summer and I was hooked. She was the first author whose entire backlist I just had to read.